Tag Archives: prior restraint

Regarding Twitter, Free Expression, Alex Jones, Social Media Censorship, And “Fake News”

zipper on mouth

The journalism ethics site Poynter begins a story today , “Over the past couple of years, Twitter has done the bare minimum to fight fake news, avoiding the kind of negative press that has plagued Facebook in the process.”

Talk about a bad start. No social media platform is qualified to “fight fake news” except to allow participants to make their own cases regarding what is fake news and what isn’t. They can and do indulge in incompetent, biased and often partisan censorship, covering their tracks by employing “factcheckers” that themselves can’t be trusted not to indulge their biases and political agendas, of course. That’s what Facebook has been doing, and, proving that there is justice in the universe, suffering for it.

Twitter hasn’t been censoring what it calls fake news; it’s just been using double standards to ban conservatives for “hate speech” when parallel leftist rhetoric gets past the gate-keepers. Federalist writer Elizabeth Kantor, for example, was kicked off twitter for this tweet in tongue-in-cheek support for the new racist New York Times editor:

“@sarahjeong This whitey is cheering you on as you fight off the Twitter mob. Down with deplatforming! Plus, it’s clarifying abt. what kind of paper the NYT wants to be . . .”

Twitter told her had engaged in “hateful conduct” that violates Twitter’s terms of service: “Violating our rules against hateful conduct.You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin…”

Jeong, however, who had started the hashtag “#CancelWhitePeople” as well as many other anti-white, anti-male Twitter content, remains a valued Twitter user.

Twitter not only is partisan and biased, it also has no integrity. What upset Poynter is that Twitter didn’t join Apple, Facebook and others in their Sunday Night Purge of right-wing wacko Alex Jones. The fact that it banned Kantor for one innocuous political tweet and not her target for dozens of racist ones doesn’t seem to bother Poynter’s unethical ethicists, just that it hasn’t joined the effort to silence Jones online.  Twitter, its says, is failing its duty to combat “misinformation.”

Here was the message from the Twitter CEO, communicated, naturally, in a series of tweets:

We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified. Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories. If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.

In an earlier tweet from another Twitter account, Twitter stated,

“As we have stated publicly, we strongly believe Twitter should not be the arbiter of truth nor do we have scalable solutions to determine and action what’s true or false.”

Bingo. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Apple, Or “Stop Making Me Defend Alex Jones!”

“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

—-A spokesperson for Apple last week, following confirmation that it had removed five out of six podcasts by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,  including “The Alex Jones Show” and some of his InfoWars audio streams. 

This is a terrifying statement…almost as terrifying as the fact that so many Americans won’t understand why it’s terrifying. Unless one does not understand the First Amendment and why its principles are the beating heart of American democracy, or unless you are an increasingly typical 21st Century progressive, who feels that the Left should have the power to decide what kind of speech is tolerable, Apple is telling us that it is going to use its immense power and influence over the distribution of ideas to suit its preferences regarding what people should see, hear, and think. Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Jolt, 8/1/2018: When You Cross Fake News, Dishonest Journalism, Anti-Gun Hysteria, Ignorance And “The Resistance,” What Do You Get?

 A new freakout!

…and dumber than most, too. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik of Seattle issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the Trump administration from refusing to try to block publication of blueprints to produce guns from 3D printers. Eight states and Washington, D.C. had sought the order.  A company called Defense Distributed planned to publish the blueprints after the U.S. State Department agreed to settle a suit filed by the company in an agreement made public on July 10. The suit had claimed the State Department violated the First Amendment by warning in 2013 that publication of the blueprints violated export controls and could lead to a jail sentence for the company CEO,  Cody Wilson.

It sure sounds like prior restraint to me, and I suspect, when this gets to the Supreme Court, which it inevitably will, that will be the conclusion.

This began as one more example of the Obama Administration playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights. Now, it may well be, as the suit by the states alleges, that the Trump Administration didn’t handle its legal U-turn properly, it being, after all, the Trump Administration.  Nonetheless, the government blocking the online publication of information, which is what a blueprint is, when no copyrights, patents or trademarks are being violated or national secrets revealed, seems like a pretty clear First Amendment violation.

Never mind, though. The story sparked a perfect storm of fake news, fear-mongering and incompetent journalism. The Times, among others, called the blueprints a “downloadable gun.” There is no such thing as a downloadable gun. You have a gun when you download a blueprint for a gun just like you have a house when you download a blueprint for a house. That term isn’t short-hand, it’s wrong: misleading, inaccurate, and really, really stupid.  Other sources blamed President Trump and his administration for the fact that 3-D printer plans for guns were available. They have been available for years. Here are some downloads in case YOU want to have the plans for weapons that you will only be able to make if you happen to have some very expensive equipment. Continue reading

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California’s Ethics Rot

This is the prevailing culture in the state Hillary Clinton won so overwhelmingly that she was able to claim that she really “won” the election. You don’t want to live in that culture. It opposes the Freedom of Speech.

Opposing free speech is unethical. It also is undemocratic. But Californians are increasingly incapable of seeing this. It is a case study in how a culture rots. Some recent examples of how the rot is proceeding.

I. Mean Facebook posts are crimes.

In 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page. Among them:

  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim shit has no place in western civilization.”

As a result, California is prosecuting him for allegedly violating Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

A First Year law student of reasonable mental acuity could tell you in a trice that this was unconstitutional—that is, she could if she hadn’t been marinated in the anti-democratic culture that is 21st Century California. It is also an unethical and intellectually dishonest effort to use an ill-fitting law to punish “hate speach.” Here, in part, is the analysis of Prof. Volokh, a constitutional law specialist:

This can’t possibly be consistent with the First Amendment; indeed, in U.S. v. Popa (D.C. Cir. 1999), the D.C. Circuit set aside a telephone harassment conviction of someone who left seven racist messages on the voicemail of then-U.S.-Attorney Eric Holder; and the court focused on the “political message” of the speech, and not on Holder’s status as a government official. Given that insults targeted to a particular person, related to a political message, are thus constitutionally protected, so are more general insults aimed at an ideology and all its adherents, whether that ideology is Islam, Scientology, conservatism, gun rights, or anything else. Laws aimed at preventing unwanted repeated messages to particular private citizens shouldn’t be applied to messages sent to ideological organizations (or to public officials). And this is especially so when it comes to annoying Facebook posts, which the organization can simply block.

…I hope the court indeed promptly throws them out as unjustified under the statute, forbidden by the First Amendment, or both. But if the courts accept such charges, expect to see many more people, left, right, and otherwise, prosecuted for posting insulting messages on many groups’ web pages.

II. No free speech on campus without permission!
Continue reading

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Unethical Judge Of The Month: Florida Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox; Runner Up: Wisconsin Judge Philip Kirk

JudgeFor a judge, you just can’t get any more incompetent than this.

In Florida, Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox ordered the Palm Beach Post to scrub a previously published story from its website. This is prior restraint, or the government preventing publication based on content. The order violates the First Amendment; it isn’t merely unconstitutional, it is incredibly unconstitutional. Concluded Constitutional Law professor and blogger Jonathan Turley in his usual restrained manner,  “The utter lack of legal judgment (and knowledge) shown by Cox in this order is deeply troubling.”

It’s not troubling. It’s ridiculous. Continue reading

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Why Future Juan Williamses Will Be Fired, As George Mason Rolls Over In His Grave

College speech codes are the American Left’s special shame, and it the time for them to go the way of parietal hours and mandatory chapel attendance is overdue. There are monstrosities of thought control in schools across the nation, but those in state universities are especially offensive and ominous, since they are in slam-dunk defiance of the First Amendment prohibiting government restrictions on speech. As Barton Hinkle notes in an eye-opening piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, not only are state schools stomping on free speech, state schools dedicated to the legacy on the men who wrote the First Amendment are doing it. If there is anything more unethical  than educators stifling thought and the expression of it, that would be it. Continue reading

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