On May 2, Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram announced that it was permanently banning the accounts of several people, which it termed “dangerous individuals.” Those people included Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones, Paul Nehlen, Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, and extreme leftist radical Louis Farrakhan.
This purge is simply the latest in a long string of account deletions by unaccountable, unelected big tech companies that police the internet, giving themselves the ability to act as social media’s judge, jury, and executioner—all while ignoring the First Amendment rights of the users of their platforms.
What’s consistent is that the majority of deleted accounts belong to political conservatives. The inclusion of Farrakhan in this batch of account purges seems like a hollow attempt to show Facebook’s actions as politically unbiased.
But tech companies such as Facebook claim they have the right to ban anyone who engages in what they alone deem offensive speech—they consider it a violation of their terms of service. They often defend their draconian policies by citing “hate speech” as a reason to deplatform their users.
And while this policy is what Silicon Valley companies hide behind to ban ideological opponents, there are at least two U.S. Supreme Court judges who disagree and have given opinions in rulings, which could complicate matters in a potential legal challenge.
Alito, who understands more about U.S. law and the Constitution than nearly anyone in the country, stated clearly that what some call “hate speech” is actually constitutionally protected speech. His comments are a clear rebuke of anyone—even social media and digital companies—who trample on the First Amendment rights of Americans.
Preventing others from exercising their right to free speech—even speech that you despise—makes you the enemy of freedom, not its defender.
Years ago, no one could have predicted the internet would become what it is today. And the internet is now an indispensable part of modern life.
Social media is a critical component to modern communication and the dissemination of ideas, political or otherwise. Like the old town square, digital platforms are now where people gather to speak to each other.
Our right to free speech doesn’t end just because the technology used to communicate has evolved.