What does “Free Speech” mean? Not what a lot of people think it does, unfortunately.
This column is sparked by a comment published on ChristopherDiArmani.com earlier this month and the US Court of Appeals decision, Prager University vs. YouTube, delivered on February 26, 2020.
“Hey. I dont agree with your post but i will defend your right to post it. I would expect you would support my right to disagree. Thats freedom. Btw. Good fir you for posting your thoughts”
This person meant well – lack of spelling, punctuation and grammar aside.
I thoroughly support their right to disagree. My support of their right to disagree does not obligate me to publish their disagreement on my website. (Although I did, in this case.)
This individual’s comprehension of the principle of “free speech” is distorted, as is their idea of what the principle means and what it defends.
If you choose to comment on what I write, your decision to share your thoughts does not obligate me to publish them. This is not an infringement on your right to free speech. You have no legal or moral claim over the content of this website, nor should you.
The only person who has a “right” to post their thoughts on this website is me. I own it. I pay all the costs to maintain it, making ChristopherDiArmani.com, in effect, my “house.”
If you disagree with my fundamental right of ownership, you are free to create your own website and post your thoughts there as often as you like. You are likewise free to reject any comments I may choose to leave there. This is your right as the owner of your house.
I side with Facebook, Twitter and every other social media platform against complaints they are shutting down or in some way restricting freedom of speech. They may well be doing so in one sense, but their actions have nothing to do with violating our right to freedom of speech but with their right of ownership.
These social media platforms are the property of their founders, not those of us who use them for free. Platform creators own “the house” they graciously allow us to visit. Ownership gives them the absolute right to allow or restrict anyone they choose from speaking on those platforms.
I don’t have to like it, but I do have to accept it.
If I disagree with the house rules I’m free to create a new house and compete in the open marketplace of ideas. If my moustrap is better, I win and gain readers and subscribers and I may choose to allow them to speak freely or not, as I see fit – just like Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms do today.
PragerU, a conservative media company, sued YouTube.com in 2017, claiming the video sharing platform unlawfully censored its educational videos and discriminated against PragerU’s right to freedom of speech. Their lawsuit was dismissed by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, just as it was at the lower court level.
From that decision:
Addressing the First Amendment claims, the panel held that despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public- facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment. The panel noted that just last year, the Supreme Court held that ‘merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.’ Manhattan Cmty. Access Corp. v. Halleck, 139 S. Ct. 1921, 1930 (2019).
The panel held that the Internet does not alter this state action requirement of the First Amendment. The panel therefore rejected plaintiff’s assertion that YouTube is a state actor because it performs a public function.
PragerU’s claim that YouTube censored PragerU’s speech faces a formidable threshold hurdle: YouTube is a private entity. The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government — not a private party — from abridging speech.
The Canadian equivalent of the U.S. First Amendment is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2b. The analysis of its limitations (below) roughly echoes the decision of the US Court of Appeals in Prager University vs. YouTube.
Section 2(b) protection does not extend to all places. Private property, for example, will fall outside the protected sphere of section 2(b) absent state-imposed limits on expression, since state action is necessary to implicate the Charter.
The principle of free speech is a protection from government’s attempts to restrict what we say. It does not, nor was it ever intended to restrict what you say in someone else’s home, be it a physical home or a virtual one, like this blog or social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.
This is a hot-button issue. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Since i am the person that posted that comment, i would like to comment again. (Puncuation Spelling Grammar aside)
One of the reasons why the punctuation spelling and grammar aren’t perfect is one I’m not a writer and two I have to type on my shitty little phone which I can’t see very well
If you don’t mind I would like you to tell me what you think the limitations out to be for free speech.
To let you know, I believe that yelling fire in a crowded theatre would be a good example of the type of limitation to free speech I support
Thank you and all the best
Christopher di Armani says
Nobody disagrees that yelling fire in a crowded theatre when there is no fire is a reasonable limitation on free speech.
Hello Christopher, Thank you for all the insightful articles. Free thought like free speech should not be infringed on. It would appear that people have forgotten that there is a switch on there electronics called the “On & Off”. It would seem that the validity of a subject is in proportion to the attention it gets and by the direction of social attitude of the day. We have a choice and need to understand that open dialog is not one sided. I agree with your comment pertaining to your ownership of your content. Why should you do all the hard lifting while couch commandos slug their opinions at you. Yes I am writing this from my couch, oh irony. I to have terrible writing skills and spelling was never a strong suit. To much info and so little RAM. The rambling of a military veteran trying not to offend or trigger anyone.
Christopher di Armani says
Thank you for your kind words, sir, and for the good laugh re: the irony. Have a great day and offend away. 🙂
well if you do deem my comment acceptable for you to post it… 🙂
I agree with you re your site, youtube, twatter, facebook,etc.. What I do not agree with is CBC (partly MY house funded by my tax dollars) being allowed to censor my comments.
Also, hate speech is absolutely the ‘free speech’ that is to be protected because speech that everyone agrees with does not need ‘protecting’, controversial opinions do.
Christopher di Armani says
Precisely. Popular opinions don’t need protection.
Well said, Joe.
Do you mean the Communist Broadcasting Cartel? Hate speech is not always obvious as media has spewed a one sided agenda for years now. To influence the populace through one sided reporting could also be construed as hate speech. But fear not it is Government sanctioned through tax dollars so how can that be bad?….right. So many examples!
Andrey Piskunov says
Well, “hate speech” legislation does precisely this: it bends what “everybody agrees with”, it’s a toll. And it’s a placeholder when they want to get you but nothing else works. “Hate speech” doesn’t have to be necessarily you saying or writing something, if I’m not mistaken, it can even be a web article saved on your PC or any other file…
As I go through life and living, I try to not offend people, and be respectful of everybody’s space. That said, I will not censor my thoughts, speech, and actions, to comfort ignorance, feelings, or sensitivities! There is so much demanded “Group think” out there. Attempts to control others with likeminded peer pressure through twitter and facebook etcetera. I deliberately choose to not use those anti soc, er sorry, social networks, that also appear to censor postings the gatekeepers of these networks deem “Offensive”. Without free exchange of thoughts and dialog, we will never move our society forward. The majority of us that have signed on to the larger social contracts of law and order and good government (no pun intended) as we try to get along with one another for the greater good of all, need to stand tall for their belief’s and convictions, and not wither into the shadows, when SJW’s use their groupthink to suppress those they disagree with!
No worries Gerry there is a plan in the works to ensure we all feel, act and conform to the same master. No I am not a nut I just see a trend and the trend is in one direction the direction of compliance. Remember Democracy is the illusion of freedom.
John Gilmour says
Reading this, the thought occurs to me that it might be possible that the courts might view these social media platforms, in some cases, like they have done with the cable and phone companies. Yes they are private platforms but because of their overwhelming control of public communications, they can and are regulated and forced to cary wide content of other than their own.
Just thinking out loud.