Hate Speech on Social Media

Facebook bans Farrakhan, Yiannopoulos, and others, and come watch me talk about hate speech on social media at NYU

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Facebook has decided to ban a number of high-profile individuals the company believes have violated its (hate and other) speech rules. The list features Louis Farrakhan, Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, and a number of other agitator types, plus entities such as InfoWars.

I will be discussing this and other topics this coming Wednesday (May 8) at 6:30-8pm on a panel entitled "Hate Speech on Social Media: Is There a Way to More Civil Discussion?" with former ACLU president and current NYLS professor Nadine Strossen and Justitia founder Jacob Mchangama at the NYU Journalism Institute. The event is free and open to the public, and you can register here if interested in attending.

NEXT: White House May Seek Renewal of Domestic Snooping Powers the NSA Has Stopped Using. It Shouldn't.

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  1. Civility is BS. The President of the American Enterprise Institute, author of a new book on public discourse, explains why:

    “No, we should not get along. … We have the wrong standards. People are saying: “Yeah, the country’s too divided, I hate it. … What we need is more civility or more tolerance.” Those are garbage standards. …

    “If I said … “My wife, Ester and I, we’re civil to each other.” You’d say, “Man, you need counseling.” Or, if I said, “My employees, they tolerate me,” You’d say: “That’s a bad scene.” And if I said, “We need to agree,” you should reject that, too, because the competition of ideas is also known as disagreement.

    “Disagreement in a democracy is the source of our strength. If it’s performed with respect and warmheartedness — even with love — that’s how we avoid stagnation and mediocrity. I’m all about disagreement, but it has to be done in the climate of respect, warm heartedness and love.”

    https://www.npr.org/2019/04/01/708127456/love-your-enemies-and-maaaybe-you-ll-get-them-to-agree-with-you

    1. Civility is not the same as conformity. Not only can disagreement still happen in a civil environment, it can make the disagreement vastly more productive and fruitful. In fact, one could argue that if there were no disagreements, there would be no need for civility.

      I would argue that your last sentence – “disagreement … done in the climate of respect, warm heartedness and love” is a pretty good definition of civility. And that’s not BS.

      1. What has that got to do with hate speech? Or with its somewhat worse variant, weaponized speech?

        1. From the post:

          “a panel entitled “Hate Speech on Social Media: Is There a Way to More Civil Discussion?””

        2. Read the post he was responding to, Stephen. Jebus. What a dumb question

        3. What is “weaponized speech”?

          1. Speech that has the potential to cause the OTHER side to win an argument.

          2. “Weaponized” is used in this context: “The right has weaponized (some speech tactic) that we have been successfully using to hurt them, to hurt us.”

            I.e. the right learned a tactic of the left, and so it is weaponized now, as opposed to the peaceful use when done by the left.

      2. If ‘civility’ is the justification I have no idea why these guys were banned. The vast majority of them just state different opinions, in a manner often far less hysterical than their opponents. Its not like John Paul Watson is standing on a soapbox screaming the N word at the top of his lungs over and over.

        1. The left defines “civility” as agreeing with them, nothing more. They’ve been doing that for decades now.

          1. They’ve refined it to mean that you have to be sufficiently enthusiastic now as well. Kind of like in the old USSR where the first person to stop clapping for Herr Komrade’s speech gets sent to the gulag.

          2. Much like “compromise” = passing the laws we want.

  2. If Facebook wants to be viewed as a serious political and cultural forum they should allow even repulsive people to espouse their beliefs. If European nations hadn’t restricted extremist speech they would have realized that Islamism was a threat long before ISIS.

    1. Sounds like you are the right guy to make a billion dollars by addressing that ostensible market opportunity.

    2. Facebook wants to make money. All other goals are subordinate. Personally I am totally good with that.

      1. And that makes you a Colossal Douchebag.

      2. If you think corporate America’s liberalism is about money, and not genuine commitment to the cause, you are deluding yourself.

      3. If all they wanted to do was make money, they’d be far less censorious. They could, if necessary, split their platform, if ‘liberals’ would leave if exposed to conservatives.

        But the modern media take their profits in political influence, not just money. Censorship is profit, in their view, not cost.

      4. Lehman Bros had a larger diversity division than risk management. Ghostbusters and other franchises go out of their way to alienate their traditional audience for no discernible financial reason. Looks like we’ve finally found something Corporate America worships more than the Almighty dollar.

        1. There probably are executives who think that it makes financial sense because the SJW “boycotters” on the left are louder than we are, but I think for many of them, they actually just believe in it.

      5. Facebook wants to make money. All other goals are subordinate. Personally I am totally good with that.

        Which is fine…unless this self-censorship is prompted by political bluster to “break up” these companies, or remove legal protections for postings of members, or god knows what other laws, unless they do what the politicians say.

  3. Time to start regulating Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. as common carriers.

    1. No

      1. Yes.

        1. And who exactly would you trust to draft and enforce the regulations? Are you OK with an FCC dominated by Trump appointees making the decisions on what constitutes “hate speech”? Or do you imagine that some completely impartial, benign and brilliant bureaucrats are going to appear as if by magic to make all the right regulatory decisions? If so, please look up the unicorn fallacy.

          1. Better than the alternative.

            1. So you’re OK with the Trump Administration doing the regulating. Now, how do you feel about it when President Elizabeth Warren (or Kamala Harris, or Bernie Sanders, or AOC) is the one appointing the regulators?

              1. If the TRUMP administration is doing the regulating, then we’ll never see a Fauxahontas, or Heels-up Harris, or She Guevara, regime.

                1. Lord you are a petty one.

                  And thinking that if your side makes the rules that the other side will never win an election again has never worked well in America.

                  1. I believe that Americans, if they are given the truth and not a Facebook, CNN, and DNC-filtered and approved “news” feed, would never vote for any of those people.

                    1. Awesome how you are smarter than most Americans, to have sussed out the truth when none of them could.

    2. Absolutely wrong.

      1. That’s not an argument.

  4. I’ll take these arbiters of social civility seriously when they also ban every Marxian and ever Socialist, since they espouse violence in every day life as the very definition of their political goals.

    1. One time as an experiment I found an Antifa page on FB, with a post explicitly advocating violence, and reported it to FB.

      A week later they got back to me, and said they couldn’t see what I was complaining about.

  5. Will Facebook ban Ilhan Omar for her actions?

    1. Not likely.

    2. Does Sarah Jeong have a Facebook page?

    3. Who cares
      Like Arthur said: start your own social media site.

      1. I suppose in response to conservatives getting denied bank access, we’re just supposed to pull a multi-billion dollar international bank from a magic hat, too?

  6. If we’re going to go along with this in the name of ‘the free market’ we should also dismantle all antidiscrimination/public accommodation laws. Not to mention Net Neutrality is down the drain. Either the government steps in for the ‘greater good’ or it doesn’t. Can’t have it both ways.

    1. That’s an excellent point.

    2. You’re assuming that everyone agrees that the “greater good” means free speech. The left does think government should step in for the greater good, but it defines “greater good” to mean “propagation of leftist ideals.”

    3. ? Is anyone arguing the government can’t regulate social media?

      Or are you arguing against federalism and democracy in favor of consistent policies?

      1. I will argue that the government can’t regulate social media, for nearly every value of “regulate ” that’s likely to come up.
        Facebook and Twitter are not public fora– not even close.

        1. Sure – that’s libertarian and consistent, if IMO wrongheaded.

          1. Wrongheaded how?
            Twitter only really matters to about 10% of the country according to a recent Pew Study.

            1. To be clear, the question isn’t about good policy, it’s about the potential reach of government.

              Social media does a crapload of commerce.

              1. So does (and did) CBS.
                How would the government regulate Walter Cronkite, who, per capita, had way more influence than Zuckerberg?

              2. That shouldn’t actually matter, since they do commerce in speech, which is constitutionally supposed to be beyond the reach of federal legislation.

              3. Platforms are not speaking. They only provide a service.

                1. Like signs and pens and microphones and vocal chords and resources pooled by likeminded people who have something to say… the government can regulate all of it because it isn’t technically “speech” itself.

                  Kind of pointless to even have a first amendment since there is always a technical workaround.

                  That’s how it works, right?

          2. The First Amedment is wrongheaded?

  7. The word “liberal” should not be used to describe the contemptible scum who have appropriated that label. They are NOT liberal. They are intolerant, nasty, foul-mouthed little totalitarians, whose first impulse is to silence any opposing opinion. On web forums, they use the “flag abuse” button. In real life, they use lawsuits, marches, demonstrations, boycotts, and when that doesn’t shut conservatives up, they use violence.

    1. Excellent points, they’re authoritarians.

      1. Especially on immigration, torture, tariffs, abortion, and trade?

        Do you guys wonder why you are relegated to society’s inconsequential sidelines?

        1. We’ve won 3 out of 5 (soon to be 4 of 6) Presidential elections.
          Exactly what is your definition of “inconsequential”?

      2. Thanks bro.

  8. Absolutely no problem with Facebook (etc), banning whomever they want using whatever standards they want (hopefully they make those standards clear though).

    At the same time, we have to ensure all voices have the opportunity to be heard–even the most extreme.

    As I’ve mentioned before, our society is stronger and more durable when we have the flexibility to listen to and then accept/reject/modify different positions–and then change our minds later.

    Rigidity and monolithic political thinking (i.e. conservatism), are what kills societies.

    Only a flexible and (eventually) progressive society can endure and thrive.

    1. LOL!!! I agree society has to progress, but modern “progressives” are not propagating progress.

  9. I don’t think banning a few particularly famous nutbars will do much for discourse.

    1. The point isn’t to ban the famous nutbars. It’s to leverage banning them to ban expressions of agreement with them.

      I was rather amused to find that multiple media outlets, in reporting this, initially labeled Farrakhan a “far right”. I wonder whose press release they were all working off of?

    2. Typically, wouldn’t banning people do “to”, not “for” discourse? Kind of hard to have discourse when you’re banning people who don’t agree with you.

      1. A leftist would say: “What I say is ‘discourse’, what you say is ‘hate speech’ that must be suppressed to improve ‘discourse’.” Leftists are know for being fair and honest.

        1. Nice of you to explain what leftists say. You sure do seem to know them!

          1. To be fair, I do frequent leftist websites like Crooked Timber or Obsidian Wings, or the RealityFantasy Based Community, and that IS their position. Explicitly so.

          2. To be fair, Brett, you’re general view of what constitutes a liberal has never comported with reality.

    3. I don’t think you know how nutbars work, if you think people agreeing with them will now be chilled from speaking.

      That’s the point – if you’re going to moderate, moderate. It’s fine to say anti-vax, or chemtrails, or trutherism doesn’t belong on your platform. Curating a space you provide can be a value add. As can a completely open space, if that’s the brand you choose to push (though YMMV looking at what edgelords do to attempts to provide unmoderated forums in short order)

      But symbolic stuff like this is neither fish nor fowl.

      I’m amused at how many are pushing Farrakhan as a creature of the left. Farrakhan is a reactionary white hating weirdo and it takes some real partisan glasses to see him as fitting in either party.

      1. Plenty of leftists reject both of our major political parties.

        “reactionary white hating weirdo”

        The only thing there which is inconsistent with leftism is “reactionary.” So on what issues do his reactionary positions disqualify him from belonging to the Left?

  10. Banning “hate speech” because it is dangerous?

    Suppressing political discourse is a lot more dangerous.

    1. As I keep saying: the truth is hate speech to those that hate the truth.

      1. Exactly. The little boy who said “The king is naked!” was engaging in hate-speech as far as the king, the courtiers, and the conmen “weavers” were concerned.

  11. If you want to play on facebook stop putting up lies and bullshit like infowars, antivaxxers, and farrakhan. There’s a difference between free speech and the lies those scum print as facts.

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