Free Minds & Free Markets

Suppressing Trump's Bigotry on Facebook Is Another Form of Bias: New at Reason

Censoring politicians' racist, sexist, and abhorrent behavior on social media does a big favor to racist, sexist, and abhorrent politicians.

Mehdi Chebil/Polaris/NewscomMehdi Chebil/Polaris/NewscomOf all the grievances erupting against Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, perhaps the most telling is the complaint that, back in 2015, they failed to suppress presidential candidate Donald Trump's call for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

This kvetch was expressed in a recent front-page The New York Times investigation, which griped, "Trump's call to arms—widely condemned by Democrats and some prominent Republicans—was shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, an illustration of the site's power to spread racist sentiment."

The complaint also signals the persistence of the belief that the way to deal with offensive or incorrect speech is to smother it rather than to rebut it. This, too, is a view more compatible with totalitarianism that with freedom. It suggests an insecurity, a lack of confidence that one's own ideas are strong enough to overcome alternative views. It leads to the establishment of central authorities with power to decide which views are acceptable for publication or broadcast, and which are not.

Relatedly, the complaint betrays a low opinion of the American electorate, writes Ira Stoll.

Photo Credit: Mehdi Chebil/Polaris/Newscom


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