I also tried writing about this, and my angle was labels like free speech but also capitalist, socialist, etc., particularly in political discussions, are problematic distractions. Free speech in the constitutional sense is a legal question for legal contexts. Free speech in the natural rights sense is a philosophical discussion not a practical one.

I don't care about the definition of free speech in either sense with regard to Twitter. Either it's a good idea or it's not for Twitter to moderate hateful speech, and that should be argued on its own merits, and supported by evidence (as you provide, 4chan is evidence to the effect of a moderation-free hellscape). This is in the same way that whether a program is private, nationalized or otherwise isn't good or bad based on whether it's "capitalist" or "communist" but whether it is effective. I find dismissing something based on labels is merely a sophisticated red herring.

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Generally speaking, conservatives want broad free speech ideals for themselves, but want to be able to impose their boundaries on everyone else. Hence, you're seeing lawsuits in Virginia to ban books from bookstores, because minors might read them. Or the people simultaneously whining about cancel culture one minute and demanding boycotts and bans of everyone they don't like the next.

It's hard to frame reasonable arguments against a literal tsunami of bad faith, but we still have to, and I think the simplest delineation is "your 1st Amendment rights end at the government stopping you". And yet, as simple as it is, it cannot seem to penetrate many people's thick heads.

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May 23, 2022Liked by Parker Molloy

One of the fundamental mistakes liberals make is believing that people like Shapiro want to engage in debate. They don’t. They’re not looking for some Jefferson /Adams mutually respectful relationship.

So personal attacks and insults are a primary feature of any interaction with them. By antagonizing an opponent they can say they “won.” And they can do so without engaging in an actual discussion of the issues.

Plus, conservatives can whine and cry that the scary trans people threatened them. It becomes one more grievance.

The one factor that’s missing is mutual respect. Without it you can’t have a debate and a debate is the one thing they want to avoid.

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Your point is well taken and conveys due nuance, but I confess it seems daunting when so many on the right only seem to care about rules when imposing them on others and when nuanced dialogs about political and social issues seem in shorter and shorter supply. This is to say I don't know how we get Elon Musk and his acolytes to follow any rules of social media discourse, though I don't think we shouldn't try either.

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I remember seeing a news story several years ago about a funeral and cemetery burial that were crashed by a right wing church group who shouted insults about the deceased, who was a doctor who'd performed legal abortions. The family tried to sue the church group, but the court dismissed the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, saying that it may horrify us but the First Amendment was intended to protect even the most odious speech.

I always remember that case whenever I read about people thinking it's a good idea to stifle speech they don't agree with. "Modifying" speech only cracks open the door to a loss of a civil right essential to the preservation of democracy. On the other hand, I fully support the right of social media platforms to ban what the public generally deems offensive, or speech that interferes with others' right to free expression.

I think the problem isn't the constitutional issue as much as it may be about our carefully nurtured (by politicians, the press and the religious) oppobrium toward each other. The GOP is busy feeding this sickness every day.

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Aside, and I wanted to put this in a separate comment. There are many more restrictions on freedom of speech that the Supreme Court recognises under the First Amendment than "incitement, threats, “fighting words” ".

"Lies" you mention as not being restricted, which is true in general, but there are three types of lie that can be restricted without breaching the First Amendment: fraud, defamation and perjury. If you are lying to take money from someone, or you are lying about someone else to harm their reputation, then that is not protected by the First Amendment. And perjury is a crime per se. Truth in advertising is covered as fraud.

Copyright and trademark both restrict freedom of speech, as do government classifications (secrets, anti-spying laws), professional duties of privacy (e.g. medical privacy under HIPAA), trade secrets, and there are also some limits on political speech - most notably the limits on donations to political campaigns (both as to amount and the prohibition on foreigners) and the requirement for disclosure of the names of donors and the amounts of their donations.

And there are time, place, and manner restrictions, which (unlike those above) are required to be content-neutral (excepting that commercial speech may be subject to tighter restrictions than non-commercial speech).

Some of these are things no-one ever thought were protected by the First Amendment (e.g. the Copyright Clause would be almost a nullity if the First Amendment entitled people to use and publish copyrighted words), but the extent of what you can and can't say, especially in a commercial context, is wider than you might expect from the usual lists of what is limited.

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Parker, your analysis is correct. I have an outstanding prognostication that Musk's takeover of Twitter will kill the platform (if the threat of his takeover hasn't already).

We will need to workshop the "In" slogan. We something pithy, concise. I think something in the vein of "Hate Speech Chills Speech". Suggestions, improvements not only welcome, but required, as I'm not a sloganeer.

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It does seem to me sometimes that some people's definition of free speech is that every person on earth should be obligated to listen to anything said by any other person. Imagining the cacophony of all seven billion voices speaking at once should make it obvious that choosing who to listen to - and platforms providing effective means to ensure that you can do so and that people are enabled to talk, sometimes by silencing others - is a necessary part of free speech.

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