So, Milo Yiannopoulos got permabanned from Twitter, and, naturally, there is quite the conflict within the twitter community as to the fairness — nay, JUSTNESS, of such a heavy handed move.
Though, right now, I would like to address the boys in my mentions, the frequent earnest to gosh #FreeMilo @ repliers, who keep speaking of this seemingly amorphous term called “free speech” as though it were a term to be applied always and forever, to all speech, at all times, and without exception in their little barely pubescent 4chan and energy-drink fueled lifestyles.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — U.S. Const. am. 1.
While there’s several clauses in that beautifully dense piece of literature kicking off the rest of our civil liberties, I want to make clear were solely talking here about the “Free Speech Clause”.
Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press[.] — U.S. Const. am. 1.
Congress. Shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.
Congress. Like, the government.
Let me get very explicit here: this right allows an individual to express themselves (I say “express” because “speech” has legally been defined to include certain actions as well as spoken and written speech) without interference or constraint by the government. (Even then, though, the Supreme Court has since determined that even the government can limit both the content of speech and the ability to engage in speech as long as the government has a “substantial justification.”)
Ok. Twitter, folks, is *not* a branch of the government. In fact, it’s not even in anyway associated with a governmental entity nor does it receive any sort of monetary compensation, in the form of grants or otherwise, from the government — which may in some attenuated manner have rendered it an agent of the government — no, Twitter is a private enterprise. It is an independent corporation, an independent social media forum, and, as such,Twitter is free to set whatever terms they damn-well see fit as guidelines for the user-generated content which they, themselves, host.
One can certainly debate the ethical implications all day, but the legally, Twitter was on solid ground reacting to Milo Yiannopoulos’s use of the forum to incite a campaign of targeted harassment toward actress Leslie Jones.
Yiannopoulos is notorious for inciting his (nearly 400,000 at the time) followers to follow in his reactionary footsteps. As the tech editor at Breitbart, he’s been a vocal leader of the well-known white supremacist faction of twitter known as the “Alt-Right”. Just as I’m receiving a barrage of sexist twitter replies as I write this, his followers seem to have a keen penchant for harassment — like the man they follow.
Jones, one of the leads of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, also happens to be black. Hundreds of anonymous Twitter commenters launched a series of obscenely racist and sexist remarks at her Twitter account (including tweets of pornographic nature), at the behest of Yiannopoulos this week.
In fact, Ms. Jones even tried to understand how this was allowed to happen before being silenced off of the forum, herself.
Under Twitter’s Rules of use, it states, “…we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.”
Furthermore, it outlines exactly what action it may take if such abuse is perpetrated, “Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.”
The support page goes on to state, “…[y]ou may not incite or (sic) engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others”, and that “[y]ou may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”
Last, “Twitter reserves the right to immediately terminate your account without further notice in the event that, in its judgment, you violate these Rules or the Terms of Service.”
These are all legally sound and, c’mon, fairly reasonable terms and conditions for use of their service. Unfortunately, they were too late to cease the silencing of Ms. Jone’s voice on the forum — but Twitter 100% acted within legal, and, in my opinion, ethical bounds to permanently ban Yiannopoulos.
“This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.” — Milo Yiannopoulos
While Yiannopoulos uses the term “free speech” to declare what Twitter, in his opinion, deprived him of — he clearly could not have meant it in the legal sense, though he likely meant to evoke the same sense that many horrible Americans have; this sense that they can spew whatever bigotry they want without repercussion because “the first amendment”. Perhaps he did mean it in the legal sense, in which case he is as dumb as all of his bigoted drones trolling the #FreeMilo hashtag (also: free him from what?) and attempting to make some correlation between the bill of rights and twitter banning a bigot and a hate-monger from their forum.
Ok. So this is clear. To. All. You. Who. Cannot. Seem. To. Comprehend.
ONLY THE GOVERNMENT CAN BAN SPEECH IN VIOLATION OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT.