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Conservatives riled by social media’s banning individuals for violating its rules

Actor James Woods, a conservative, protested Twitter’s ban from its platform for posting a satirical hoax campaign message with the headline, “We’re making a Woman’s Vote Worth more by staying home.” Twitter claimed Woods was misleading others in a way that could affect the midterm elections. (The Huffington Post, September 24, 2018, by David Barden)

Woods lambasted Twitter for the ban saying that Twitter should not be able to install their version of free speech that runs counter to that of the Constitution. Twitter is under pressure to eliminate hate speech and to prevent its platform from being used to influence elections unfairly. Woods was not sympathetic, “I wish this were about an unknown Twitter user so that I could be even more passionate about it. This is not about a celebrity being muzzled. This is about an American being silenced – one tweet at a time.” (WTMZ-TV, September 23, 2018, by Amy Forliti of The Associated Press)

A Massachusetts lawyer opposes shutting down the social media to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Marc Randazza relishes the task of defending the free speech rights of society’s scorned. He believes that in the shift of speech to private platforms, it is essential to tolerate unpopular and hateful expression. (BuzzFeed, September 21, 2018, by Joseph Bernstein)

Niam Yaraghi, of Brookings, September 21, 2018, said it was impossible for Google, Twitter and others to keep their own biases out of the algorithms designed to monitor online speech. He also warned against government regulation of free speech on the social media. That would only enable a more powerful force than a business to curtail free speech. Yaraghi points out that conservatives who complain about Twitter censorship should remember that Republicans saw repealing the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan administration as a victory for free speech so it would seem duplicitous to argue for requiring social media to present all sides.

Professors John Carroll and David Karpf, Knowledge@Wharton, September 22, 2018, offer perspectives and some suggestions on the issue of social media and hate speech. Law professor Nadine Strossen wants the social media companies to help the public detect truth amid the false, deal with hate speech and even “reach out to hate mongers to help hem change their views.” One other way to make the social media more amiable might be to establish various platforms catering to different interests, from sharing vacation photos and contacting old school friends to dealing with the grit of political discourse.

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