First Amendment Expert: Facebook Censors ‘Voices We Need To Hear’

Even liberal voices agree that Facebook is censoring people for their political views.

In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Knight First Amendment Institute’s Director Jameel Jaffer talked about protecting the First Amendment in the online world. While he argued that Facebook wants to protect free speech, Jaffer told Swisher that Facebook censors people “all the time.” He said, “Facebook is so big and Facebook arguable controls the public square, or a large segment of the public square.”

When Jaffer brought up “spectacular censorship,” he mentioned that platforms like Facebook take down people like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones frequently, just without much press attention. He told Swisher, “There are hundreds or thousands of these decisions made every day. They aren’t affecting people like Alex Jones. They’re affecting people who are on the margins.” Swisher complained, “I’d just like some transparency.”

Jaffer illustrated that, historically, censorship in any shape or form has not gone over well in certain governments. He said, “If we know anything from the history of government censorship, we know that this power is going to be used most aggressively against marginalized voices, controversial voices, but marginalized voices that we especially need to hear.”

Using Jones as an example, Jaffer argued, “Free speech advocates start to get nervous about Facebook excluding people from the platform, especially when there’s an argument that they’re excluding people on the basis of viewpoint.”  

Jaffer also stated that users had a right to be troubled by the thought of Facebook determining who stayed on the platform and who was banned. Both Swisher and Jaffer mentioned that Facebook not only had the power to take down speech, but also to suppress it or promote it as the company saw fit.

Swisher said that in response to Facebook deplatforming Jones, she tells people, “They do it all the time.”

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