Support for free speech is starting to dwindle in Silicon Valley, according to Wired, who claim that major tech companies are starting to doubt the concept.
“As the CEO of a service with 700 million users, Systrom recognizes that he’s something like the benevolent dictator of a country more than twice the size of the US,” declared Wired in their profile of Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom this week. “The choices he makes affect the lives of all his users—some of whom are insecure teens, some of whom are well-adjusted adults, some of whom are advertisers, and some of whom are pop singers dealing with an infestation of snakes.”
The profile continued to claim that support for free speech was beginning to shift in Silicon Valley, where companies are now starting to doubt the concept and take a more controlled stance over speech.
“In 2012, an executive at [Twitter] referred to the platform as the ‘free speech wing of the free speech party.’ Now that period in Twitter’s corporate lifetime looks like a moment of naive idealism: the creation of young men who didn’t understand the depths to which sexism, and maybe even fascism, lurk within the human id,” Wired claimed. “Back then, calls for free speech came from people who wanted to bring down dictatorships. Now they seem to come from people demanding the right to say racist stuff without being called racist.”
“And so the notion of free speech is shifting at the companies that run the internet. Facebook had a reckoning after false stories on its News Feed—free speech, in a sense—may have helped elect Donald Trump,” they continued. “Perhaps not coincidentally, the company changed its mission statement this past June.”
“To Systrom, it’s pretty simple: Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to shitpost,” Wired proclaimed. “His network isn’t a public square; it’s a platform people can choose to use or not.”
When Systrom was asked about free speech, the CEO reportedly replied: “Is it free speech to just be mean to someone?”
Nicky Jackson Colaco, Instagram’s director of policy, also claimed, “If toxicity on a platform gets so bad that people don’t even want to post a comment, they don’t even want to share an idea, you’ve actually threatened expression.”
On Tuesday, Instagram suspended popular conservative commentator and author Lauren Southern before restoring her account around seven hours later.
The account was only restored after Breitbart Tech reached out to Instagram for comment, prompting a spokesman for the company to claim they had “mistakenly suspended her account.”
Instagram’s parent company Facebook, however, has previously suspended Southern in “error,” while Patreon also banned the commentator last month, claiming her work could potentially get people killed.