Learning To Fear Free Speech: How Politicians Are Moving To Protect Us From Our Unhealthy Reading Choices

Below is my column in the Hill on the increasing calls for censorship and speech regulation on the Internet.  The most recent push on Capitol Hill surrounds the testimony of former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen who alleges that Facebook has been knowingly harming children through promotion and access to certain sites. For some, the testimony follows a type of Trojan Horse pattern where anti-free speech measures are packaged as public safety measures.  Before embracing the proposals of these senators, the public needs to think long and hard over what is being lost in these “reforms.”

Here is the column:

“Caution: Free Speech May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” Such a rewording of the original 1965 warning on tobacco products could soon appear on social media platforms, if a Senate hearing this week is any indicator. Listening to former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, senators decried how Facebook is literally killing people by not censoring content, and Haugen proposed a regulatory board to protect the public.

But before we embrace a new “ministry of information” model to protect us from dangerous viewpoints, we may want to consider what we would lose in this Faustian free-speech bargain.

Warnings over the “addiction” and “unhealthy” content of the internet have been building into a movement for years. In July, President Biden slammed Big Tech companies for “killing people” by failing to engage in even greater censorship of free speech on issues related to the pandemic. On Tuesday, many senators were enthralled by Haugen’s testimony because they, too, have long called for greater regulation or censorship. It all began reasonably enough over concerns about violent speech, and then expanded to exploitative speech. However, it continued to expand even further as the regulation of speech became an insatiable appetite for silencing opposing views.

In recent hearings with social media giants, members like Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) were critical of limiting censorship to areas like election fraud and instead demanded censorship of disinformation on climate change and other subjects. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has repeatedly called for “robust content modification” to remove untrue or misleading information.

Haugen lashed out at what she said was the knowing harm committed against people, particularly children, by exposing them to disinformation or unhealthy views. Haugen wants the company to remove “toxic” content and change algorithms to make such sites less visible. She complained that sites with a high engagement rate are more likely to be favored in searches. However, the problem is that sites deemed false or harmful are too popular. Haugen said that artificially removing “likes” is not enough because the popularity or interest in some sites will still push them to the top of searches.

It was a familiar objection. Just the week before, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for Amazon to steer readers to “true” books on climate change. Her objection was that the popularity of “misleading” books was pushing them to the top of searches, and she wants the algorithms changed to help readers pick what she considers to be healthier choices — meaning, more in line with her views.

Similarly, Haugen’s solution seems to be … well, her: “Right now, the only people in the world who are trained to analyze these experiments, to understand what is happening inside … there needs to be a regulatory home where someone like me could do a tour of duty after working at a place like [Facebook],and have a place to work on things like regulation.” Censorship programs always begin with politicians and bureaucrats who — in their own minds — have the benefit of knowing what is true and the ability to protect the rest of us from our harmful thoughts.

Ironically, I have long been a critic of social media companies for their rapid expansion of censorship, including the silencing of political criticspublic health experts and pro-democracy movements at the behest of foreign governments like China and Russia. I am unabashedly an internet originalist who favors an open, free forum for people to exchange ideas and viewpoints — allowing free speech to be its own disinfectant of bad speech.

Facebook has been running a slick campaign to persuade people to embrace corporate censorship. Yet, now, even the Facebook censors are being denounced as too passive in the face of runaway free speech. The focus is on the algorithms used to remove content or, as with Haugen and Warren, used to flag or promote popular sites.

Haugen describes her approach as a “non-content-based solution” but it is clearly not that. She objects to algorithms like “downstream MSI” which tracks traffic and pushes postings based on past likes or comments. As explained by one site, it is “based on their ability to engage users, not necessarily its usefulness or truthfulness.” Of course, the objection to those “un-useful” sites is their content and claimed harm.

Like Warren, Haugen is calling for what I have criticized as “enlightened algorithms” to protect us from our own bad choices. Our digital sentinels are “non-content-based” but will magically remove bad content to prevent unhealthy choices.

There is no question that the internet is fueling an epidemic of eating disorders and other great social problems. The solution, however, is not to create regulatory boards or to reduce free speech. Europe has long deployed such oversight boards in removing what it considers harmful stereotypes from advertising and barring images of honey or chips — but the results have been underwhelming at best.

It is no accident that authoritarian countries have long wanted such regulation, since free speech is a threat to their power. Now, we also have U.S. academics writing that “China was right” all along about censorship, and public officials demanding more power to censor further. We have lost faith in free speech, and we are being told to put our faith into algorithmic guardians.

We can confront our problems more effectively by using good speech to overcome bad speech. When it comes to minors, we can use parents to protect their children by increasing parental controls over internet access; we can help parents with more or better programs and resources for mental illnesses. Of course, it is hard to advocate for restraint when the image of an anorexic child is juxtaposed against the abstract concept of free speech. However, that is the siren’s call of censorship: Protecting that child by reducing her free-speech rights is no solution for her — but it is a solution for many who want more control over opposing views.

Free speech is not some six-post-a-day addiction that should be cured with algorithmic patches. There is no such thing as a content-neutral algorithm that removes only harmful disinformation — because behind each of those enlightened algorithms are people who are throttling speech according to what they deem to be harmful thoughts or viewpoints.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

94 thoughts on “Learning To Fear Free Speech: How Politicians Are Moving To Protect Us From Our Unhealthy Reading Choices”

  1. “go on, persuade us.”

    Here’s one example, re: voting rights in FL.

    The closest Turley has come to discussing this is his statement that “Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 restoring the right for felons to vote, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. This right was later conditioned on the payment of all fees, fines, and restitution that were part of their sentence. The right to restrict such voting was uphold [sic] by the Eleventh Circuit and that order was left in place in June by the United States Supreme Court over the dissent of Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

    He doesn’t describe the amendment accurately; the right was only regained after the person completed their sentence and parole/probation. He couldn’t bring himself to discuss the fact that FL state legislature is the group that conditioned the right of felons on the payment of all monies due — a condition that the voters didn’t include in their amendment; instead, he writes that part in the passive voice. The legislature passed that while also refusing to set up a system that would confirm the amount owed (so the felon could know for certain that they’d paid everything they owed instead of risking committing a new crime by voting in the perhaps-mistaken belief that they’d paid all they owed). As the NYT notes, “For the lucky ones who can determine what they actually owe, the state layers one obstacle on top of another. It continues to add new fees for court appearances. It sells off the debt to private collection agencies, which tack on interest of up to 40 percent. Most crippling of all, it suspends the drivers’ licenses of people who miss a payment. In a state where about 90 percent of people use a car to get to work, a suspended license makes it essentially impossible for people to earn the money they need to pay their fines and fees.”

    As best I can tell, Turley has never criticized the FL law, its sale of debt to private collectors who add usurious interest, its suspension of drivers’ licenses.

    As far as I’m concerned, felons should not lose the right to vote in the first place, unless they commit an election-related crime.

    1. Anonymous, so a person commits a felony. There are costs incurred by the taxpayer to conduct his trial but he is not supposed to have any responsibility to pay the cost that his actions have incurred. The taxpayer is supposed to foot the bill for the felons act against the taxpayer (society). You do the crime you got to do the time which includes the costs. As to the collection of the debt, there is no debtors prison in the U.S. and the collection agencies can’t get blood from a turnip and they know it. Now perhaps you’ll get back to the subject of free speech and put your broken soapbox in storage.

      1. Olly was the one who posed the question. For some unknown reason, my reply to him wasn’t threaded.

        Again: the issue is not that the person is fined, but that their unrelated right to vote is restricted until the fine is paid. The voters did not include that when they passed the amendment allowing reenfranchisement.

        1. So what? Don’t commit crimes and when you do be prepared to go to jail, do community service and pay restitution. You seem to be looking for criminality to be promoted. I don’t know why anyone would want to promote criminal activities.

      2. Think,
        My response to Fishwings was If you don’t want to be ridiculed or attacked, then for once provide evidence of your claim that voting rights are under attack in “all red states.” She hasn’t of course defended it because it’s indefensible. No doubt if we scoured voting laws in each state, we will find cases where someone was unjustly disenfranchised. In the case of someone convicted of committing a felony, I doubt being disenfranchised was on the list of things they were concerned about when/if they contemplated the punishment for getting caught. I’m always amazed at how vehemently people will advocate for the right to vote, but they never assert this right comes with any personal responsibility. James Garfield said:

        Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature … If the next centennial does not find us a great nation…it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

        That warning went unheeded. The character of our government is a reflection on the character of the voters that put them there. Is it any wonder that in a culture where a majority of the citizen class blame others for their lot in life, are ruled by a political class that blames its disfunction, malfeasance, misfeasance, incompetence on anyone other than themselves?

    2. “As far as I’m concerned, felons should not lose the right to vote in the first place, unless they commit an election-related crime.”

      Based on what law?

  2. Some posting here say Professor Turley is concerned about free speech but he’s not concerned about this or that. Some say that he’s concerned about free speech but he says nothing about the mistreatment of puppies. How dare he write of free speech and not bring up how Silvermans kitty and Natacha’s pet bunny have suffered meanness by the boys down the block. School yard reactions to the Professors post should be noted as such.

  3. There is a totalitarian movement from the Left, a symptom of which is the targeting of free speech, but only of those with which they disagree.

    If you disagree with the Left, activists will go after you. Democrat Senator Sinema has unfortunately discovered this. Since she won’t toe the party line, activists follow her into bathrooms, onto airplanes, down hallways, down the street. It’s pure intimidation. They don’t want to discuss anything, they want to frighten her into submission, which is especially concerning given that the victim is a woman.

    There is also a well documented history of harassment, intimidation, and threats against black conservatives. Even racist slurs have been normalized as long as its against black conservatives.

    Do what they want or they will threaten, harass, and try to scare you.

    Bake that cake that states that womanhood is nothing but a state of mind, or you’ll be sued repeatedly. I wonder how many businesses just went under because the owners didn’t have the financial resources or pro bono help to fight the totalitarian Left.

    I will never understand why anyone would want anything to do with such a movement. These methods have been used in every Socialist and Communist regime, and should turn the stomaches of anyone with a conscience.

    1. Karen S.
      Read a report from the Boston Globe that members of the Green New Deal Network plan on to continue to harass Senator Sinema as she participates in the Boston Marathon.

      If I could run the marathon (best I did was a half marathon), I would offer to act as escort.

      1. Senator Sinema should re enroll as a republican. That should really enrage those wack jobs.

    2. Karen says:

      “Do what they want or they will threaten, harass, and try to scare you.”

      Not unlike those irate parents threatening, harassing and scaring school board members all across this nation warranting the DOJ preparing to protect them from the kind of violence we saw on 1/6.

      I agree with Karen.

      1. JeffSilberman, how dare those parents want to have anything to say about their children’s education. How dare those parents want to stop the indoctrination of their children by the state. Terry Mcaulliffe is running for Governor of Virginia and he said that parents should have no say in what children are taught. The leader of Germany in 1940 said “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future”. The indoctrination of your child is a much higher degree of violence against your children than the anger of the parents against the school boards. Silberman and his fiends demand that you allow your children to go quietly to the re-education camps. Or else.

      2. Jeff, What happened to Sinema in Arizona is a FELONY under state statute. That is tremendously different than what parents are doing at school board meetings. And if the parents are doing anything that is a felony they should be arrested and punished to the fullest extent of the law.
        Do you disagree that parents should have a voice in their children’s curriculum?
        Do you agree with McAuliffe that the school board decisions should outweigh the will of the parents when it comes to the subject matter of books being used by teachers?
        These school boards are elected by the people in their district. Like many elected officials today , they have the equation backwards. They work for the people , not the other way around.
        The DOJ has no place here. Local and state law enforcement will certainly suffice if violence is committed or if there is a credible threat of violence.
        Dementia Joe, in yet another example of projection is weaponizing the DOJ.

        1. Paul,

          I wouldn’t follow Sinema into the bathroom. I would wait until she came out of the bathroom.

          Parents are censoring subjects to teach. Once you let the parents dictate the curriculum, pretty soon they are back to demanding the banning of the teaching of Evolution.

          I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout McAuliffe, but I don’t like the cut of his jib.

          I don’t rightly know whether the DOJ has jurisdictions in these local school boards. I suspect they do despite the hate-mongers on the radio stating otherwise just to foment the outrage that Turley- bless his heart- condemns.

          Dementia Joe is getting worse, and lyin’ Trump is still pushing the Big Lie.

          What else is new? How’d you make out this week? You up?

          1. Jeff, I think that saying that parents wanting to have a say in the curriculum is tantamount to demanding the teaching of evolution is an unrealistic leap.
            And like with your denial of knowing anything about Daszak, I find it incredibly hard to believe that you are not aware of the statements made by McAuliffe in his final debate.
            But I will take you at your word. I am not going to send you a link to his statements .Let’s just say it has been everywhere. Maybe you fast forwarded during your nightly DVR viewing of Fox, in search of hypocrisy and other things to be outraged about. But the Dems are so worried about losings this bellwether election, the messiah, Obama is now getting off the bench to campaign for McAuliffe.
            And I am reasonably sure that the DOJ has jurisdiction. But like I have said many times before, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If there is a credible threat I am sure that local law enforcement could handle it. Again Biden is doing something that he accused his predecessor of doing and said he would never do. Weaponizing the DOJ. He got a letter from the Teachers Union, a major donor, and is acting upon their request. Parents have been categorized as domestic terrorists. The new name for anyone who disagrees with the progressives in his party.
            And I do detect a little ” whataboutism ” here. Unfortunately, Dementia Joe, and you might get in trouble for using that moniker, is still the most powerful person on the planet. Trump is a blowhard who has no power to effect the daily lives of Americans. That is the definition of a false equivalence.
            Had a few heartbreaking loses this week. Don’t know how closely you follow but I had Ole Miss – 5 &1/2 up by 7 with !:07 to go in the game and lost with literally 1 second to play. Texas was also a heart breaker. And I lost with Philly in the NFL on a blocked punt. Had Buffalo , Detroit , San Diego and Tampa for wins.
            Down about $100 for the year.

              1. Paul,

                I was pulling your leg about the parents wanting the teachers to teach Creationism (though many would no doubt). The more I think about it, I don’t believe the parents should weigh in on what to teach. Leave it to the professional educators- that is their job. Parents should take their kids out of a school if they don’t approve of the curriculum.

            1. Paul,

              I don’t watch local politics. I really despise politics. I follow criminal and legal matters. There is accountability there unlike the court of public opinion.

              You say:

              “Parents have been categorized as domestic terrorists. The new name for anyone who disagrees with the progressives in his party.”

              That is an overstatement. More of playing the victim card by Republicans. I don’t believe all Trumpists are domestic terrorists, but all domestic terrorists are either Trumpists or Antifa.

              In the future, don’t reveal the results of college games! I record 12 of them and it takes me 5 days to watch the all! I’m more interested in your pre-game predictions!

              1. Jeff,
                ““Parents have been categorized as domestic terrorists. The new name for anyone who disagrees with the progressives in his party.”

                That is an overstatement. More of playing the victim card by Republicans.”

                The NSBA letter encouraged the Federal government to get involved in local matters. This organization brought up the Patriot Act, and, inexplicably, interstate commerce to try to garner Federal support. The matters cited by this organization are local matters. By bringing up the Patriot Act, it insinuated that the opposition school boards are facing are somehow at the level of a response to terrorism. They are, effectively, categorizing parents as potential domestic terrorists.

                “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

                https://nsba.org/-/media/NSBA/File/nsba-letter-to-president-biden-concerning-threats-to-public-schools-and-school-board-members-92921.pdf

                Malice is somehow now equivalent to domestic terrorism and hate crimes. The other two, violence and threats, also do not really rise to the level of this either, especially at the federal level. These are local issues, local crimes, and require a local response–not FBI or Homeland Security involvement or Executive Orders!

                1. Prairie Rose,

                  I have not looked at all the facts in this matter, but it does seem to be a bit of a stretch to categorize Trumpists as domestic terrorists. I regard them as liars. That is all.

                  1. Jeff,
                    Not all people who oppose this are . That is an odd characterization. I know a very lefty liberal who opposes this, as well as others, like me, who did not vote for Trump.

                    1. Prairie Rose,

                      I don’t tell a doctor how to diagnose me, and I won’t tell a teacher how or what to teach. Leave it to the trained professional educators to decide. If you don’t like what the school is teaching your child, find another school or teach him or her at home. Simple as that.

                    2. Jeff,
                      Huh?

                      People are put out with their public schools for many reasons.

                      I elect my school board to guide what is being taught in my district. If I have concerns, observations or suggestions, I go to them (typically after I go up the chain of hierarchy).

                      People have not been going consistently to school board meetings as they should be. Instead, they have waited til they are god and mad or so.ething comes out in the paper to tick them off.

                      If the school board isn’t doing a good job of leading the district, let them know your concerns, elect new people, get a coalition of parents together to discuss what constitutes an outstanding person and citizen-building education.

                      What knowledge should they have about the many elements of the world and how should they be able to effectively wield that knowledge in relation to themselves and current events?. Have they learned to ask questions? Have they learned the functions of community? Have they learned to reflect? Have they learned to weigh facts, data, and arguments? Have they learned discernment? Have they learned to effectively communicate? That’s crucial and it seems to have been neglected in our schools for far too long in favor of scantron sheets.

                    3. Prairie,

                      If you don’t like how the school board is doing their job, hold them accountable by not re-electing them, but don’t tell them how to do their job. That is my attitude.

                    4. If you don’t like how the school board is doing their job, hold them accountable by not re-electing them, but don’t tell them how to do their job.

                      Silberman, you and I don’t see eye to eye on many things, but I 100% guarantee you that we both don’t believe in the principle that once elected, you leave them to do their job.

                      Prove me wrong.

                    5. Olly,

                      If you were a member of a school board, I can well imagine your hostile reaction to a Liberal parent screaming at you about how lousy a job you were doing.

                      Un-electing a person is a form of free speech more effective than mere speech.

                    6. I can well imagine your hostile reaction to a Liberal parent screaming at you about how lousy a job you were doing.

                      You’re as entitled to your imagination as that Liberal parent is to scream about how I’m doing the job. I work for them.

                      Un-electing a person is a form of free speech more effective than mere speech.

                      I’m not going to unelect them on my own. That would be the end result of my and other’s effective use of our right to free speech.

                    7. Olly says:

                      “You’re as entitled to your imagination as that Liberal parent is to scream about how I’m doing the job. I work for them.”

                      You work for the best educational interests of the student, not the irrational vehement demands of parents enraged by professional radio and Cable TV provocateurs hoping to increase their audience share by fomenting outrage.

                    8. You don’t seem to understand how this process works. School boards hold public meetings where the community has a forum to address the board. Their speech can be rational or irrational. It can be fact based or opinion. It doesn’t matter what motivated them to speak. It’s their time and they have every right to use it as the law allows. It doesn’t matter if I believe I’m working for the best educational interests of the student. These students are not mine. The system is.

                    9. Olly says:

                      “Their speech can be rational or irrational. It can be fact based or opinion. It doesn’t matter what motivated them to speak. It’s their time and they have every right to use it as the law allows. It doesn’t matter if I believe I’m working for the best educational interests of the student. These students are not mine. The system is.”

                      Your rant perfectly encapsulates your “devil may care” Trumpist attitude. You just seem to think that people should express their “feelings” at these school board meetings. Unlike Trumpists, I don’t indulge in this notion that those in authority are beholden to me. I respect their authority. I appreciate their service. I don’t treat government officials as subservient to me.

                      Parents have an opportunity to give their opinion. They don’t have a right to commandeer the proceedings and make a nuisance of themselves by interrupting the proceedings or grandstanding. They should make a brief statement of their opinion and calmly retire without having to be led away by security guards. Make your point, but don’t push it!

                    10. Unlike Trumpists,

                      Define Trumpist.

                      I don’t indulge in this notion that those in authority are beholden to me. I respect their authority.

                      Notion!? Damn, that explains quite a lot about you. First of all, as a principle, that’s a bald-faced lie. It’s party first for you. Secondly, everyone in public service is beholden to the public. Respect is earned, not owed.

                      As a Conservative, I completely reject your notion.

                    11. Olly asks:

                      “Define Trumpist”

                      A Trumpist believes that the election was stolen on account of massive fraud or that changes in the voting rules on account of Covid could have opened the door to such fraud despite their being no such proof. I don’t believe these are good faith beliefs as well. Most Trumpists know they are lying on behalf of Trump.

                      Olly says:

                      “Notion!? Damn, that explains quite a lot about you. First of all, as a principle, that’s a bald-faced lie. It’s party first for you. Secondly, everyone in public service is beholden to the public. Respect is earned, not owed. As a Conservative, I completely reject your notion.”

                      I’m in no party. I’m not a registered Democrat. Look, I think we have exhausted our debate over school boards. Let’s just agree that parents ought not make a scene when they appear at a meeting. Is that too much to ask?

                    12. “Let’s just agree that parents ought not “

                      Let’s just agree school boards should not be hiding a rape of a student and transferring a student to another school so that another student can be raped.

                      Your attitude is abominable. Parents have a right to protect their children from the school board and you.

                    13. Let’s just agree that parents ought not make a scene when they appear at a meeting. Is that too much to ask?

                      Not a chance in hell. Parents are no longer going to passively accept funding an education system that is doing harm to their children.

                    14. Olly says:

                      “Not a chance in hell. Parents are no longer going to passively accept funding an education system that is doing harm to their children.”

                      Home school then because your attitude about America’s education system is as implacable as your belief that the election was stolen from Trump which has not been disavowed by you. It would seem that a fracturing of Conservatism into die-hard Trumpists and hardened Never Trumpers is inevitable. Good luck with that.

                    15. “I respect their authority. I appreciate their service.”

                      We know your behavior, Jeff. As long as it serves leftist dreams, you are willing to let a school board quietly move a rapist from one school to the next so he can rape another female student.

                      You believe officials are more important than mere people, and officials should be left to do what they want. All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others. Anyone can look at your icon (a pig) and recognize you are the type of person who supports such behavior.

                      I’ve been to school board meetings. Outrage by individuals in the community is generally restrained unless the board is not adequately managing the problems or hushing things up and refusing to permit light to shine on evil doings.

                    16. Jeff,
                      “You work for the best educational interests of the student”

                      They are supposed to but many don’t. They are also supposed to represent the people of the community and their conception of what constitutes a sound education and effective running of a school.

                      I agree with Olly that school board meetings are supposed to be a time of conversation between elected board members, administration, and parents/community members. A conversation does not entail the hired administration or the elected board members how schooling of children is going to happen. Listening needs to happen by all parties, but most especially it needs to happen by those hired and elected.

                    17. Rose says:

                      “I agree with Olly that school board meetings are supposed to be a time of conversation between elected board members, administration, and parents/community members.”

                      It seems that there are too many angry threats and screaming thanks to the concerted efforts of Fox News and Rightwing Rage Radio.

                      I don’t want my kid’s education to be influenced by Trumpist parents, thank you very much.

                    18. “It seems that there are too many angry threats and screaming thanks to the concerted efforts of Fox News and Rightwing Rage Radio.”

                      Let’s put things in the proper perspective. At a school, a male student wearing a dress went into the woman’s bathroom and raped a female student. The school hushed things up and transferred the male student to another school, where he again raped or abused another female.

                      The father of the girl that was raped apparently was excited (who wouldn’t be) at the school board meeting, and the police arrested or otherwise held the man. The leftist talking heads showed how terrible the parents were by repeatedly showing the film of the police restraining the man. They didn’t discuss the rape or the quiet removal of the male student to another school where he raped or abused another female.

                      For Jeff, that should be left up to the school board so that if they wish, they can transfer that male student all over the county while he rapes female students continuously. Parents have complained about CRT and related things that permit such rapes to occur while Jeff is smoking something in Malibu.

                    19. Jeff S,
                      Not sure how to reply regarding your concerns about Trump-supporting parents and education. Your comment could be explored at many levels. It’s very broad.

                      What makes you concerned about them and any influence?

  4. Censorship Is Nothing New

    From the early 1930’s to the late 1960’s, all major movies released in the U.S. were subject to the Hayes Code, a set of rigid guidelines to limit violence and sex. Because of the Hayes Code, blood was rarely seen on film. Couples kissing had to keep both feet on the floor. These standards now seem quaint, but they didn’t harm movies. Hundreds of fine pictures were made despite the Hayes Code.

    During the Big 3 network television era, the 1950’s through the 80’s, prime time television shows were subject to self-censorship by network divisions known as ‘Standards And Practices’. Controversial shows like “All In The Family” were often in conflict with Standards And Practices. Yet dozens of fine TV shows were produced during the Big 3 Network era.

    But now comes Johnathan Turley to tell us social media cannot possibly impose any form of standards and practices without endangering ‘free speech’. As though the public has no choice but to accept misinformation as the price we pay for ‘free speech’. This idea stems from the misguided notion that truth is always subject to ‘alternative facts’. ..It is not..!!

    1. Anonymous says:

      “But now comes Johnathan Turley to tell us social media cannot possibly impose any form of standards and practices without endangering ‘free speech’. As though the public has no choice but to accept misinformation as the price we pay for ‘free speech’.”

      Notice how Turley NEVER mentions what SHOULD be censored. You have to think that he believes that some speech should be. BUT if he said such and such category of speech should be censored, THEN he would be forced to distinguish it from speech which should not be. He would have to try to justify the censoring of some speech despite his purist free speech ideology. Worse, he would have to defend his banning of certain speech from arguments of the slippery slope- that his banned speech merely differs in degree with good speech so where can one draw a clear bright line? And if you can’t, then no line should be drawn lest it bans any good speech.

      But Turley naturally evades all the tough questions in a public forum which he could not avoid discussing in his law school classroom.

      He is not acting as a teacher; he is acting as a polemicist.

      1. Did you ever think it’s possible Turley doesn’t mention what speech should be censored because he doesn’t think any should be? He often states how he supports the right of people and institutions to say things he’s not in agreement with. The fact you automatically think there must be speech he wants censored seems to say more about your view on free speech than his.

        1. Carpslaw needs to reflect before he opens his trap:

          “Did you ever think it’s possible Turley doesn’t mention what speech should be censored because he doesn’t think any should be? He often states how he supports the right of people and institutions to say things he’s not in agreement with. The fact you automatically think there must be speech he wants censored seems to say more about your view on free speech than his.”

          For starters, child pornography.

          1. I wouldn’t expect him to allow child pornography on the site. That would be against the law. But I do believe he would allow a discussion about the harms of child pornography and perhaps the effectiveness of laws addressing it. And he would let both sides “open their trap”.

        2. Turley censors speech on his blog. If you doubt this, click on is Civility Rule, where he discusses it.

            1. Carpslaw says:

              “So he requires people to be civil when they express their views. He is not saying you can’t express your views.”

              Provided the manner in which you express yourself meets with his exclusive, vague, arbitrary and unappealable discretionary approval.

              1. Yes, he uses his discretion to determine what is civil. Civil is a subjective term, and since it’s his blog, he’s entitled to set the subjective rules of civility. He’s not saying don’t express your views, just do it in a civil manner. And the bonus is that you’re likely to be more effective doing it that way. For example, do you really think the name calling that goes on here changes any minds? Do you really think that calling people crazy Trumpists means they are going to read that and suddenly say “What was I thinking? I was wrong. I will become a Democrat.”

            2. The Civility Rule says more than just “be civil.” My point was simply that you asked “Did you ever think it’s possible Turley doesn’t mention what speech should be censored because he doesn’t think any should be?,” but if he believed that no speech should be censored, then he wouldn’t censor speech here.

              1. What more does the Civility Rule say? I just read it and find there is nothing he is seeking to prohibit other than personal attacks, name calling childish trolling, etc . What topics or views on topics is he saying you can’t express?

                1. There are specific racist words he won’t allow, for example, or ads for businesses. I don’t have a problem with his rule. It’s his site. I’m just pointing out that you don’t have to wonder if “he doesn’t think any [speech] should be” censored, because he lets everyone know that he censors some speech here.

  5. “Caution: Free Speech May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

    Fortuitous development at Princeton vis a vis MIT cancelling free speech

    Cancel culture backfires as thousands register for remote lecture by geophysicist at Princeton after MIT axed it because he said academic evaluations should be based on merit not racial ‘equity’
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10079719/Thousands-register-remote-lecture-Princeton-MIT-axed-outraging-Twitter-mob.html

    Thousands of people have registered for a remote lecture by a geophysicist at Princeton University after the MIT canceled it …..Princeton University decided to host Abbot’s lecture via Zoom on October 21 – the day it was scheduled to be given at the MIT.

    talk about “up yours, MIT”. Touché for Princeton

    Wouldn’t it be grand if universities started challenging each other publicly, It would give Americans an opportunity to see how a truly liberal education works. Would be nice!

    Princeton professor Robert P. George, who has publicly backed Abbot since his lecture was ‘shockingly and shamefully canceled’, said the university has since had to expand the Zoom quota for the lecture as thousands of people have registered. Professor George said: ‘I’m delighted to report that we’ve expanded the Zoom quota for Dr Dorian Abbot’s Princeton lecture – the one shockingly and shamefully canceled by MIT – and literally thousands of people have registered.’

    Schaden = harm; Freude = joy

  6. The public will only truly support free speech when the choice is made in the simplest terms. What Facebook does with its algorithms is ugly and harmful. True enough. But the choice we are given, in simplest terms, is who gets the power to regulate it. The fact is, Facebook will continue to misuse the data derived from its algorithms as long as its business model allows them to. But I, for one, would rather rely on cultural and commercial safeguards than to give the Government the power to regulate Facebook. The choice is simple: the only way Government can regulate Facebook is to have access to the same data that Facebook derives from its algorithms. It can’t be done any other way. That means the public will have to allow the Government to know as much about our lives that Facebook knows. If that’s the ONLY choice, who do you trust LESS with that power?

    1. The government already has the power to regulate Facebook. It’s not a matter of anyone giving it that power.

      You’re mistaken that “the only way Government can regulate Facebook is to have access to the same data that Facebook derives from its algorithms.”

  7. H.R. 490 is a Trojan Horse bill “packaged as public safety measures”

    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr4980/summary

    “Supporters argue the legislation is a public safety measure just like existing TSA security measures that passengers must comply with before boarding a plane.
    “The Transportation Security Administration prevents people from entering airplanes and airports with weapons. There’s a sense in which the Delta variant is a weapon. It’s a biological weapon,” Rep. Torres said in an interview with PIX 11, New York City’s CW affiliate. “I would argue that there’s no greater threat to the homeland security of the United States than the delta variant.””

    It is a biological weapon, being used against us.

  8. H.R. 4980 is a Trojan Horse bill “packaged as public safety measures”.

    https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr4980/summary

    “Supporters argue the legislation is a public safety measure just like existing TSA security measures that passengers must comply with before boarding a plane.
    “The Transportation Security Administration prevents people from entering airplanes and airports with weapons. There’s a sense in which the Delta variant is a weapon. It’s a biological weapon,” Rep. Torres said in an interview with PIX 11, New York City’s CW affiliate. “I would argue that there’s no greater threat to the homeland security of the United States than the delta variant.””

    It is a biological weapon being used against us.

    1. Oops. Sorry for the double-post. There was a weird delay in my post appearing. I thought WordPress had eaten my comment.

  9. Am I the only one struck by the irony of Richard Blumenthal talking about truthfulness and misinformation?

    This is the man who falsely claimed to have served in Vietnam.

    If his “logic” is to be taken to its ultimate conclusion it would necessitate the creation of a Ministry of Truth. Or at least a cabinet level Secretary of Truth.

  10. Kind of unusual that a committee was put together so quickly to hear Ms Haugen’s testimony? I believe she indicated she didn’t want FB to be broken up just wanted censorship? I would have liked someone ask her how she feels about a former President being permanently banned from FB and not terrorist organizations. I’m not sure I trust Ms Haugen’s motives and would like very much to know more about Ms Haugen background and who her legal reps are?

    1. “Kind of unusual that a committee was put together so quickly to hear Ms Haugen’s testimony?”

      The Senate Commerce Committee has existed for many years. Odd that you believe it was just put together. You can listen to her full testimony on C-Span.

  11. Sprec frei or forever hold your piece!
    When you hold your piece, aim it in the right direction.
    Or left direction.
    Just don’t pee on me.

  12. Perhaps a beginning would be a large banner stating that what follows is only an OPINION and not a verifiable fact ? What if even these replies were to be labeled as strictly a poster’s opinion . . we already accept Mr Turley’s columns as HIS opinion . . .

    As I have often said, ” Everybody is entitled to an opinion. You are entitled to MINE ”

    Somehow we need to get back to critical thinking, that which apparently has been bred out of our society by public
    schools ?

  13. So Turley loves free speech, but says nothing on the attack of voting rights in most if not all red states, or says nothing when most of his readers say “Lock them up” or call news the “enemies of the people”. On this site alone, anyone who dares to have different views than the mostly authoritarian and pro-fascism Trump cult gets personal attacks and ridicule. Yelling fire in a crowded theater from the Trump cult is not a free speech issue, when it is proven there is no fire. It is a lie and should be treated as such.

    1. What attack on voting rights? Can you name anyone denied their right to vote by these supposedly repressive laws?
      That was rhetorical, of course you can’t.

      1. Yes. Steven Deane is an example of someone denied his right to vote by a repressive law. Judy Bolden is another. Marq Mitchell is another.

        From the Brennan Center:
        “In 2018, nearly 65 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which automatically restored voting rights to as many as 1.4 million Floridians, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, who had completed the terms of their sentence, including parole or probation. On June 28, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066, prohibiting returning citizens from voting unless they pay off all legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed by a court pursuant to a felony conviction, including LFOs converted to civil obligations, even if they cannot afford to pay.” The LFOs include things like court fees, fines, and interest. Florida was unable to even tell these people how much money they owed, and many were afraid to vote in case they hadn’t paid their debt in full, because that would be a felony and they could end up back in prison.

        NYT: “For the lucky ones who can determine what they actually owe, the state layers one obstacle on top of another. It continues to add new fees for court appearances. It sells off the debt to private collection agencies, which tack on interest of up to 40 percent. Most crippling of all, it suspends the drivers’ licenses of people who miss a payment. In a state where about 90 percent of people use a car to get to work, a suspended license makes it essentially impossible for people to earn the money they need to pay their fines and fees.”

        “Steven Deane registered to vote but won’t cast a ballot in the presidential election because of outstanding court fees for a felony conviction.” — ProPublica

        “Twenty years ago, Judy Bolden served 18 months in a Florida prison. She has been free ever since, but she is still barred from voting by the state until she pays all court fines and fees associated with her conviction.” — NYT

        “That group includes Marq Mitchell, 30, who owed, as best as he can tell, $7,331.89 stemming from convictions back to when he was 16 years old. He wasn’t aware of the debt until he tried to register to vote and received a notice from the county’s clerk of court. ‘I have no idea what I have to pay,’ he said. ‘I just know every time I reach out, it’s a different number, and it’s increasing.’ Right now, Mr. Mitchell isn’t paying anything toward his debt. He asked the court to convert it to community service, which would translate to roughly 700 hours of work. ‘That would be a lot more realistic than expecting me to shovel out $7,000 while still being able to survive and eat,’ he said.” — NYT

        Florida is not the only state where citizens are prevented from voting. For example, Gov. Kemp in GA won the election in part by removing eligible voters from the voting rolls when he was Secretary of State.

    2. One question that anyone looking at this issue critically would be: why doesn’t JT say anything about the claim that voting rights are under attack in red states? Is it because our host doesn’t care about this issue? If the claim were credible, I doubt he would remain silent. There is another possibility however. The claim is not credible. If you don’t want to be ridiculed or attacked, then for once provide evidence of your claim that voting rights are under attack in “all red states.” I have no problem engaging on facts and evidence, but if all you are able to present are your “feelings” about a particular issue, then you should not be surprised if others present their “feelings” right back at you. So the best defense against what you consider unwarranted attacks is to provide the facts and evidence to support your allegations. That’s how free speech works.

      So go on, persuade us.

      1. Olly says something with which I agree:

        “Is it because our host doesn’t care about this issue? If the claim were credible, I doubt he would remain silent.”

        Exactly. If Turley thought that the Trumpist claim that the election was stolen was credible, he would not remain silent about it. He would join Giuliani and Powell in going to court to substantiate the allegations of MASSIVE fraud or at least defend their actions.

        His silence on all counts is proof positive that he knows it is a big lie. To his everlasting shame though, he does not want to risk jeopardizing his good standing at Fox News by taking a public stand. Like many at Fox, he “goes along to get along.” Oh, there’s the handsome Fox paycheck too.

    3. The examples you give are not examples of limiting free speech. They are views being expressed by people exercising their free speech rights. And in your example of, “anyone who dares to have different views than the mostly authoritarian and pro-fascism Trump cult gets personal attacks and ridicule”, notice no one is stopping you from expressing your views. They are simply disagreeing, and even if that is in a manner that is not to your liking, they are entitled to their views, just as you are.

  14. If the society does not believe in free speech and the culture is inimical to it, no appeal to fundamental laws or legal remedies will be of much use. If the McCarthy era taught nothing us else, it should have taught us that.
    Nor does a liberal constitution guarantee a free society. The EU should have taught us that.
    Lawmakers, from Hammurabi through Madison and Mao, have reflected their socieites; they did not spring full-blown from the forehead of Rousseau’s legislator or appear magically to salvage a benighted polity. They were the products of their societies and cultures, as were the laws they promulgated. Beccaria taught us that.
    There is no easy fix — not an algorithm (the tech lord’s solution), not a piece of legislation (the politician’s solution), not a judgment by the Supreme Court (the lawyer’s solution). If the society abandons free speech and the culture does not sustain it, there is little hope that the law will do so, no matter how fundamental it might be. If history teaches nothing else, it teaches that.
    So Turley is correct to argue that free speech is a question of more speech, because the issue cannot be narrowly construed as a legal one; it is so much broader than that.

  15. Algorithms are used by companies like Facebook to feed content to users.

    The issue is which algorithms will be used.

    Turley doesn’t actually engage with this issue.

    1. “Turley doesn’t actually engage with this issue.”

      Humans create algorithms. They are encouraged to push an ideology and cancel non-conformists to leftist ideas. What do you wish Turley to do? Turley engages with censorship, the result of the algorithm.

      1. The algorithms have been used for many years, and if you believe “They are encouraged to push an ideology and cancel non-conformists to leftist ideas,” you are in denial of what the current algorithms actually push.

        “What do you wish Turley to do?”

        I want him to engage in his writing with facts — for example, that algorithms are already being used by Facebook to push content, that Facebook is not going to stop using them to push content, that people are making choices about which algorithms to use — and voice his opinion about whether there exist any algorithms that Turley believes would be better than the algorithms currently in use.

  16. Here’s a challenge. If you agree with the following quote from JT, copy/paste this statement in a new post. For those that follow this blog and refrain from commenting, at least click “Like” to someone that does post this.

    I am unabashedly an internet originalist who favors an open, free forum for people to exchange ideas and viewpoints — allowing free speech to be its own disinfectant of bad speech.

    Absolutely!

      1. You are lost and don’t know what you are talking about. Turley doesn’t want an algorithm to express anyone’s view. He wants free speech. You want fascistic authoritarian thinking as long as the thinking process agrees with yours. You are against free speech.

        1. “Turley doesn’t want an algorithm to express anyone’s view.”

          By their very nature, these algorithms push some content. It is impossible for anyone to design a content-pushing algorithm that doesn’t express a view.

          Algorithms are already being used.
          Algorithms have been used for years.
          Facebook is not going to stop using them.

          The only choice Facebook will make is whether to continue using the ones they’re already using or change to different ones.

          Turley ignores this issue in his discussion.

          As for your claims about what I want, you are a liar. You are so filled with hate that you imagine things about me in order to feel justified in your hate. I continue to feel sorry for you.

          1. What you call lying is itself a lie or a prevarication. Everyone knows that Anonymous the Stupid is a liar who is continuously deceptive. He is non-credible.

    1. Turley says:

      “allowing free speech to be its own disinfectant of bad speech.”

      How’s that working out? We are as polarized as we were at the beginning of the Civil War. Did more good speech by Lincoln avoid that calamity? Only bloodshed made people come to their senses. Good speech is not effective when people refuse to listen.

  17. How convenient that Haugen pops up just when the Democrats want to censor social media in time for the 2022 campaign.

  18. Since people are quoting others left me add two more

    Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there.

    Clair B. Luce
    —–
    Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.

    George Bernard Shaw

  19. “The powers delegated, by the proposed constitution, to the federal government, are few and defined.” James Madison.

    “Power corrupts, absolute power, corrupts absolutely! “

    “To learn who rules over you, figure out who you are not allowed to criticize. “ Voltaire.

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