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Facebook's Calls for Government Regulation of Speech Provide Important Context for Recent Actions

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Facebook announced yesterday it was banning several individuals under a policy it has against “dangerous individuals and organizations.” Individuals banned include: InfoWars founder Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan, former Breitbart News editor Milo Yannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Paul Watson, and former congressional candidate and white nationalist Paul Nehlen.

CEI Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews, Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray, and Center for Technology and Innovation Associate Director Jessica Melugin said:

“CEI has always maintained that private entities providing a platform for the public – like Facebook, their social media competitors, and others – are free to create their own rules and enforce their own terms of service without interference. This comes from a fundamental belief that the First Amendment protection of free speech is vital to a free society.

“What is concerning about Facebook’s current direction is its CEO’s recent call for government regulation on a global basis, which would replace Facebook and other platforms’ private terms of service with government diktats (which it worryingly terms ‘baselines’) over what is and is not accepted speech.

“We believe that as well as violating the First Amendment in the United States, this effort would effectively lead to the global certification of leftist and socialist ideologies by governments and the official sidelining of dissident free market liberal voices that challenge the so-called progressive, pro-government consensus. That suppression of speech is tyranny. It is exactly what led to the ratification of the First Amendment.

“There are many controversial and extreme voices in the world, not just the ones singled out yesterday by Facebook. People on social media regularly endorse the communist philosophies that killed millions in the last century. But the answer to such objectionable speech is more speech, not less. We also already have laws against making threats against the safety of others and those laws should be enforced by the proper authorities.

“But short of illegal threats, free speech means free speech and that requires trusting the American people to make their own decisions about what is extreme and what is mainstream. Facebook’s advocacy for government regulation of free speech should make yesterday’s announcement very concerning to all those who cherish the right to free speech, not just one side of the political spectrum.”

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