Originally published on October 21, 2018 as a Facebook Note
This is the 4rd revision from October 7, 2021
The 1st Amendment of the constitution says:
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.
The founders affirmed these rights in the 1st Amendment, as they understood how vitally important it is for a free society to allowed everyone to express their views and to act and live based on their own values - peaceably, without harming others.
It is not only the right of every person to express their own views, but the right of others to hear them, an aspect frequently forgotten.
When the Constitution was written, government was the only organization that held the power to prevent people from speaking freely at a socially relevant scale, but it is obvious that the intent to preserve free speech extends to anyone who holds power over others.
The second a private organization gains the power to censor a person’s ability to speak or to hear others speek, the same rules as for government apply.
Indeed, governments are not the only organizations that attempt to deny people their rights. Governments are just people. The point is to prevent some of the people from controlling other people through violence or manipulation.
Organized crime (e.g. the Mafia) have used violence to deprive people of their rights and still do so. In some places, organized crime reached the power of a proto-government. Should they have the right to intimidate people into silence because they are not "the government"?
There is much misunderstanding about some aspects of what constitutes a right, among classical liberals, libertarians and conservatives: they are so convinced that private businesses should be granted unlimited powers based on "contractual freedom" that they miss an essential point: private businsses cannot possibly have rights that exceed whatever is actually required in a legitimate business transaction. Contracts cannot specify immoral or unnecessary conditions.
Would anyone seriously claim that it would be legitimate for a phone company to add a condition to their contract that would grant them the right to listen to all their clients' phone calls and cut them off if they say something that the phone company owner doesn't like?
How about a electricity company defining what their power may be used for? Could they state that they refuse to power sex toys and that they have the right to inspect their users' homes to make sure they do not use any?
It's quite bizarre to see that so many liberty-minded people do not seem to understand that granting unlimited powers to people beause they do not have the "government" badge is absurd.
We are all just people, including people who work for government. The difference is merely in the majority perception of what is or is not a legitimate act for an individual, a private organization or government.
The basic principle is that governments attempt to obtain and maintain a monopoly over certain social functions within a certain geographic area ("a country"). Private businesses try to increase their earnings, but as they grow, they also try to gain influence and control over their clients, over various markets and over governments.
Once a private business reaches a certain level of income and , it also gains political influence - Google, Twitter and Facebook are just the most extreme form of this economic power applied to politics. In the past, it used to be all about the military-industrial complex - and interestingly, the same people who now think big tech should be allowed to censor speech and push a completely anti-capitalist, socialist agenda did not think that weapons manufacturers should be granted the right to influence government decisions. There's clearly a lot of cognitive dissonance to be dealt with.
Let me affirm again the reason for the defense of free speech: it is of fundamental interest to every society that everyone should have the right to free speech so that they may be heard, no matter how offensive some people may find the opinions expressed by others. Speech that does not offend anyone does not need protection.
Since we have social media, political debate take place through those social media. Facebook and Twitter currently channel 95% of public speech - worldwide and therefore, they control much of the information that reaches their users. They can silence voices they don't like. Not completely, but to a large degree.
This level of control is not something they achieved through exceptional effort or some unique innovation they developed. They owe their position to the timing of their arrival on the market, to personal connections, the dynamics of social networks, massive 3rd party investments into connectivity with the dominant networks and user inertia. This is not to dismiss the services they provide, but to clarify that while they may have used markets to establish their position, it is exceedingly difficult to overcome their dominant position via normal market-based competition.
The main problem is that anyone who tries to use a competitor's product automatically loses access to 95% of the user base.
They are merely providers of a service, not publishers. Hence they are not liable for the content posted by their users. And therefore, they also have no business interfering with what their users post.
Allowing them the right to arbitrarily block users and their content grants them the power to suppress speech they don’t like, including political speech.
Given that the immense majority of the people do not want or need multiple social media accounts, it is practically impossible to reach more than 5-10% of the people via alternate social media such as Minds.com, MeWe.com and VK.com (Russian) as FB alternatives or Gab.com as Twitter alternative.
There was also Parler.com, but they were openly attacked by Big Tech: when Parler became the most popular App on iPhone and the Google App store, they simply censored it. Then they cancelled their access to the space they rented on Amazon's servers, which is a direct violation of Parler's rights under Section 230 - if FB is not responsible for the activities of human traffickers, pedophiles and terrorists on their platform, why should Parler be responsible for a few nasty messages on theirs?
If users separated into social media based on their own political views, that would go entirely against the idea of public speech - it would devolve into echo chambers where no one ever hears a view that is new to them or that they might disagree with.
Echo chambers are bad enough as they are. This should not turn into a situation where it is outright impossible for people to hear each other! How could there be a #WalkAway movement if people with different views can’t communicate? How do you convince those who do not agree with you if they can’t hear you?
Especially young people must be exposed from an early age to a diversity of ideas - not just a variety of racial and cultural identities - which is exactly what Twitter and Facebook try to prevent.
Specialized social media can be useful for distributing information to like-minded individuals, but not for public debates.
When practically the entire debate happens on Facebook and Twitter, being excluded from either or having ones political posts blocked is the exact equivalent of a government restriction on free speech: one becomes invisible and unheard.
I'm fed up with people who cling to the ideological view that Facebook and Twitter should be considered "private businesses" without any obligation towards their users and the right to set whatever conditions they want, irrespective of the practical outcome.
Companies blocking what their users are saying when they control 95% of the flow of public communications, worldwide, are like phone companies listening in on their users and cutting them off because they said things the phone company management didn't like.
Does anyone think that this would be acceptable?
UPDATE: We now know that FB collaborated with various government agents inside the US, always Democrats in office, and agreed to censor content based on the wishes of those politicians. The Biden puppet administration actually goes so far as to demand the censorship of - yes - phone message services!
The end goal is to create the equivalent of the Chinese social credit system where people are assigned a “conformity score” which can lead to special benefits - or serious restrictions on their freedom to travel, to obtain housing or jobs.
The IMF proposed to use a person's internet usage history - social media posts, search history etc. - as factor in allocating financial credits:
Facebook clearly advertises its services as being about communications and connecting people.
They encourage people to use Facebook as platform to stay in touch with friends and for business. They actively encourage business use for advertisement, sales etc. They are not advertising to any specific demographic group or ideology while actively excluding anyone else. It is not called "Communist network" or "Islamic network". They do not advertise by saying "We will read and monitor your content".
Pushing people to invest enormous amounts of time and - for businesses - even money to create networks and then arbitrarily and selectively blocking their communications for extended periods of time is entrapment and should be considered fraudulent.
If people were told right away how biased and unreliable communications would be on Facebook (let alone Twitter), they could have selected a different provider early on and would avoid using it for anything important.Destruction of private property
Content that people create on social media represents their intellectual property. A social media company that deletes such intellectual property or renders it inaccessible to those it is intended for commit vandalism, as they destroy their clients’ property.
The claim that they must have the “right” to decide what may or may not transit on their network as it is their “right” to decide what may transit is the same as claiming that banks may control what their clients put in their safes which they rented.
Yes, a bank has every right to prohibit their users from storing dangerous items, such as explosives, as those would threaten their and their other clients’ property and potentially the health and lives of their employees.
But any content that does not represent a physical threat or a crime is legal to deposit, even if the bank does not like it. The client paid for the rented space (social media users pay for their use even indirectly via advertisement) so he has the right to store what he wants as long as it does not threaten the provider’s property.
NB: if the threat is caused by some 3rd party that represents a threat, then it is that 3rd party that must be prevented from causing harm.
This situation cannot simply be remedied with alternate social media. One cannot expect businesses to create interfaces to support 20 different social media services. When you create an account on a commercial site based on your Facebook account and Facebook decides to cancel or block your account, you end up not having access to whatever service you might have paid for on a connected account - violating your property rights simply based on your disagreement with Facebook’s political agenda!
The absolute worst is that almost all the social media have been captured by people who are on the far Left and or promoters of Islam and hence they use their control to suppress views that go against their agenda.
So they are political organizations that have government-level powers to control public speech, worldwide. A power no government ever held.“Privatized” government censorship
As we have seen, hostile governments can buy shares in such companies and control what is getting published. When a Saudi prince buys 25% of Twitter shares (yes, he did!) and then imposes a ban on anything he considers “blasphemy” against Islam, that is hardly an outcome any libertarian could accept, given that his money is government money - just a foreign government’s money!
Governments in general started exercising control over businesses with government-controlled “investment funds”, which are often based on government-created fake money. e.g. the Swiss National Bank spent billions of dollars on Facebook shares.
Governments also exert direct and indirect control over social media companies, either through collusion - the social media managers agree with particular government representatives or political parties and do whatever it takes to help them, through promotions and censorship - or through coercion, whereby governments threaten social media companies with huge fines, stiff taxation etc. to force them to implement censorship agreeable to that government.
That’s how governments get around restrictions imposed on them via constitutions - through pseudo-privatization of censorship.
The US Supreme Court already ruled that access to Social Media must be considered ESSENTIAL to the exercise of First Amendment Rights as well as to a normal participation in social life:
This ruling bars States from passing laws that limit a person’s access to social media under pretense that such access would constitute a potential risk that they will commit a crime.
Based on this ruling, it is pretty obvious that the Supreme Court will never allow a social media company to arbitrarily ban users simply because they don’t like the views they express, cutting off their personal and professional connections created or maintained via those social media sites and their ability to participate in political discussions.
I expect that the Supreme Court would not allow social media companies to arbitrarily censor content based on ideology. They would not be allowed to do more than to remove very specific content (e.g. sexual) from very specific areas. No deletion of private content. No banning of users who did not post criminal content. Lifetime bans would probably be considered as totally unacceptable.A clear violation of anti-discrimination laws
Banning people based on their political views - libertarian and conservative views, essentially - represents a violation of US anti-discrimination laws, i.e. such acts are illegal, based on current US law!
Facebook and Twitter operate a service that is offered to the public. They cannot select their clients any more than other businesses.
The argument that they must ban content that could be considered “offensive” is invalid. Facebook and Twitter are merely providing a platform for communications, like a phone company, they are not editors of the content and hence not liable, even for terrorist content, which has been confirmed in a recent ruling:
A judge found that although the terrorists who committed the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, had used Facebook, Twitter and Google, they were not responsible for any content posted by those terrorists.
If they control the content by deleting arbitrary posts, then they become editors and thus responsible for the content. They can’t have it both ways.
Either they are editors and thus have the right to control the content OR they are merely a platform and thus have to allow ALL posts that do not violate the law.Violation of contracts
Some people - especially people supporting liberty - claim that social media companies should be free to delete whatever content they don’t like.
But how do they justify deleting content when the user paid to publish?
James O’Keefe of https://projectveritas.com has been able to provided proof that Facebook and YouTube committed fraud by charging clients money for allegedly promoting their content, but then de-boosted content that they didn’t like without telling anyone, although they could not even so much as point to a violation of any rules - and if some "rules violation" had been found, they would have had to refund the amount charged to the client.
Steven Crowder is one of the channels that has been targeted:
Brandon Straka launched the #WalkAway movement. As former Democrat, he left the party because he didn’t like the direction it was taking. He realized that the media had been lying about Trump and Hillary. As homosexual, he also worried about their alliance with radical Muslims. Facebook simply blocked him just as he was organizing a major political event, thus preventing him from communicating with his enormous audience!
It is simply absurd to call a former Democrat and homosexual activist a “far right hate monger who deserves to be banned”.
Laura Loomer has also been banned from most social media platforms, simply because she directly criticizes Islamic organizations and denounces their links with terrorism:
Tommy Robinson managed to prove that BBC violated every rule of journalistic integrity and confronted them with their fraud, which should lead to a judicial prosecution. Immediately after his publication of the damning video, his accounts on Twitter and Facebook were deleted, although he had not violated any official rule:
The increase in censorship was manifest in 2017. Political censorship reached previously unprecedented levels on Facebook and YouTube: e.g. Tim Pool was censored for talking about information already published by New York Times and Politico.
This is about the fake “whistleblower” they claim denounced President Trump regarding the investigation of Biden father & son’s corruption affair in Ukraine. Given that the whistleblower’s identity is known now, everyone can see that he is a partisan hack who coordinated with Adam Schiff & his criminal gang in Congress. There is plenty of evidence that it was a complete set-up from the start.
Mainstream and social media try their very best to prevent the free flow of information. The first goal was to protect Democrat politicians and suppress any information that might help president Trump.
Anyone who still thinks that theses are “private companies”, you have seen in real life that they interfere in elections that directly decide to who holds government power, so their censorship of information is directly affecting everyone’s individual and political rights.
Any libertarian or conservative who maintains the ridiculous claim that they should be allowed to do whatever they want with their user’s publications is a fool with a death wish, as it allowed social media to silence our voices.
All “purists”, by misinterpreting the theory of liberty, caused harm to the advancement of liberty and have allowed an outright dictatorship to take over.
If we were already living in a totally free society, things would be very different - but at this point, those who control the flow of information are the ones who will control what future we will have - by allowing them to control social media, you guarantee that there won’t be any liberty.
Most people will say “But it’s ok to ban hate speech. No one needs to hear from Neonazis and the KKK”. Yeah, except that those are not the people who are getting banned!
Zuckerberg, although Jewish, explicitly stated that he wanted to allow Holocaust deniers to post on Facebook:
“In an interview with Recode published Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended keeping far-right publication Infowars and content related to conspiracy theories — specifically, theories that deny the Holocaust occurred — on the social media platform.
The Facebook founder, who is Jewish, acknowledged that such beliefs are "abhorrent," but said that it isn't Facebook's role to censor users who are not "intentionally getting it wrong."
Yes, he apparently said that with a straight face...
This kind of content is apparently ok, according to Facebook and Twitter. When this page was reported, Facebook replied that it did not violate their community standards. The same content exists on Twitter:
Not violating community standards, according to Facebook.
Update: this policy was finally amended in 2020!
All genocide denial is truly despicable and expresses extreme hatred towards the victims of the genocide (e.g. Armenians, Jews, the victims of the Soviet, Maoist and Khmer Rouge genocide etc.)
So if this was NOT banned, just how extreme does a post have to be to warrant a 30 day ban by Facebook?
How about calling those who support Hamas "scum" after it was revealed that the group not only practices and promotes terrorism, but murdered and tortured hundreds of citizens of Gaza, based on a Human Rights report?
Seems like a very mild description. But clearly, some random censor didn’t like it. I know that this term is used frequently on Facebook - especially against IDF (the Israeli Defense Forces), against Trump supporters etc. Never saw anyone getting banned over it.
So the term in and of itself is not a bannable offense, on Facebook. Therefore, the ban could only be based on the context. In other words: Facebook protected a terrorist group from being legitimately called out for their practice of murder and torture, as reported by human rights organizations even in Arabic media:
Or maybe the censor didn't like that I pointed out that Israelis were not the bad guys.
I could not even include a photo of Jewish and British troops presenting flags with Swastikas they had captured from Muslims - this scathing criticism of a historical Nazi conneciton was apparently considered as "supporting" or "promoting" Nazi ideology.
Those censors are either insane, stupid or again just pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.
Totally arbitrary banning based on a subjective value judgment that is accepted in other contexts
Other bans occurred due to a clear misunderstanding of my post by the censors due to their inability to understand my cultural and linguistic references.
We've all seen Twitter ban president Trump, but they go even after the "little guys":
During the brief time I was a Twitter user, I created a tweet that pointed to mainstream articles that confirm a strong alliance between Muslims and Nazis, not just historically, but to this day. Here is one article from the German “Focus” magazine, which documents that 600’000 Muslims volunteered to fight for the Nazis:
While I was not allowed to make factually accurate and fully supported statements about Islam on Twitter, they won’t ban Farrakhan, despite his hate speech against Jews and white people:
So promoting Islam - active proselytism - is allowed without restriction on Twitter and Facebook. Antisemitism is largely tolerated. Criticizing Islam is prohibited. Facebook banned an activist who exposed a fundamentalist Muslim who was preaching at the Speaker’s corner in London:
That is not really surprising, as the Wahabi extremist billionaire bin Talal bought 25% of Twitter shares.
And it keeps getting worse:
“Facebook Still Championing Blasphemy Laws”
Why would Facebook de facto apply foreign laws from openly hostile countries?
Conservative sources are censored without the slightest justification - no “hate speech” or “fake news”, merely reporting on a left-wing hoax, i.e. left-wing “fake news” that are embarrassing to the left:
Facebook and Twitter often do not even censor criminal content:
It took hundreds of complaints until Facebook finally removed a page that praised Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as “beneficial” and as based on Islam:
Here is the Islamic justification for FGM:
FGM is actually a CRIME in most western countries. When I reported the page as promoting a criminal activity, I initially received the answer that it did not violate community standards.Avoiding censorship through competition?
The usual suggestion is that we should simply use the market to create an alternate network. Given that the existing alternatives (cf. above) did not manage to have a substantial impact
The only way to win against the quasi-monopolies of Facebook and Twitter would be something like this:
Get massive financing to develop a fully functional, BETTER service than Facebook and Twitter - ideally combining both functions in one framework. I have lots of ideas how to create a much better system. Facebook and Twitter are both horrible. Facebook’s design looks like it was created by a bunch of rabid monkeys.
This should inclue a tool to move users from Facebook and Twitter over to the new service with virtually no effort, transferring their entire content - all posts, comments, reactions and invite all their friends, automatically.
Make sure you get a maximum number of people to move before Facebook and Twitter start blocking access to their data.
Prepare legal proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for when they try to prevent their users from moving their content.
Create a tool that automatically cross-posts between Facebook, Twitter and the new service - anything posted to one of them would be posted to all of them, where possible. There are tools that already attempt to do that. They try to block those tools as they do not want automatic posts, as that cuts their advertising revenue.
Make it a private, not a public entity, so it could not be bought out.
Ensure that it has a legal presence only in the US and other countries that fully protect free speech. Offer a free VPN service for foreign users, so they can get around attempts to block their access. Maybe partner with Telegram, where they have a lot of experience with this issue.
Prevent extremists from taking it over immediately. One of the repulsive issues about VK, Minds and Gab is that they are so packed with Neonazis, Antifa, Jihadis and other extremist fringe fanatics that the average user just leaves after an initial contact. They are obviously the first ones who want to avoid censorship, therefore ensuring the kind of echo box no one wants to be in.
Ensure that a very large number of people make the move within weeks with a massive media and ad campaign - but given the interest the media have in the status quo, they will sabotage this, not help it along.
So unless someone knows a sympathetic billionaire willing to risk all the money he’d have to put into this - probably $2 - $5 billion - without any guarantee of success, this is a very unlikely solution.Conclusion
Social media have to be forced to respect the rights of free speech of their users or you can just stop having political views and submit to your communist and Muslim overlords.
Basically, all social media should be legally forced to establish very precise rules for what is or is not acceptable on their site, so a user can know what to expect and so they could be legally forced to be consistent.
An appeals process should be mandatory: blocked users should be able to demand an independent review of blocked posts to see if they really did violate a rule or have their account restored if they did not.
This appeal process could require a payment if the appeal was rejected and a compensation if the social network falsely blocked the user. The appeals process would have to provide a complete documentation, so that users unsatisfied with the result could go to court and sue for breach of contract, if he deemed it necessary.
Shadow-banning and selective, ideology-driven demonetization would also be illegal, which means that the provider would have to prove that all posts get fair views irrespective of content.
If someone doesn't hate what you say, then you don't need protection for free speech - the whole point of free speech is to allow people to say things that are controversial!
If the people who run Facebook and Twitter are afraid of allowing people to publish controversial content, are afraid of terrorist or have been bought out by people who do not want to respect our right to free speech, then they should not be running social media services, period.
Restrictions that could reasonably apply in a free world
Assuming an ideal world where companies were entirely free to decide whom they want to have as customers (which they currently cannot without violating the law), one could ask what such social media companies could do without violating contractual rules that would apply in a free society.
For starters, they would absolutely have to announce immediately, on the page where clients sign up, what their rules are, so that everyone would know what kind of bias they apply. If they did not define political and ideological bias on sign-up, they cannot apply such bias without violating the promise made to their users.
Given that every user can freely select and block whatever person or group they do not want to see, there is absolutely no reason to remove any messages for ideological reasons unless the platform intentionally tries to mislead their users by having them waste time and spend money on creating content and then deleting it.
Lengthy "user agreements" that no one ever reads can be dismissed as irrelevant or at worst entrapment. Absolutely no court should ever accept "user agreements" that require more than 1 minute to read and a legal degree when they are aimed at millions of users.
As for their "community standards", they are neither well defined nor followed in a consistent way that one might analyze and understand, therefore irrelevant. They do not say what will or will not be banned and whatever rules they may have are clearly applied selectively, hence in a systematically discriminatory way, which is prohibited under current law and which would be considered a breach of contract in a free world if the bias had not been announced on sign-up.
It's as if 2 clients were sold the same package with the same description at the same price, but the content was totally different based on who buys that package. That's fraud towards the person who gets the package of lesser value.
The only legitimate community standards would be whatever is intended to protect users from being targeted by unwanted communications, such as harassment attacking a specific person, unwanted messages (spam, threats etc.), in short communications where someone is an actual victim, but not content that somehow "upsets" other participants merely because they disagree with what is being said and those users want to prevent others from seeing that content!
The risk that someone might come across something on a social media web site that they don't like is equivalent to them seeing something on a random web site. on TV, the radio or at a kiosk that they disagree with.
Whatever would be legal if published in any form on paper, on radio or TV or in any major online publication MUST be considered as legitimate on social media, as every adult person must be able to deal with such content or they could not function in an open, free society.
Content for adult users could automatically be filtered out based on the user's age, but should not be restricted among adult users. It would be legitimate to ask the user to label it as such, which is how it is handled on Minds.
It is more than obvious that if Facebook, Twitter etc. announced their biases on their sign-up page, they would never have managed to attract so many users. They would have ended up as totally marginal networks.
From a strictly libertarian point of view, if the bias is not announced, then it must not be applied or they committed fraud. It’s that simple.Fighting back
If you are American and your right to free speech was arbitrarily violated by Facebook, contact the Senate committee for Consumer Affairs which is investigating social media censorship:
Senate Maj. Consumer Affairs Committee
512 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington DC 20510, Phone (202) 224-1251
There are various organizations that are trying to fight social media censorship. Without a legal footing, this will remain a marginal and costly effort:
This page is operated by a German lawyer who has been quite successful in helping users get unblocked or getting their accounts restored by Facebook. It is truly enlightening to go through the list of posts that were blocked or not blocked by Facebook - unfortunately only in German:
There is hope - there might be a US Supreme Court ruling that just could end the ability of Facebook, Twitter & co to censor us and we must strongly support this:
In Germany, a court already decided that Facebook may not limit speech that would be legal, elsewhere:
Since December last year, I was banned by Facebook 4 times for 30 days each time.
The first ban was about the Palestinian flags with Swastikas - cf. above - i.e. the denounciation of the alliance between Palestinians and Nazis.
The next was for this post that had already been on Facebook for almost 2 years:
This quote from a book is apparently badly attributed - it's probably not from Hitler. But who in the world cares? I did not pubish it because it was attributed to Hitler, but because the statement itself describes exactly how fascists really think.
This quote is obviously revolting, to the reader. It is not propaganda for Nazism or spreading Hitler's words. So why would Facebook ban it, especially if it was falsely attributed? If they ban any mention of the name "Hitler", then how could one speak about history?
But that's not even the case - they have no problem with leftists calling Trump "Hitler". Clearly, it's not just the mention of the name. So if there's a quote representing Nazi politicies in a negative way, how is that a bannable offense?
This ban made no sense at all unless they did not like the actual message about how to control people 🤔
The next ban was about another post that had been published almost 2 years before, a post in support of Tommy Robinson. Note that I posted the meme BEFORE Facebook made him an un-person (in good 1984 style), so they applied their censorship rules retrospectively!
And finally they banned this Hitler/Goebbels quote in which they self-identify as SOCIALISTS and explain their hatred for liberty and capitalism.
Again, there is no way anyone could claim that these quotes are "promoting Nazism". They were required to make the core point of my article that Nazis were, in fact Socialists and even Communists.
I received the ban before I could complete the Note.
And shortly after this ban, I received a notification that my account had been terminated.
This is upsetting as I no longer can contact my 3533 Facebook friends and 1400 followers before I could move them to Minds.
So I guess I will have to take Facebook to court.
Or hope that my friends will all join us here on Minds.com!