We have discussed the expanding censorship programs at Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. These programs have notably targeted conservative viewpoints on contemporary controversies. Now, LinkedIn has added its company name to this ignoble effort, according to an Air Force veteran whose account was disabled after criticizing the calls for loan forgiveness. The site declared opposing the Democratic plan for loan forgiveness to be “hate speech.”
Smith is the founder of the non-profit organization Code of Vets, a group created in honor of her father who died at 57 after years of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Like many Americans, she opposed the loan forgiveness calls from Democratic members and has shared her own use of military service to help pay for college.
Smith posted her take on student loan forgiveness on vasrious social media platforms.
“I am not responsible for your student debt. I grew up in poverty in NC. Ate from a garden, name was on community Angel tree for Christmas, bought clothes from yard sales & if I was lucky, on a rare occasion Sky City. I joined the Air Force then went to college. I made it happen.”
LinkedIn then disabled or restricted her account as well as her Code of Vets account. LinkedIn told Smith in an email that the Code of Vets post “goes against our policy on hate speech,” according to a screenshot she shared on Twitter.
LinkedIn has not responded to media inquiries, which is typical of social media companies. The company simply said that she can appeal.
If this is the entirety of the posting, it is hard to imagine a more glaring example of bias and censorship. Someone in the company simply supports loan forgiveness and declared opposition to the Democratic plan to be “hate speech.”
Both public and private censorship leads to an insatiable appetite for silencing those with opposing views.
This is why I have described myself as an Internet Originalist:
The alternative is “internet originalism” — no censorship. If social media companies returned to their original roles, there would be no slippery slope of political bias or opportunism; they would assume the same status as telephone companies. We do not need companies to protect us from harmful or “misleading” thoughts. The solution to bad speech is more speech, not approved speech.
If Pelosi demanded that Verizon or Sprint interrupt calls to stop people saying false or misleading things, the public would be outraged. Twitter serves the same communicative function between consenting parties; it simply allows thousands of people to participate in such digital exchanges. Those people do not sign up to exchange thoughts only to have Dorsey or some other internet overlord monitor their conversations and “protect” them from errant or harmful thoughts.
Social media companies seem to have written off conservatives and others with dissenting views. They have also readily embraced censorship as a noble task. Indeed, after the old Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was criticized for his massive censorship efforts, Twitter replaced him with CEO Parag Agrawal who has expressed chilling anti-free speech sentiments. In an interview with Technology Review editor-in-chief Gideon Lichfield, he was asked how Twitter would balance its efforts to combat misinformation with wanting to “protect free speech as a core value” and to respect the First Amendment. Agrawal responded;
“Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation. The kinds of things that we do about this is, focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.
One of the changes today that we see is speech is easy on the internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard. The scarce commodity today is attention. There’s a lot of content out there. A lot of tweets out there, not all of it gets attention, some subset of it gets attention.”
He added that Twitter would be “moving towards how we recommend content and … how we direct people’s attention is leading to a healthy public conversation that is most participatory.”