Twitter will ban Holocaust denial posts, following Facebook

Slate's If Then


If you're American, you probably think of free speech as the default. Just the way things are. And I. Don't know where it enters the stuff. I don't know if it's in the water or if it's in the kindergarten curriculum Evelyn. Is Not American, but it's only something that I have encountered faith in years is just like first amendment fundamentalism she's an Australian who lives in Massachusetts and she's one of most dynamic and nuanced thinkers. Online speech. She lectures at Harvard Law School. You came here to study kind of First Amendment Law to look at this stuff. As an outsider, what was your impression of the US fundamental adherence to free speech? I feel a little bit like gas lit as a foreigner when you come to America. As I did for years ago to Study Comparative Constitutional, Law, and free speech One of the most striking things about American free speech doctrine is this like this example of there were Nazis that wanted to march in skokie. I know jumping straight to Nazis his kind of leaping into the free speech depend. But Evelyn's describing one of the most famous first amendment cases when that really tests American values, the story goes like this. In one, thousand, nine, hundred, a group of neo-nazis wanted to march in the Chicago suburb of skokie Illinois largely because a lot of Holocaust survivors lived there seven thousand concentration camp survivors living in the predominantly Jewish Chicago suburb of skokie not surprisingly, there was a huge legal fight cokie officials a block Nazi demonstrations with court injunctions when the Nazis appealed to the State Supreme Court a judge has refused to hear the case. But what might surprise you if you don't know the story is that the American Civil Liberties Union indeed a lawyer with the ACLU defended the Nazis right to March under the First Amendment saying the right to free expression with integral to who we are as a country. It's just such an iconic story of the literal Nazis were going to be allowed to marching the street and as a foreigner you come here, new learn that and normally deland that it's it's not like these inconvenient embarrassment about Assessment Amendment Law. It's this like really proud one of the truly great victories for the First Amendment was that it will protect the speech that we hate because it is you know Betta to have it out in the urban it's better to meet it with county speech and we just can't trust the government to suppress as an Australian very striking. I don't even have a right to free speech. We don't have a bill of rights and our Constitution it's it's like a completely foreign idea this fight over unfettered free speech and in fact, where it collides with Anti Semitism and Holocaust denial broke into the news cycle again, this week, there's a split screen like the Supreme Court confirmation hearings going on on one side, and then on the other side facebook releases a blog post the company which has always said it values free expression above everything else announced that it would ban any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust. Two days later, twitter did the same thing. It might seem like banning Holocaust denial is a pretty easy call, but it was only a few years ago that facebook said, it wouldn't prohibit Holocaust to nihilism on its platform. which is part of why and says, this is a really big deal I. think this is like a really iconic moment in the history of the company and its thinking and its evolution around its rules. There is no more emblematic rule that facebook had about. To First Amendment Principles. Today on the show. Decision to finally habit Holocaust, Mus Information and what it means for free speech debates, the Internet and the potential for change. I'm Lizzie O'Leary and you're listening to what next TVD A show about technology power, how the future will be determined stay with us. Voting this year is a little. Than usual, what you don't want to do is be the one sprinting to the mailbox trying to send in a last minute vote or get to the front of the line at the polls only to realize you're not registered. 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Dot Com is the easiest way to keep everyone connected and on the right track try it out for yourself to get your free two week trial. Good Monday dot com today. I, WanNa talk about how seismic shift this is if we think back to just two years ago. Mark Zuckerberg gave a very now well known interview to Cara Swisher. And said, she didn't believe that posts that deny the Holocaust should be taken down. I believe that our platform should take down because I think that there are things different people get wrong. either. I don't think that they're intentionally getting a wrong but I think that they. They might be but go home. It's hard to pune intent. Boy. It is a big journey from. People get things wrong even though I might find it personally offensive. To. My own thinking has evolved. The big thing that they always have hung onto was we don't WanNa be arbiters of truth, and we will not take content down purely on the basis that it's false. We might take it on the down on the basis that its nudity or that it's hate speech or that it has other sort of effects but we weren't take content down just because it's wrong and that's sort of what's reflected in that quote from Makoto Takhar Swisher is you know some people get things wrong sometimes and the the pandemic literally changed that decision overnight in the context of a global public health emergency they abandoned that they said we will take down. False information about the pandemic because it poses a public health risk, and now we're playing ball like now companies are taking content down on the basis that it's false and we're now seeing it in other areas. We saw it in the context of the wildfires in West my country was on file for months. In December and January, and there were lots of false rumors about the cause of the fires and facebook didn't take anything down and then Oregon was on fire A. Couple of months ago, and suddenly they were taking down misinformation about the cause of their as far as think a stock contrast as you can draw. It's still interesting to hear you peg this to the pandemic because I think about all the data points that came before that this is. After the two thousand, sixteen election, it is after the Charlottesville unite the right rally, which took place in two thousand seventeen. Do you think the coronavirus pandemic is it sort of launching us into a new I guess area of thinking about content and speech on its own or or easy it kind of a I guess a catalyst for something that was going to happen anyway. Yeah. You're absolutely right that it's only sort of it's part of the broader trend. It was a particularly visible and sort of obvious example of the trend in the same way that the pandemic has made many sort of fundamental. Assumptions structures in society more visible, and we've sort of seen progressively moving more and more along that line of sort of okay. We copies all speech all the time. Let's balancing trysts and draw the line and I think that the pandemic was just sort of another step along that road. If you think about it that way these announcements from facebook and twitter about banning Holocaust denial or in line with other content moderation decisions we've seen this year like the outright ban on Cunanan content. But in other ways several and says the decision. Holocaust. Denial marks a deeper and more fundamental shift in how speeches police online Holocaust denial is one of these iconic things about the first amendment and I believe that one of the reasons why facebook sort of stuck to that principle for so long of allowing on services was because it's still considered itself a fundamentally American company attached to these first. Amendment ideals is robust marketplace of ideas. Which is bizarre when you think about it these these are clearly global companies now and most of they US bases outside all over America but there was still something that it couldn't let go of and so I think it's really when Audience First Amendment land anymore like vc's we are now in this unknown landscape of trying to work out what norms we can attach ourselves to.

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