It seems like every single time I voice a grievance about social media censorship, the so-called “free-speech” champions come out of the woodwork saying something along the lines of “Facebook is a private company! They can censor whoever they want because it’s their platform!!”
My response to this, I find, is different than the typical one of my colleagues. Usually, the victims of Facebook censorship will agree that while Zuckerberg can do something, it doesn’t mean that he should. I would argue that he can’t censor you.
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) May 21, 2016
I want to now propose a hypothetical scenario.
Imagine I own a small stadium that I host rodeos in. I provide the horses, the bulls, goats, what have you. I then actively look for performers to entertain my audience.
Whenever I bring the performers on, I have them sign a paper that says anything and everything they do is ok, so long as they don’t break the law on my property.
There is an explicit agreement that these performers get a platform to perform in front of adoring fans, sell their merchandise, collect tips, etc and in exchange I get the money for ticket sales. It is important to remember that I am benefitting from the performers work, and not paying them. They are paid directly from the audience.
Well, one day, I decide I do not like the way Bill’s cowboy hat looks. Nowhere in the contract does it mention anything about what kind of cowboy hat Bill can wear. I then reprimand Bill for wearing said hat. None of the other performers are mentioned.
Then, the next week, I decide that I don’t like how Bill yells “Yee-Haw” after he has a successful performance. Does it mention anywhere in the contract he agreed to he can’t do that? Nope. Nonetheless, since this is Bill’s second offense, I suspend him from performance for 2 days.
Eventually, I keep finding subjective reasons to suspend Bill that fall nowhere in the contract I had him sign. I just don’t like him. Instead of amending the contract and offering him to sign it again, I do not notify him which actions he cannot partake in, and continue to penalize him until he is unable to perform at all.
Now answer me, libertarians, who is in the wrong here?
If it’s Bill, how? Bill has made me a lot of money, and has spent a lot of his own personal time, energy, and effort into amassing a loyal, local following. He’s not been paid by me, but he’s certainly earned me money. Yet I decide, without negotiating with him, that he is guilty and deserves to have his livelihood destroyed.
If you think it’s me, well, congratulations. Now answer me this:
How is it then OK to defend Mark Zuckerberg when he censors and suspends people who haven’t violated the TOS?
Facebook provides the website and algorithms, and I provide interesting content that attracts eyes, who see ads that Facebook is paid to promote.
The condition here is that I do not post anything that violates the community guidelines. Hence, when Facebook censors content that is merely politically opinionated as opposed to graphic or illegal, they are in the same position as the rodeo owner. They are censoring content creators who have not violated the TOS and are therefore violating the user’s contractual rights.
Find me anywhere in the community guidelines that says I cannot post something the moderators of this site disagree with politically. It doesn’t say that, yet I can provide many examples of times I’ve had content removed or a friend has had content removed based off a moderator’s subjective disagreement.
So no, libertarians, private companies cannot just operate however they want with impunity to whoever they want. If there’s a contract involved, they need to respect it.
Find me where in the facebook TOS it can say “We can take down whatever we want that you post for whatever reason we want.”
Until then, drop the “Facebook is a private company, they can remove whatever they want.” argument. It’s so, so, so full of holes. Just don’t even try it…
Featured Image from http://joedubs.com/embracing-hate-speech/