Back in February, Twitter announced that it would be making changes to its platform in order to combat what it considered to be “abuse and harassment.” The changes included “stopping the creation of new abusive accounts, bringing forward safer search results, and collapsing potentially abusive or low-quality Tweets.”
What’s astonishing about Twitter’s announcement from earlier this year is that the company actually claimed that by implementing these new restrictive policies, they were actually standing for free speech, not against it. “We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic,” Twitter said at the time in a blog post update. “That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We won’t tolerate it and we’re launching new efforts to stop it.”
So in other words, Twitter is standing up for the freedom of speech by squandering the freedom of speech. Does this make sense to anyone? Furthermore, the problem with Internet-based companies that announce plans to combat “hate speech” and “fake news” is that most of the time these terms are never defined. What is stopping some radical left wing employee at Twitter from scrolling through their platform and censoring pro-Trump tweets, using the excuse that they perpetuate “hate speech?” What if another employee at Twitter believes that the Affordable Care Act was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and labels all criticism of the ACA as “fake news?” Clearly, the potential for abuse is just too significant to ignore.
But Twitter is not the only social media network that has been engaged in an all out assault on the First Amendment lately. Last year, Fox News reported on how several unnamed former Facebook contractors told the tech site Gizmodo.com that Facebook routinely modifies its algorithms and formulas to intentionally suppress conservative news. According to Gizmodo, Facebook “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers,” and some former Facebook employees even admitted that they were told to “inject” specific topics into the trending list, regardless of whether or not they were relevant or significant.
The suppression of free speech doesn’t just stop with social media, however. In March, Breitbart News reported on Google’s launch of a new AI system called Perspective, which is capable of detecting and censoring what it considers to be “toxic” comments posted online. Just like with Facebook and Twitter, Google’s intentions sound good but open the door for an array of constitutional issues. (Related: Google and YouTube are waging a demonetization war on alternative media in order to bankrupt independent journalism.)
The freedom of speech is not something that can be simply ignored or discarded like the joker in a deck of cards. It was never meant to be twisted, morphed, or interpreted in ways that are most politically convenient. Rather, the First Amendment is supposed to be respected and seen as the law of the land, above any policy or regulation that any company could ever implement. If we the people continue to let our free speech rights be trampled upon, then one day we will lose those rights altogether, and America will be one step closer to an authoritative state.(Related: Google's algorithms are a whole new kind of censorship, warns News Corp CEO.)