The attacks are numerous, raw, and offensive. However, conservatives calling for him to be fired or his tweets censored are reaching the wrong conclusion. The problem is not Roth but his role. He has a right to express himself. I have no problem with Twitter hiring people with such political views and I believe it is a good thing for people to express themselves on social media. Indeed, we have discussed the free speech concerns as private and public employers punish workers for their statements or actions in their private lives. We have addressed an array of such incidents, including social media controversies involving academics. In some cases, racially charged comments have been treated as free speech while in others they have resulted in discipline or termination. It is that lack of a consistent standard that has magnified free speech concerns. We have previously discussed the issue of when it is appropriate to punishment people for conduct outside of the work place. We have followed cases where people have been fired after boorish or insulting conduct once their names and employers are made known. (here and here and here and here and here and here).
Roth’s comments highlight how bias is always a concern for those who take it upon themselves to decide who can speak or who must be “corrected” in communications with others. Twitter is notorious for a lack of consistency and coherence in the enforcement of its rules. However, regardless of such enforcement, there remains a core free speech issue in the regulation of speech. I recently criticized the calls of Democratic leaders like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff for greater censorship of the Internet and social media. Such calls have been growing for years but leaders like Schiff are citing the pandemic as a basis for speech monitoring and censorship. Roth is merely the personification of the problem of such speech regulation. Again, the real problem is his role and Twitter’s rules.