Freedom of speech vs freedom of listening
How much free speech is too much free speech?
Fans of Gab, the social network that proudly lets its users say anything, will say there should be no limit – that they should be able to speak their minds without inhibition. But Gab itself found the limits of free speech this weekend when it was wiped off the face of the internet.
As mentioned in the section above, GoDaddy, PayPal, Stripe, Joyent and others pulled service from Gab after it emerged that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect had a history of posting anti-semitic messages on the service.
This will be no surprise to anyone who has followed the rise of Gab as an alternative to Twitter. As Twitter started getting more serious about kicking white supremacists and others with far-right ideologies off its platform, those people fled to a service that stood up for their right to spout hateful bile.
Gab – now facing downtime of perhaps weeks as it sorts out new hosting and payment processing arrangements, says
it is “under attack” after being “smeared by mainstream media.” It claims it has been working with law enforcement regarding the Pittsburgh shooting, but even if that’s true, there’s no denying Gab has long reveled in its role as a home for the kinds of speech most people simply don’t want to hear.
GoDaddy and the others were simply invoking their own freedom – freedom to take whatever political position they felt was right, and to do business with whoever they see fit.
People of with extreme political views often talk about ’the marketplace of ideas
,’ whereby all viewpoints should get a hearing so people can figure out what’s best. But if you’ve already been kicked out of the main places people share ideas online, and now no-one wants to do business with you, I’d say the market value of your ideas is probably zero.