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Free Speech and Social Media

I think we've all see how politics and social media collide in the last few years. It's amplified since the 2016 elections, and further so since. People have become more divided and this is particularly evident on social media sites. People of certain political stripes (and I won't name them because they're not always the ones you think) have been kicked off for the views that, and the means in which, they post online.

Some claim that the American right to free speech means that they have the right to say such things. They do (unless restricted by Supreme Court rulings), but the sites also have the right to kick them off for doing so. Here's the full text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, where such freedom is established:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Notice that I've bolded Congress there. This amendment restricts government from infringing on your right to free speech. It doesn't mention anybody else. Someone can kick you out of their house for saying things they disagree with. Sites can delete your posts saying such things or ban you entirely. Should what you say get back to your employer and they don't like it, (barring anything forbidding it contractually or employment law) they can sack you for it. This even applies if you work for the government!

There's at least one anti-censorship state law passed already, with more in the works. This is a scare tactic. The minute these sorts of laws get challenged by the Supreme Court, they will be ruled unconstitutional due to the Supremacy Clause. Federal laws and the Constitution override state laws. If they didn't, then people wouldn't be so scared about possessing marijuana in states where they've passed laws legalizing it.

If you want an internet platform with absolute free speech, you're not going to find it. Not even free speech is absolute in the US. It's further reduced by being on the internet because you have to play nice by the terms of service of the hosting provider, the domain registrar, and the laws of the jurisdiction of the owner of the site. As seen with Parler, even if the hoster is willing to back you up, they can be cut off by their upstream provider.

So if you shoot your mouth off on social media, free of speech is not an absolute defense against the consequences of your actions.

Day 39 of #100DaysToOffload


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