If You Think Social Media Is 'Violating Your Free Speech,' You Need To Sit Down

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
Frustrated young woman using her smartphone
Scary Mommy and Westend61/Getty

By now, most of us have seen or at least heard about the video circulating with the “Frontline” doctors making bogus claims about coronavirus. In the video, people in white lab coats stand in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. and make a bunch of idiotic claims about COVID-19, for example, that the studies on hydroxychloroquine are by “fake pharma companies” and that masks don’t prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The doctors in the video call themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” even though none are actually on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several are opthamologists, and one, Stella Immanuel, is known for her beliefs that certain gynecological issues are brought on by having sex with demons in dreams and that “lizard spirits” with alien DNA run the country. This is not hyperbole or hearsay. She has videos up on YouTube and is dead-ass serious. Dead. Ass. Serious.

Anywho. The radical right-wing site Breitbart published the “Frontline Doctors” video because why wouldn’t they, and their nutty conspiracy-humping followers shared it far and wide. And, in more “WTF this cannot be reality” news, the idiot president of the United States and his equally idiotic son Donald Jr. shared portions of the video on Twitter.

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We are living in a time when the president of the United States, with complete sincerity, puts his trust in a doctor who literally believes human-reptile hybrids run the government and reproductive problems come from dream-sex with demons. So that’s fun.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube all removed the video, each stating that it violated their COVID-19 misinformation policies. Rightly so. We have enough to debate without entertaining absolute fucking nonsense.

Those who fall for the nonsense in the video feel that removing it is a violation of their rights or the rights of those who posted the video. They believe that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are part of a massive conspiracy, that tech giants are in bed with the “deep state,” are controlling the dissemination of information, and are colluding with “big pharma.” For these people, the fact that the video is being removed is evidence of its authenticity.

Meanwhile, there are also plenty of people who acknowledge that though the information being spread by this video is wrong and dangerous and even deadly, we still shouldn’t “censor” this video or others like it. “Of course this information is dangerous,” they say, “but I don’t believe in censorship.” They say it’s a “slippery slope.” They ask why Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube should be allowed to be the “arbiters of truth.”

On May 28, Trump issued an executive order preventing “online censorship.” The order reads as if it were written by an angry teenager who got mad when his teacher gave him a bad grade that he deserved. It claims that every American has a right to have a voice and have that voice heard in debate. It’s no coincidence that this order was issued around the time Twitter was placing notices over some of Trump’s tweets.

What Trump really wants is carte blanche to spread whatever lies necessary to clinch the coming election.

But what Trump, and a whole lot of other people, fail to understand, is that censorship, as it relates to free speech, is a “the government is not allowed to do it” thing. It has fuck-all to do with a private company (like a social media platform) determining that certain information is not only bogus, but dangerous, and deciding to block that information from the platform.

There is a parallel supreme court decision (Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988) that says students do not have the right to print material in a school newspaper over the objections of the school’s administration. The parallel here is that those who participate in a social media platform are under an obligation to adhere to the rules of that platform, the same as students who participate in a school district are under an obligation to adhere to the rules of that district. The platform makes the rules.

If people–including Trump–don’t like the way social media platforms manage the information shared there, they are perfectly free to go to a different platform. They are free to create their own blog or website or whatever. No one is censoring anyone from posting online. A social media platform is not THE “online.” It’s its own separate entity, like a business in a neighborhood or a school in a district. Controlling what goes on its site is not the same as a government censoring its people or violating their right to free speech. Twitter can kick you out of its platform for ranting and raving about demon sex the same way any other business owner can kick you out of its store for ranting and raving about demon sex. The point is that the ranting and raving represents a clear danger to other people on the platform.

Social media platforms absolutely should censor these stupid AF “informational” videos from “Front Line Doctors” and other similarly dangerous misinformation. They have every right to demand credibility and accountability from the people who use their platform to share information.

Again, for the people in the back: a social media platform removing your shit is not a violation of free speech. That’s for my fellow lefties, too, by the way. There is no slippery slope here. There is not even a fucking slope to make slippery. We can get mad if something we post gets taken down, but none of us should cry that our rights are being violated. Because they’re not.

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