64 online
 
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 35 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/10/22

"Free Speech" and "Permissive Platforms" Aren't the Same Thing, But They're Both Good

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   1 comment
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Thomas Knapp

Sample 09-F9 protest art%2C Free Speech Flag by John Marcotte.svg.
Sample 09-F9 protest art%2C Free Speech Flag by John Marcotte.svg.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Author Not Given)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Since his acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk has styled himself the very avatar of "free speech," descending from on high to defend us against the forces of "censorship." On the whole, I think he's sincere in his approach to the issue. I also think he's in error as to what, precisely, "free speech" means.

To be fair, Musk benefits from a great deal of support in his misunderstanding -- even more from his opponents than his supporters.

Take, for example, Guardian columnist Nesrine Malike, who tells us that "free speech is not simply about saying whatever you want, unchecked, but about negotiating complicated compromises. ... for some speech to be free, other speech has to be limited."

Unsurprisingly, Malike wants speech she agrees with to be "free," and speech she disagrees with to be "limited," with law as the instrument of "limitation."

Musk agrees: "By 'free speech,'" he tweeted on April 26, "I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people."

Speech regulated by law -- even law that embodies "the will of the people," were there such a thing -- isn't free speech.

Free speech is simply an absence: The absence of threats of force (by law or otherwise) to forbid or punish speech.

I'm a big fan of free speech. The moral principle underlying it is that people aren't property, and their thoughts and expressions are thus no one else's to rightfully control. The practical value of it is that freedom to debate makes it possible for us to solve problems instead of just obeying orders.

I'm also a fan of what Musk is actually defending: Twitter as a permissive platform.

Just as your right to keep and bear arms imposes no obligation on my part to provide you with an AR-15 or let you use my back yard as a firing range, your right to free speech imposes no obligation on Elon Musk's part to provide you with a Twitter account or let you use his servers as your soapbox.

He's indicated his intention to let pretty much anyone have a Twitter account, and to let Twitter account holders say as much (or at least almost as much) as the law allows them to say.

That's not free speech, but (assuming he means it) it's about as close as he's allowed to get to free speech, and he deserves our thanks for it. A poke in the timeline with a sharp tweet is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Well Said 1   Interesting 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Thomas Knapp Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

 
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

2020: I'm So Sick of Superlatives

America Doesn't Have Presidential Debates, But It Should

Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago

Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace

The Nunes Memo Only Partially "Vindicates" Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court

Finally, Evidence of Russian Election Meddling ... Oh, Wait

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend