The Right to Say Whatever One Wants on Someone Else's Platform

dog howling

Suppose I decide to be outraged at something I saw on my local TV news. I hop in my car and drive down to the station, demanding to appear on camera to present my largely incoherent argument against whatever they broadcasted. Do they mic me up and put me on the air? Probably not. They are far more likely to turn me away and call the police if I refuse to leave.

But what if I whine that my "free speech" has been violated because this TV station will not permit me to use their platform? This won't change their minds. Most reasonable adults would conclude that I am a moron. So why does this change so dramatically when we switch the context from a TV station to a blog, Facebook page, YouTube channel, or something similar?

It doesn't seem to matter which online platform one picks; the response to being banned, blocked, or having one's comments deleted is almost always the same: whining about "censorship." If it isn't censorship when the local TV station denies someone a platform as I have described, it isn't censorship when a blogger decides to deny a visitor the ability to leave comments on their blog. It isn't censorship when someone tires of the abusive comments you've left on their Facebook page and blocks you. This isn't censorship, and it really doesn't have much to do with "free speech."

There are important questions about whether we should support companies like Twitter or Facebook that seem to ban people with views they do not like. When these services become monopolies, shutting people out is something to which we should pay attention. That's not what I'm talking about here, though. I'm talking about someone who posts videos on YouTube, gets tired of a troll, and blocks the troll from commenting. I'm talking about someone running a Facebook page who does the same thing. I have a difficult time seeing this as anything approaching censorship.

The same goes for a blog like Atheist Revolution. When someone violates the comment policy, I do not hesitate to delete their comments, kick them into moderation, or even ban them from commenting in the future. This isn't censorship of any sort. Nobody's "free speech" entitles them to say whatever they want on someone else's blog. Bloggers aren't even required to allow comments at all!

I do not expect to have access to broadcast my views on my local TV newscast, and I do not expect to be able to say whatever I want in the comments section on someone else's blog, Facebook page, YouTube channel, etc. I recognize that there are certain things I could say on others' sites that might have negative effects on them (e.g., cost them advertisers, put them in violation of various terms of service for the social media services they use). If someone decides they no longer want to hear from me, I recognize that this is their right and move on.

Free speech is important. It is too important to equate with not being able to spew nonsense on someone else's platform. That obscures the issue and distracts people. But what if you have something to say that isn't welcome on someone else's platform? That sounds like a good reason to set up your own platform.

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