In Friday afternoon’s White House Press Briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos that President Obama “would be the first one to observe that the success of … social media and some of those social media tools is in fact predicated on the idea of freedom of expression.”
Recently, prominent conservative actor Adam Baldwin quit Twitter after the company suspended conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain, who had over 90,000 followers. Yiannopoulos questioned White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the criticisms Twitter has received in regards to their perceived bias against conservatives and libertarians. Twitter recently unverified Yiannopoulos himself, in an act that was widely perceived to be politically motivated.
Yiannopoulos’ un-verification is just a singular incident in a list of Twitter-related free speech concerns. Although Twitter’s own mission statement is to “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers,” it took down Robert Stacy McCain’s profile without an explanation. In response, the #FreeStacy hashtag began to circulate Twitter, as thousands of unhappy users expressed their dissatisfaction with Twitter’s apparent willingness to silence users on ideological grounds.
On Facebook, libertarian politician and commentator Lauren Southern was banned from posting for three days and had several posts removed because they failed to meet “Facebook Community Standards.” She was also temporarily blocked for twenty-four hours after posting messages that were critical of feminist narratives.
Although Twitter has the constitutional freedom as a private company to restrict speech, Yiannopoulos reminded Josh Earnest during the briefing that Aaron Swartz, the late co-founder of Reddit, warned us that private companies may be more dangerous when it comes to censorship because they have “no constitution to answer to.”
Both the government and private companies can censor stuff. But private companies are a little bit scarier. They have no constitution to answer to. They’re not elected. They have no constituents or voters. All of the protections we’ve built up to protect against government tyranny don’t exist for corporate tyranny.
Recently, Reddit lost a significant portion of their users when they censored and removed subreddits, such as r/FatPeopleHate which criticized the new “fat acceptance” movement and fought for a return of a proper understanding of the dangers of obesity. As a result of petitions and complaints from Reddit users, then-Reddit CEO Ellen Pao was forced to resign, and many disgruntled users moved to Voat, an alternative site promising to protect the speech of its users.
According to President Obama’s press secretary, if Twitter is to continue down its current path, the company could well be squeezed out in the market by a competitor willing to protect the free speech of its users.
Tom Ciccotta writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta.