Free speech is a staple in all functioning and stable democracies, and is endowed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . But what is it really? According to the Declaration of Human Rights, it is defined as “the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” which, in layman’s terms means that everyone has the right to have and voice their opinions freely without fear of prosecution by the government.
I use this introduction to get into the main topic of this article, which is my opinion on the removal of infamous conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, and his associated company, infowars.com, from Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify for violating each company’s respective policies on hate speech.
For those who may be unfamiliar with him, Jones is known for his wild conspiracy theories regarding various controversial topics including (but definitely not limited to) US involvement in 9/11 and the staging of the six Apollo missions.
This removal of content is one which sparked rigorous debate back when it all happened on August 6th, and it sparked a question: “Is it right for social media platforms to deny anyone the right to voice their opinions?”
From the perspective of someone who advocates freedom of speech fully, this seems like a step in the wrong direction as it results in someone’s platform being taken away from them, effectively inhibiting their right to express their own opinions. On the other hand, one must consider whether it is considered right to take away the freedom a company has to remove users from their platform when they violate their guidelines?
You hear many times in the news about bakeries and other businesses coming under fire for refusing service to people when they request something which goes against their beliefs and values. (For example, a Muslim baker refusing to bake a cake for gay couple) but this gives rise to the double standard where it’s fine for YouTube, Facebook etc to deny service to someone violating community guidelines, but not okay for smaller businesses.
Now, of course, Alex Jones and his related channel infowars.com have amassed a very large following and continue to operate on their main website. However, the issue I see with this is with smaller creators, people who have not yet amassed a large following on the internet. Should these creators have even slightly controversial topics, it is highly likely that these giant platforms will take them down, leading to a sort of “echo chamber” of the same ideas.
While this hasn’t become an extremely major issue at the moment, one can only wonder how far this can go before people start to question the power that big companies such as YouTube and Facebook have over the media and information we view.
Written by: Nicholas Galea