In a recent op-ed, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg implored the state to get more involved in governing the internet. “Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” he said. “These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”
For starters, there’s no such a thing as “harmful speech.” There might be speech that offends us. There might be speech we disagree with. There’s also speech that’s inarguably ugly, dishonest, pornographic, or despicable. Yet, “we” allow these unpleasant words to go largely unregulated because we value the broader liberty of being able to offer opinions without government censors dictating which thoughts are acceptable.
Then again, if Zuckerberg wants to rid his platform of this “hate speech,” no one is stopping him. Facebook allegedly employs a number of new mechanisms to achieve this very task. Good luck.
But Zuckerberg claims that “we,” as society, have a special responsibility to facilitate his efforts to keep people “safe” from reprehensible rhetoric. We have no such obligation. Facebook already offers users the ability to block or ignore accounts they find distasteful. If they don’t like how Facebook is governing speech and interactions, they can quit.
What Zuckerberg’s plan does, however, is undermine competition. If a company like Facebook sets speech codes that are too stifling for users, another innovator will jump into the gap and create a platform that offers consumers what they seek. While I assume free political expression isn’t the predominate concern of most social media users, it does exist. When government sets a “baseline” for what’s acceptable, there’s no longer any competition for open debate.
Worse, deliberation over free expression would be moved to the political arena, where the influence of scaremongering officials, ideologues, and rent-seeking tech corporations like Twitter, Facebook, and Google would dominate decisions.
“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” Zuckerberg writes. […]
Read the full story from The Daily Signal
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