Thursday, October 15, 2020

Freedom of Speech and the Recent Actions of Twitter and Facebook

There is a lot of confusion about the concepts freedom of speech and censorship and in the wake of Twitter and Facebook blocking the accounts of those who linked to a New York Post story indicating shady dealings between Hunter Biden and Ukrainian officials that seem to implicate the Democratic Party presidential nominee, Joe Biden. See for example: Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad and WH press secretary locked out of Twitter for sharing Post’s Hunter Biden story.

But as outrageous as these moves by Twitter and Facebook are, they are not a violation of free speech.

Only a government can block free speech. That is, a government can prevent speech where ever it occurs, on a sidewalk, on private property, in a privately published book or on a privately owned web site. These are examples of limiting free speech.

What a  private individual or a private organization does with regard to property it owns is not a limitation of free speech in the sense that all an individual, or group of individuals, can do is control speech on the properties they own and, importantly, not beyond what they own.

You would be hard-pressed to find any individual or group of individuals that do not do some censoring of material that appears on their properties.

For example, you are going to find very few media properties allowing pics or videos of a green tailed monkey screwing a nine-year-old boy. The type of censorship I am discussing here, I hasten to add, is private property censorship as opposed to the blunt instrument of government censorship.

Every owner of a media outlet will have terms as to what the goals of his media property are.

For example, here at Target Liberty, I regularly block comments from Paul Hansen. 

Here are some of his recent gems:

Of course, since I have criticized recent Twitter and Facebook censorship, Hansen has let me have it:
  • What I find amusing is that RW criticizes another website for engaging in the exact kind of censorship that he does.
  • RW doesn't support free speech on his own site, otherwise he wouldn't moderate the comments. Why should he be concerned if other sites do the same thing?

But the thing is that I am not running a communications platform for all kinds of discussion. At Target Liberty, I am discussing the finer points of libertarian theory. It is very difficult to garb new readers' attention for the long haul. They will cruise a couple of posts and comments and make a quick decision. If they spot a bunch of anti-black and anti-Jew comments, they may get the wrong impression about the site---so I block Hansen a lot but will very occasionally bring his comments to the top in a post where I can put them into the context of what my site is about.

On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter appear to be more message platforms, where all types of views are expressed. Some censorship will always have to occur ( the green tailed monkey screwing a nine-year-old boy problem) but the prevalent impression put out by these platform operators is that if it is true it can stay. Thus, it is legitimate to criticize Twitter and Facebook for going deep into the censorship role when it appears to be only blocking material that is objectionable in Leninist Valley.

And the censorship of the Biden story falls well into this category, especially when you balance it against the shaky stories Twitter and Facebook allowed on the platforms with regard to Russiagate and Ukrainegate.

Now because they are private entities, they can certainly do anything they want with their platforms. They could even, until Trump leaves office (whenever that is), go the old full Soviet-style mode when a leader died, and play classical music, mostly string music in minor keys. But this doesn't mean we can't object since they position themselves as open platforms and not operators with a Soviet-style thumb on the scale.

Likewise, it would be appropriate to criticize Target Liberty if Walter Block won the Noble Peace Prize and it was not mentioned in a post and attempts at bringing it up in the comments were censored.

That would be a legitimate complaint but not a complaint about blocking a comment which references Jews and blacks in a derogatory fashion.

As for Twitter and Facebook, they may have really overplayed their hand with the Biden story blocking. It is just too obvious as to how unbalanced a game they are playing.



  1. I certainly agree that this is not a freedom-of-speech issue. However, the issue is complicated when referring to these companies as "private entities". These platforms are run by companies that have tremendous resources to lobby the government and buy politicians. Additionally, they receive large amounts of government money in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, and government tech contracts. On top of this, they are treated legally as public media when it benefits them (e.g. when they could otherwise be held accountable in court for things that are posted on their platforms), and then treated as private entities when it comes to censorship (i.e. they play both sides of the field). These immorally acquired resources and advantages gives them a superficial competitive advantage over other entities that would potentially be significant competitors to them were they not granted a government sponsored monopoly. In a sense, these companies are "private" in name only.

    I am not arguing against Wenzel's assessment that it this is not a free-speech issue, only pointing out that it is a complex and nuanced issue specifically because in the current state of our mixed (fascist) economy, it is difficult to define companies as "private" or merely a branch/appendage of the government.

  2. Your friends and family are not on Gab or Parler (probably), but people speaking freely about today's issues without fear of censorship are there. And that's what you really want isn't it? You can still send pictures of your kids to your friends and family over email or text message... So ask yourself, why are you still using FB or TW at all?

    David B.

    1. Because FB & TW is where we can interact with the criminals in the corporate media and political class and those that post and advocate for these criminals. Gab, Parler and other alternative social media out-lets are a local coffee shop or pub while FB, TW and GooTube are the central town square.

      Most people are not freedom oriented because they have been over exposed to the non-freedom mes-sages. If the likes of us are not going to expose them to alternatives who is?

      I know that most are closed minded and it will be a small (maybe very small) percentage that will even consider our arguments but, preaching to the choir won’t bring anyone from the dark side.

    2. Ah, you want to be Batman. Shine the light on the rats and all that good stuff. I am all for that.

      David B.

  3. "That would be a legitimate complaint but not a complaint about blocking a comment which references Jews and blacks in a derogatory fashion."

    So when you use the term "black urban primitive", is that not derogatory, or it's justified because you're not using the word 'nigger'?

    1. This is not complicated. An urban primitive is an individual brought up in an inner city without a father present (becasue of government incentives) and "educated" in public schools.

      It is not a blind attack on an entire race. It is a snarky attempt to explain the problem since I always link to the definition ( and I don't limit it to a specific race,

    2. 1. There's no link in your post on BART two stories back.
      2. A distinction that the ADL surely won't care about when they eventually make their way here to shut you down.

  4. At the very least Facebook and Twitter should have Section 230 protections removed from them.

  5. I often wonder if The Lab Manager and Paul Hansen aren't the same person: Similar paucity of depth or substance to their comments, and also the same low-brow, racist, jingoistic perspectives and attitudes.
    Polar opposite of some very smart contributors here (Joshua Bennett, Jimmy Joe Meeker, Bob Roddis and others... Haven't seen Old Mexican here for a long time, but he was superb).