Reason Podcast

Should Libertarians Care About Facebook Bans?

Private property rights, public squares, "dangerous" speech, and pre-regulatory suck-ups, all debated on the Reason Podcast.


What has been the worst reaction to Facebook's decision last week to permanently ban Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Milo Yiannopoulis, Louis Farrakhan, and others for their "dangerous" speech? Hard to say, though the president of the United States, per usual, is in the running.

Intersecting as it does the diverging cultural and legal parameters of free speech, while also portending of a more serious regulatory clampdowncapture exercise to come, the move sparks some vigorous debate in this week's Editors' Roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast. Katherine Mangu-WardNick Gillespie, Peter Suderman and Matt Welch differ on whether the ban is bad or fine, whether speech is expanding or contracting, and whether '90s Net Triumphalists are doomed to become old men shaking their fists at clouds.

Other podcast topics include: Trump's latest trade threats, three new entrants in the 2020 Democratic presidential race (no peeking!), and that costume drama with the diphthongs.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

'Boulevard St Germain' by Jahzzar is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Relevant links from the show:

"Facebook Has Every Right To Ban Louis Farrakhan and Alex Jones. But It's Still a Bad Idea," by Nick Gillespie

"Banning Alex Jones Isn't About Free Speech—It's About the Incoherence of 'Hate Speech,'" by Robby Soave

"Libertarian Banned from Facebook for Tide Pod Joke That Mocked Liberals," by Robby Soave

"Mark Zuckerberg, Crony Capitalist," by John Stossel

"Internet Freedom Swirling Around Drain as Dems, Reps Threaten Antitrust Action on Google, et al," by Nick Gillespie

"Trump Doesn't Like What People See When They Search 'Trump News,'" by Peter Suderman

"Partisans United Against Free Speech," by Matt Welch

"Making the Fairness Doctrine Great Again," by Thomas Hazlett

"The End of Free Speech," by Katherine Mangu-Ward

"Trump Is No Match for the First Amendment," by Jacob Sullum

"Market Crashes as Trump Threatens More Tariffs After China Trade Deal Flops," by Eric Boehm

NEXT: Trump Obstructed Justice, Says Judge Andrew Napolitano

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. How is that tweet anywhere near the “worst reaction”? I know free speech isn’t very cool anymore, but geez, c’mon guys

  2. Big Tech websites can censor anything they wish since its their websites.
    But on the other hand, I can also call these Big Tech assholes a bunch of fascist pigs for their contempt for free speech.

    1. Community communication websites are by definition public, not private, places. They profit from providing public speaking opportunities.

      Here are two definitions of public.

      1. Of, concerning, or affecting the community or the people:
      2. Maintained for or used by the people or community:

      As public places, they cannot be allowed to violate our right to free speech.

      Suck it up princess, if you want to operate here you need to conform to the rules of the land. If we let you violate our rights, we deserve the shithole we create.

      1. I’m thinking that if a private businesses can be bullied in to being considered public spaces, so can web sites that are specifically created for the members of the public to come speak.

        That said, private businesses shouldn’t be bullied in to being public spaces either.

        1. Do you think human rights are attributed to humans or the places they happen to be?

          If you come into my private place, for any reason, do I have the right to treat you like an insect?

          No, people bring our rights with us wherever we go.

          Those who wish to reserve the right to violate human rights, don’t recognize this obvious logical truth.

          1. Property rights are also part of human rights. If someone comes in to your private place shouting Nazi slogans you have every right to ask them to leave, and to remove them by force if they don’t leave, even if that private place is generally open to the public (such as a business)

            1. You are not entitled to privacy in public.

              1. What does that have to do with anything I said?

                1. You seem to be conflating private places with public places and disturbing the peace with free speech.

      2. —As public places, they cannot be allowed to violate our right to free speech.

        But they are not required to encourage it either. If I allow someone to give a speech from my balcony overlooking a plaza, am I required to let everyone speak?

  3. i don’t care other than it would be nice to see someone punch Z in the face tweet about it and post the vid to youtube

  4. Ban Nick Gillespie from the Reason podcast. He is Crossfiring the crap out of everyone else, interrupting everyone else then ‘let me finish’ing. Couldn’t finish the episode (exercising my exit). I like to hear the editors talk, I just wish they would do it one at a time.

  5. I’d like to know how Marsh v. Alabama plays into all this.

    The Court initially noted that it would be an easy case if the town were a more traditional, publicly administered, municipality. Then, there would be a clear violation of the right to free speech for the government to bar the sidewalk distribution of such material. The question became, therefore, whether or not constitutional freedom of speech protections could be denied simply because a single company held title to the town.

    The State attempted to analogize the town’s rights to the rights of homeowners to regulate the conduct of guests in their home. The Court rejected that contention, noting that ownership “does not always mean absolute dominion.” The court pointed out that the more an owner opens his property up to the public in general, the more his rights are circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who are invited in.

    In its conclusion, the Court stated that it was essentially weighing the rights of property owners against the rights of citizens to enjoy freedom of press and religion. The Court noted that the rights of citizens under the Bill of Rights occupy a preferred position. Accordingly, the Court held that the property rights of a private entity are not sufficient to justify the restriction of a community of citizens’ fundamental rights and liberties.

    I mean, if a private business isn’t actually a private business but a “public accommodation” then under this precedent, FB and TWTR are violating people’s free speech rights. If they aren’t then private businesses need to be allowed to be private. The government and big corporations can’t have it both ways (well, ok, yes they can because fytw).

  6. If Facebook, Twitter remove some users and censor certain content for any reason, they are now a “publisher” and subject to all the responsibilities of a publisher, including being held liable for all content they publish on their site.

    1. If that’s the reasoning you want to go with, then Reason is also responsible for all the “woodchipper” comments and such.

      There’s a reason the writers keep saying that interpretation is wrong.

  7. Libertarians should be concern about all authoritarians, not just the ones in government.

    1. We are concerned, but the weapons to fight it are different. In the case of a private business like Facebook or Twitter we should not be using the government as the weapon, since that just creates another authoritarian to combat the first

      1. Exactly. I’m not saying we should do anything about facebook, except perhaps vote with your feet. But any freedom loving person should be concerned with authoritarians in general.

    2. You should post that in a libertarian not Republican chat room.

  8. Nick: “Facebook should let everyone speak”
    Nick: [doesn’t let anyone else speak]

  9. Should libertarians care about Facebook?


    1. +100

  10. I could care less about Facebook or Twitter. In fact, if Twitter disappeared tomorrow, the world would be a tiny bit better.

  11. Maybe it’s because I agree with Nick, but I didn’t find him to be nearly as annoying as others seem to have. He continues to advocate for free speech and warns of government regulation, while at the same time acknowledging the cultural implications of silencing wrong think. Reason continues to deliver on this topic, and I hope more outlets take notice.

  12. Part of the problem is that Facebook, Google and other BigTech giants have taken tax payer funds in the form of grants to grow their business. That removes their status as “private business”. There is also the fact its not simply banning people, its goddamn Un-personing them by exerting undue influence over other businesses that may deign to do business with these unpersons.

    1. They aren’t private because what they offer, a place for public to use, is by definition public.

      1. You are using two different definitions of word public; being open to the public does not make a business a public entity. If it did there would be no such thing as a private business

        1. Making a space available to the public for an intended purpose makes it a public place for that purpose.

          Whatever type of speaking is allowed, if any, is then subject to our right to free speech there.

          If businesses are open to the public and they allow people to speak, they are obligated to let them say whatever is legal to say.

  13. No concerns that Facebook released the info of the bannings early to media with a demand that they not report it until immediately after it happened?

    Stories popped up within, literally, a minute of the event.

    And, as usual, if Facebook wishes to behave as a publisher, they should be treated as one.

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