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BALD FACEBOOK ATTACK ON FREE SPEECH


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The 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

August 15, 2011

“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.”

"gratis versus libre"

The 1st Amendment is primarily an enumeration of the “negative rights” imposed upon government by the Constitution. In other words, we have the right to speak, report and comment, assemble, and worship without the interference of the government.  We do not have the “right” to impose speech, opinions, or religion on another, nor they, upon us.  So the right to speak one’s mind is not the right to have another listen, if they choose not to.

I’m not quite sure how I would argue in defense of my 1st Amendment right to “political speech,” if I had to sue Facebook for infringing my Constitutional rights.  Facebook is a privately-run, free and public forum for socializing and information-sharing.  But its anonymous administrators have a history of discrimination against those who exercise political speech as a function of their social network.

In Schenck v. United States (1919), Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that freedom of speech could be restricted if the speech represented a “clear and present danger.” He gave the example of one shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, in which the resulting panic could cause a lethal stampede as people ran to the exits.

It is largely understood that the 1st Amendment protects, primarily, political speech, since it is political speech that is most apt to be shut down by those who disagree.  Facebook and other social networking sites add an interesting dynamic to the free exercise of political speech.  Depending on how you set up your Facebook “wall,” and depending on how many “friends” you have, your remarks can potentially be read by many thousands of people. Facebook has features where one can “hide” certain posts or individuals, or where you can “block” certain people entirely.  The other feature is a form of quickie police monitoring, of which I don’t disapprove. But anyone can report any post as being “spam, harassment, hate speech, offensive content, pornography, or threatening comments.”  Apparently the anonymous administrators at Facebook are more interested in the “seriousness of the charges”, than they are in any evidence that something untoward has actually occurred.

I was scrubbed from Facebook a couple of days ago apparently for making “threatening comments.”  I am known for debating other users on political and social topics, but I don’t use profanity, I’m always polite and truthful, and the only thing I might threaten is to “fight” the enemies of freedom in purely rhetorical form.   Someone, somewhere in my vast network of friends, and friends of friends, found my political speech to be threatening and so I was reported and essentially censored.

If I took this to court, one of my arguments would be that Facebook regularly allows profanity, questionable photographs and music, and highly offensive conversations on the site without interference from its faceless administrators.  There is a logical gulf in Facebook’s selective use of standards.  The only sensible conclusion that one can use to bridge that gulf is that Facebook finds political speech either pornographic, threatening, harassing, hateful, offensive, or all of the above.

I am not the first Conservative activist to whom this has happened. My friend who is on the GOP board of directors for Racine County, Wisconsin got shut down just this morning. Another friend who is a representative for the conservative “Winning With Women” organization has been shut down on 4 separate occasions.

The Left is sending out a warning shot.  Social media is a powerful tool for political activism, and the Right is using it in a big way.  My advice: Don’t back down! If Facebook shuts you down, flank them through a different account, or create a new page using a different email address. Draw attention to their efforts to shut down political speech and information sharing. Don’t shut up, shout it from the roof tops! If this is an effort by Facebook to impede the tsunami of Tea Party Conservatism sweeping America, it will surely backfire. We’re pissed off now. You mess with our Constitutional rights we’ll be even more pissed off.  Oh, sorry, did that offend you? Well, Too Freaking Bad!





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