I’ve been frustrated with Facebook and Twitter over the last couple months.
My main frustration is seeing them block or censor people’s content. It doesn’t feel right to me, that Facebook or Twitter or the government, should be able to control what people say or don’t say.
I realize, however, that this a complicated issue.
John Stuart Mills in ‘On Liberty‘ argues that when it comes to actions that affect oneself and oneself alone, the individual is sovereign.
But when a person’s actions begin to endanger others, this then is the time when society has a right to impinge upon a person’s liberty.
For the most part, this makes sense.
If I’m driving drunk, 100 miles an hour down a city street – of course my liberty should be restricted because my actions are endangering others – not just myself.
In clear cut situations, I think most reasonable people can agree.
It’s in the grey areas that it starts gets tricky.
One grey area example is recent restrictions on liberty in the name of the Carona Virus.
People use the John Stuart Mills argument that if you don’t wear a mask, or shut down your business, or stop going to church or (fill in the blank) you’re endangering the lives of others.
The confusion isn’t that we can’t all agree we shouldn’t recklessly endanger the lives of those around us – it’s in the confusion of what actions are actually endangering to those around us.
Driving drunk, shooting guns in the air next to large crowds of people, speeding through busy city streets or school zones in 3,000 pound death machines – pretty clear.
A healthy family gathering together for a Thanksgiving meal – not so obvious.
Back to Facebook and Twitter…
I’ve tried to look at this from as many angles a possible, in an effort to get the best grasp of what’s going on so I can decide what to do about it in relation to my own actions.
I heard a recent podcast that talked about how false information spread through Facebook has actually led to genocide in certain countries.
This seems to be the best argument for censorship that I can possibly think of – protection against physical harm.
However – even that is not as simple as it sounds. We have laws to punish (and deter) those who harm others. Do we really want to get into the business of controlling what people should and shouldn’t say?
Where do words end and actions begin?
One step away from word control is ‘thought control‘.
It’s also important to recognize that in the aforementioned ethnic cleansing case, it wasn’t just fake information – it was fake information – specifically designed by the military, hiding behind fake accounts.
Literally, psychological warfare.
One other seemingly good argument for their censorship, is the private property defense.
I own a website and I view it as my private property.
I believe I should be able to control what happens on my website, just like I control what happens at my personal residence.
Some people and voices – I have a right to keep off my property if I choose.
Same with my website. I have deleted comments from my website and social media groups before.
My house, my rules – right?
My response to the above to Pro-censorship arguments
If it were just that social media were deleting fake accounts – set up by military intelligence, orchestrated to wage psychological warfare designed to incite violence, I don’t think I’d have a problem.
It’s when they themselves, begin to use the censorship to engage in psychological warfare to promote or protect an ideology they might favor in the moment – that I start to have a problem.
It’s when they set themselves up as universal arbiters of truth – and attempt to fact check content – supplied by their creators that I start to have a problem.
The problem with censoring an ideology is, if they have the power to censor one side – they inevitably have the power to censor the other.
And what happens when the people in power change their targets of censorship?
It’s then that the one’s who supported the censorship, become the victims of the thug they empowered.
Do we really want them to have that power?
I love what Thomas Paine wrote in The Age Of Reason…
“I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”
I may not agree with every idea I hear – but i’ll never know unless I retain the right to hear it.
And I’ll never know that my ideas are wrong – unless I hear better one’s that challenge my existing thinking.
I want to continue to hear ideas and I want the choice of which ideas I hear to remain within my power,
…not placed in the hands of some random 3rd party with an already established high level of distrust.
But Facebook and Twitter are ‘Private Property’ sites and should have the right to control the content on their platform…
There can be, and has been, a lot to say on this topic.
For me – the strongest argument against this justification for censorship is the fact that Twitter and Facebook are not just websites.
They have literally become the primary, daily means of communication – replacing for many, the phone, small local gatherings and other means of traditional communication.
In essence, they’ve become a public utility.
Imagine this scenario…
It’s 1997 and you’re having a phone conversation with your best friend.
You’re sharing ideas with each other, like you often do, when all of a sudden a voice breaks into the line and says…
“Excuse me, this is the operator here at AT&T, and we just wanted to let you know know that one of you just shared an incorrect piece of information. This time it’s a warning but next time we well just mute out that part of the telephone conversation so you won’t be able to hear what your friend is trying to communicate.”
As ridiculous as that sounds – that’s exactly what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter and it feels flat out wrong to me.
What Am I Going To Do About It?
I don’t know for sure. All I know is I don’t want to support and encourage organizations that actively censor free speech.
I like Facebook for seeing what my friends and family are up to.
I like it for communicating with groups I’m a part of.
I like it for messenger.
I like Twitter for following and learning from amazing thought leaders worldwide.
But I also feel that continuing to feed a beast that’s eating our freedoms for breakfast, doesn’t seem like the best idea.
So I guess for now – I’m going to actively make the choice to start moving most of my social media activity over to Parler (Social media platform that supports free speech)
If you believe in the freedom to speak your mind without censorship – I’d encourage you to set up an account and add me @paulhutchings.
I’ll keep my FB and Twitter accounts open so I can engage in the groups I’m a part of (specifically business groups that are important to me) while continuing to look for ways I can use Facebook and Twitter less and less.
I know this isn’t a perfect solution, but I feel like I have do something.
And even if my baby steps make zero difference in the grand scheme of things – which is probably the case – at least I’ll be moving and making decisions more in alignment with my conscience, and that, alone, is of immense value.
If anyone is reading this other than me, thanks for reading and as always – would love to hear your thoughts below.
Keep shining, keep loving and keep serving.
Thanks for stopping by and whatever you do, always go for your dreams,
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