Here’s hoping the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) does the right thing tomorrow and keeps the indefinite ban on the disgraced former president. American democracy eagerly awaits the decision.
For those of you who might not know it, Facebook created the Board to weigh in on certain moderation decisions made by the company and make sure that those decisions were “made according to its stated values.” Whatever decision they reach tomorrow cannot be overruled – even by Zuckerburg himself.
The Former Guy is seeking reinstatement of his Facebook and Instagram accounts. Currently, his accounts on YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter remain suspended. All social media giants responded when the mob of thugs tried to overthrow our government on January 6. The Former Guy’s reprehensible promulgation of the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him directly resulted in the events of that day.
The media companies did the right thing then, and they must continue to silence the most dangerous politician in history.
Yes, there are free speech issues here. I, for one, am a proponent of the First Amendment and realize that banning a civilian, any civilian, from a platform carries with it the possibility that it may be a constitutional issue that may invite a court to intervene.
However, we’re not talking about any civilian here, and the context by which his ultimate ban came about must be the overriding factor for the Board in their decision-making process. As we all know, free speech is not limitless. It’s the old, “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” argument. And in this case, what the Former Guy did after the November 3, 2020 election represents a clear case in which free speech rights must not apply.
It would be one thing if the Former Guy weren’t down in Florida doing his best wedding singer imitation, crashing receptions and the like, spewing his Big Lie over and over. Otherwise, allowing him back on the social media stage wouldn’t be a bad thing. But that’s precisely what he’s doing. He’s continuing the conspiracy theory narrative whenever he gets a chance.
The white supremacists are indeed listening, as are nearly 70% of Republican voters if recent polls are accurate. That’s right, the vast majority of Republicans in American believe the election was illegitimate and fraudulent. And why should we think that January 6, 2021, could not be replicated again? The same virulent hatred of that day sure as hell did not go away.
And even now, the Former Guy keeps talking about the ridiculous ‘recount’ going on in Arizona conducted by a crackpot internet security company. Most of sane America knows it’s a bunch of BS. Unfortunately, the Fox News viewing crowd and other wing nuts littering the American landscape do not.
And that is all the more reason for the FOB to keep the ban intact. The same holds for the other social media companies who’ve also indefinitely banned the ex-president. The more he keeps the Big Lie going, the more they must keep him off the internet to preserve our ever-so-tenuous democracy, which still seems like it’s hanging by a thread.
However, there’s a way out of this for the Former Guy. Let’s say, in a miraculous turn of events, that he approaches the media companies to announce a total reversal. He offers to make a public service announcement, to be simultaneously broadcast on their respective platforms, definitively repudiating the Big Lie — that the election was won fair and square by Joe Biden. And in so doing, he also pleads with his followers to give up the fight and accept the results.
Under no other circumstances, however, should he ever have the luxury of using those social media platforms to spew his lies and conspiracy theories. We, of course, can’t keep him from calling in Fox and Friends or being interviewed by OANN. That’s where he belongs – rambling on with the crackpots and so-called ‘entertainment journalists.’ The reach of Facebook, Twitter, and others, however, is far more problematic.
In no way can this most dangerous and pathetic man be allowed an even more giant megaphone. I apologize to our free speech advocates, which even include some on the left. Even they say the Former Guy should be able to say what he wants, that banning him sets a bad precedent.
I’m afraid I have to disagree with that premise. If not for the horrific mob attack on January 6, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But we all saw what happened. We’ve never had the likes of the Former Guy in charge of our beloved United States of America. And there are some still out there who think he could be re-installed in some manner.
With all that we know now and what his band of crazy cultists is capable of, there’s simply no other choice but for the FOB to continue to allow the indefinite ban on the Former Guy to continue. To do otherwise is an affront to the very democracy from which Facebook and other social media companies have been able to thrive to the tune of billions in profit.
Free speech is not absolute. It is not limitless. And if the FOB rules otherwise, I shudder to think of what kind of blood will be on their hands if they allow him back on their platform. And the same goes for Twitter and the others.
Democracy was under attack on January 6, but it survived. How much longer do we have?