Freedom of Speech

Banning Conservatives from Twitter Doesn't Violate the First Amendment

You may not like what happened to Robert Stacy McCain, but it isn't illegal.

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Twitter
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There's no right to free speech on Twitter. 

Given the platform's recent decision to ban Robert Stacy McCain's multiple accounts, it's important for people—conservatives, especially—not to lose sight of this. Twitter is a private company, and private companies can set whatever rules they wish regarding speech on their property and within their domain. These rules might seem unfair—and that's okay, too. The rules don't have to be fair. The government cannot and should not compel Twitter to have fair rules. Doing so would violate the First Amendment. Government-mandated speech is just as bad as censorship. 

All that said, conservatives have every right to be upset about Twitter's policies, and to protest them. 

As I argue in an op-ed for The New York Post

What should conservatives do? What they're already doing: speak up, and loudly. Shortly after McCain was shown the door, people who want the platform to be more open to free expression organized a #FreeStacy hashtag. 

Twitter, to its shame, soon suppressed the hashtag. 

In response, some have vowed to boycott Twitter entirely. Actor Adam Baldwin, a popular conservative voice on social media, said the site is "dead to me," and deleted his entire history save for a single link to an article demanding McCain be returned to good standing. 

Twitter's ill treatment of right-leaning figures deserves pushback, and these kinds of stunts are as good a tactic as any. 

Read the full thing here

I hope Twitter treads more lightly in the future—again, not because I have a right to say whatever I want on the platform, but because I'm a customer and would prefer a service that had more respect for free expression. 

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68 responses to “Banning Conservatives from Twitter Doesn't Violate the First Amendment

  1. Are there people saying it’s actually illegal? I feel like everybody is opposed to it out of principle seeing as most conservatives at least have some grasp at the difference between public and private institutions. The problem is that it’s just a continuation of what’s happening on public college campuses across the country, which I believe is in fact against the first amendment.

    1. Twitter and Facebook’s new censorship is far more destructive than what’s happening on college campuses.

    2. Well, some conservatives have noted that “you can’t force a private company to do things” is only true for some companies.

      But of course twitter is not being asked to bake cakes for gay weddings.

  2. Twitter has a quasi-monopoly in their industry. They should be prosecuted under antitrust law if they want to play this game.

    They don’t give a flying leap if you boycott them. The users they make money from can’t go anywhere else.

    1. They can’t? You mean Twitter is the only place in the world where people can give their insight in 140 characters or less?

      Holy shit. I had no idea.

      1. *** counts sloopy’s characters ***

      2. Just like it would be fine to ban somebody from advertising on broadcast TV or YouTube, because they can always invite people to their homes to watch the ad.

      3. The point: Twitter’s audience is what makes them money, not the service. No competitor is going to be able to match that, ever, no matter how good they are.

        1. Just like it would be fine to ban somebody from advertising on broadcast TV or YouTube, because they can always invite people to their homes to watch the ad.

          Who is doing the banning? It’s up to the individual stations and Youtube to decide on the content. It’s on the user base to either find an alternative. This is where a lot of people who argue a number of the commenters here are conservatives masquerading as libertarians have a point.

          Twitter is in no sense a monopoly. Nor is this a government matter in the least. Antitrust laws have little application to content providers on the internet. There’s no limited space for entities to operate (ignoring the other issues with antitrust laws to begin with).

          Your argument here is that there is no market solution. You believe that Twitter, which has existed for half a decade or so, is so entrenched that no competitor could come in and take their place. A competitor can and will. Twitter is already doing poorly.

          I still think libertarians should vocally and strongly condemn these actions. the left is having its way because it is louder and shriller. It is better at the cultural shaming of individuals and even corporations.

          1. You believe that Twitter, which has existed for half a decade or so, is so entrenched that no competitor could come in and take their place.

            Explain how a competitor could plausibly take Twitter’s place. Twitter is selling eyeballs, not messaging services.

            The libertarian thinking on this issue is stuck in the era when corporations made widgets, and could be done in by an upstart competitor that could make better widgets for a lower price. That doesn’t apply anymore in the age of corporations built on advertising in a closed system. (Ironically since libertarians are supposedly more technically literate than conservatives)

            1. How? By someone else starting up a service and attracting customers. Twitter isn’t even alone in their area. They are simply filling one niche in the larger subset of Social Media. And even that is becoming less of a niche as other services incorporate parts of your platform.

              The question of how a competitor could take their place is really just absurd. The same way Twitter globbed some of the functions of Facebook. There’s nothing stopping anyone from starting a platform like Twitter with a greater commitment to free speech and attracting their own user base.

              That doesn’t apply anymore in the age of corporations built on advertising in a closed system.

              How is this a closed system? Advertisers go where the customers are, and Twitter was started by a handful of dudes mostly on their own.

              You should just post “I don’t believe in free markets because I don’t like their results.” It would be a truer argument than this bullshit you are spewing.

              1. By someone else starting up a service and attracting customers.

                Aargh. You’re treating it as a widget manufacturer again.

                Explain how someone does this with Twitter already dominating the landscape. You have to attract users for your Twitter-like service, whose friends, favorite celebrities, customers, etc. are already on Twitter, and will not be accessible with your new service.

                1. Explain how someone does this with Twitter already dominating the landscape.

                  https://www.facebook.com/Myspace/

                2. Explain how someone does this with Twitter already dominating the landscape.

                  Snapchat, motherfucker.

                  *drops mic*

                3. Explain how someone does this with Twitter already dominating the landscape.

                  Ask MySpace.

          2. Twitter is already doing poorly.

            In what sense? Their stock price is going down, but that is because of the inherent difficulty monetizing their user base. If anything, Twitter’s stock struggles make it less likely that there will ever be a competitor.

            1. They’ve been bleeding users which is the real reason their stock is plummeting. Because, amazingly enough, users have complete choice on where they spend their time online. When a corporation sees a large portion of its top executives canned or flee, that’s not a good sign for the health of a business.

              1. Bleeding users? No. Their user base growth is slowing, but it’s not negative. Slowing growth is to be expected as they saturate the market.

          3. This is where a lot of people who argue a number of the commenters here are conservatives masquerading as libertarians have a point.

            Why, whatever do you mean?

            1. Oh noes, you have to read comments from people you disagree with!

              Reason should provide you with a safe space.

              1. I’m used to reading comments by idiots, no matter their ideological stripes, wherever I go. I just think they should be properly identified, especially on a libertarian site.

              2. Reason needs a “Trust and Safety Committee”

                Those comments have to go.

                Oh and speaking of that, sure twitter’s comments are on a private network, but so are Reasons and certain aspects of the government though Reason comments needed government supervision…..

            2. I don’t usually buy into Grand Unified Troll Theory, but in this case….

              1. While everyone has been accusing Illocust of being Tulpa, the real deal has slithered back into the comments.

        2. No competitor is going to be able to match that, ever, no matter how good they are.

          I would disagree with that. Some I follow are already talking about moving to Peach, especially if Twitter goes to 10k characters. If they irritate enough customers, a competitor will rise up to challenge them.

    2. Twitter isn’t a monopoly, not even close. And even if they were, they still shouldn’t be compelled to end censorship by the government.

      The proper response is for people who care about free speech to leave twitter, vocally. Hopefully one of them will start a competing service.

  3. Big government and big business are BFFs. Hard to believe that libertarians don’t see this. Twitter and Facebook are explicitly collaborating with the government on this new censorship. Private corporations with no viable competitors are just as unaccountable as government monopolies.

  4. Anybody who stays with Twitter now is a pussy who comes back even after repeatedly being kicked out the door. If you support such a platform, then you support censorship – pure and simple.

  5. It actually might be illegal. The DMCA gave internet platforms immunity from liability for any content their uses put up. The trade off for that was that they censer the content. So you either let everything on and escape liability or you censer content and accept responsibility for what is there.

    Twitter clearly takes advantage of the immunity from liability. So how can they the. Censor content?

    It is an interesting issue and one Robby should think about rather than just rehashing the old it’s not a 1st amendment issue crap we get here.

    1. No. The safe harbor provision has no requirement not to censor. They have to have no knowledge of infringing material.

      1. Yes. But if you are censoring content, you are presumed to have knowledge. Once you get into the business of policing content, you are presumed to know what is there and responsible for it v

        1. But if you are censoring content, you are presumed to have knowledge.

          Not if the censoring is done after the content is already posted.

    2. You are advocating using government bureaucracy and regulation over principle. And while I’m no expert, I really doubt that is how the rules in question apply. Not being liable for everything posted on your platform doesn’t preclude you from enforcing your own rules about content.

      If you want to use the state to punish your enemies, you aren’t much different than the progressive you despise.

    3. This is where a lot of people who argue a number of the commenters here are conservatives masquerading as libertarians have a point.

      Why, whatever do you mean?

      1. I am just giving the law. Why is that ideological? The law is what it is.

        1. My understanding is that providers can censor, just not by altering (and therefore editorializing by proxy) user-provided content.

          See 47 U.S. Code ? 230 (c): https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230

  6. So okay to ban Conservatives from Twitter – but a gun range that doesn’t allow a Muslim to shoot (under really provocative circumstances / obvious set-up) get sued. Okay, got it – rights for thee, not for me.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..57816.html

    1. The left has no problem using government to force private entities to conform to their ideology. We all know this. That doesn’t mean supposed libertarians should abandon principle and engage in the same in an endless game of tit for tat.

      When you argue with a leftist who plays the first amendment only applies to government card so you shouldn’t complain about Twitter, simply point out their complete and utter hypocrisy elsewhere.

      1. tits??? where???

    2. Ideology (aside from the ones that involve magic) is not a protected class.

      On the plus side, that means you can discriminate the fuck out of some progs. At this point, I think that open discrimination is the only thing that might get through to them that their behavior is unacceptable.

      Now, they may react by making ideology a protected class. At which point, given their control over all institutions in society, conservatives can basically sue them for disparate impact until every university, MediaCorp, and quite a few businesses are broke as fuck.

    3. I remember that case. The range owner was on a radio show that I listen to, and was trumpeting how she was protecting the community by not letting those violent Muslims practice shooting. Then a guy called in and asked her if she also bans military veterans from her range, since they’re 10 times more likely to commit violent crimes than Muslims. It got interesting after that.

  7. Imagine, however, if RS McCain had asked Twitter to bake him a cake,

  8. Man that makes no sense at all to me dude. WOw.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

  9. The government cannot and should not compel Twitter to have fair rules.

    No, but they can compel corporations to allow competition, by breaking them up once they reach a certain market share.

    1. They can, but they shouldn’t.

  10. In response to this, I shall continue to do as I have always done: not care about Twitter.

    1. Except for Dave Burge’s feed, I don’t care either.

      1. Though with this and things like the Shapiro during its from speaking at Cal, it is amazing howcopen the left is now about not wanting dissent from their orthodoxies to have any forum. Does a social media site really want to cut off a significant portion of the population from wanting to use it?

        1. If they fear losing their existing customer base, it might seem reasonable to them to shut out potential users to keep the ones they have.

          As for purely ideological reasons, followers are less likely to stray if you segregate the marketplace of ideas. In fact it probably works almost as well as completely denying someone a place to speak.

          You wont catch many msnbc watchers tuning into fox, and vice versa. To those users the other is believed so vile they essentially do the censoring for the censors.

          Don’t underestimate the power of ignorance.

    2. This so much. Twitter is just another Internet fad. People need to stop acting like it means anything.

  11. First of all, Twitter and Facebook are collaborating with the FBI and Merkel on banning ‘unsafe’ speech. This is well known. Secondly, they allow Daesh recruiting by the government, e.g. DOS “Think again turn away” campaign. Finally, you suggest Ken White be added to the “Trust and Safety” council. HAHA sure. He bans me from commenting on his web site. What a hypocrite.

    You know which other press organ/political party had a “Safety Staff” that collaborated with the government?

    1. One thing: popehat doesn’t claim to run an open forum, so claiming hypocrisy tends to diminsh your point.

      1. “Can you please not visit my blog again? So you’re not going to respect my request?”

        – Ken White – Jan 12, 2016

        1. Given Ken White’s full-throated defense of your free speech rights that you yourself already posted, that says more about you than Ken.

          1. Oh, I actually admire and like the guy and greatly appreciate his help. But he’s become a hypocrite on this issue. Not sure what happened. Ironically, the comment he banned said exactly what I said here: it’s censorship if the government attempts to ban free speech on a public web site. I find the whole situation perplexing and disturbing, and I don’t think he’s a good candidate for Twitter’s Safety Staff as Soave proposed. I also find it troubling that Soave won’t admit that Twitter is being pressured by government to limit speech, and instead blindly defends their right to do it, especially in lights of Kerry’s ISIS recruitment. It is really a enigma wrapped in a mystery. I don’t know the answer but I plan to find out.

  12. The left has no problem using government to force private entities to conform to their ideology. We all know this.

    Do we? We seem to respond to this force with-

    That doesn’t mean supposed libertarians should abandon principle and engage in the same in an endless game of tit for tat.

    A misguided sense of principle.

    It IS force. The left is trying to destroy the idea of liberty. Forcibly destroying free speech, free press, free association.

    When you argue with a leftist who plays the first amendment only applies to government card so you shouldn’t complain about Twitter, simply point out their complete and utter hypocrisy elsewhere.

    Why? Does it help? I won the argument–now, when you use the force of law to take away my right to speak you’ll have to deal with the fact that technically, I wo……………………….’

    They get exactly what they want. Us, silenced and marginalized.

    Our principles say they get to do and say what they want so long as they don’t hurt anybody. THEIR principles say that they can do what they want, hurt whoever they want, so long as, in the end, they at least pretend that it expands the power of the state(while they loudly proclaim that it hasn’t).

    We are fighting an enemy that seeks the annihilation of everything we hold dear–and refusing to swing because, according to the principles we abide by, that’d make us as bad as them. So they win, and win and win again.

    1. uhuh, uhuh…you wrote tits

  13. Good for Twitter. Sorry for all the mouth breathers out there but if you hadn’t noticed, Twitter lost a substantial amount of subscribers after the GamerGate fiasco. Free speech does not mean you get to threaten to stab someone with a stake in their private parts, while posting their home address online.

    What had once seemed like a version of Facebook had turned into a scary stalky site. More subscribers lost as the media recounted abuse and gang harassment of minorities, and then Anonymous outed the KKK on Twitter. The Ku Klux Klan, surprise, had made unregulated Twitter their online outlet.
    Twitter competes with facebook and was losing traction as people were no longer considering it a fun, friendly place, but the home of violent perverts, mentally ill and,yes, the KKK. Robert McCain falls into that category of hatred spewing person you suspect has mental problems. No real conservative would label that “Conservative”. If facebook was the friendly neighborhood bar, Twitter was the creepy dark alley of the internet.

    It’s about time Twitter took charge of it’s space and it’s brand. I commend them for this. By dumping the fringe wacko’s, they can hopefully persuade their average, normal users to return.

      1. B for the troll effort.

        F for its intellectual content.

        Heck, if I could give it a ‘G’ (for Good God) I would.

        1. well, yes, the troll effort is all I was grading. The content is clearly abominable

    1. Free speech does not mean you get to threaten to stab someone with a stake in their private parts, while posting their home address online

      That’s funny, Spike Lee’s twitter account is still active.

      1. are you absolutely sure about the stabby thing?

        1. I am absolutely sure that you don’t understand the point of what I said.

  14. Twitter is also shadowbanning libertarians, by the way.

    However, they’re only banning REAL libertarians, so Soave and many of the other Reasonoids are safe.

    1. I love how, on the one hand, we should be more like the fabians, and on the other hand, anyone who isn’t pure enough should be mocked and scolded.

      I don’t think you understand how fabianism works.

      1. Sorry that I keep it too real. But regardless of whatever they call themselves, leftists are absolute masters at identifying their friends and their enemies. It’s the biggest reason why they have been so ruthlessly effective at taking over just about everything.

  15. Indeed, businesses have every right to choose who uses their services, and this issue has nothing to do with free speech. That’s why businesses are free to choose not to bake cakes with 2 grooms or 2 brides on top…

    Oh wait…

    Government IS ALREADY in the business of forcing businesses to serve everyone. This is clearly a double standard.

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