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Mary McNamara: Kicking racists off social media doesn't threaten free speech. It protects it

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In response to the advertising boycott, the site says many accounts breaking that policy have already been shut down. Zuckerberg has said he will meet with Stop Hate for Profit leaders, but that his opposition to tightening restrictions remains: The advertisers will be back, he has said, and the site will not change because it is not Facebook's business to fact-check or police its patrons.

It is true that under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, made law 25 years ago, no social media platforms can be held liable for any statements made on the platform, or any subsequent actions taken because of those statements. But the law also allows those platforms to institute their own set of rules.

Social media platforms are all businesses, owned and operated by people who often make quite a bit of money doing so. "Freedom" is something these companies sell; free speech is a guaranteed constitutional right, but Facebook, like Costco, is private property -- you can be told to take your speech elsewhere at any time.

And slowly, finally, that is what is beginning to happen. Kicking a few people off YouTube is not going to end racism any more than toppling a few statues will. But re-examining this country's mythologies, around the Founding Fathers, the Confederacy or the "settling of the West" just might -- and applying universal social standards to the social media posts and videos that make many people a great deal of money certainly will.

Free speech only works if everyone is actually free.

 

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