Recently, as social media have begun a belated crackdown on the odious rantings of the far right, the trolls have begun emigrating to more open media, places where the promise is made to never, ever censor Free Speech, no matter how vile. The first thing they ought to realize, though, is if you knock out the bottom of the barrel, discourse is going to plunge to new lows. The second thing is that removing any limitations is mainly going to appeal to people with no respect for others, and you’re going to be wallowing in bad actors. The third thing is…you can’t run an active forum without moderation. It’s a law of nature.
So Parler, the latest free speech fad, is throwing away any pretense and cracking down on views it doesn’t like.
Well, that did not take long at all. On Friday we predicted that just like every other social media platform out there, the new favorite among people who falsely say that Twitter is censoring conservatives, would start taking down content and shutting down accounts just like everyone else. Because, if you run any sort of platform that allows 3rd party speech, sooner or later you discover you have to do that. In Friday’s post, we highlighted Parler’s terms of service, which certainly allows for it to take down any content for any reason (we also mocked their “quick read on Wikipedia” style understanding of the 1st Amendment).
Exactly. Everyone who has maintained even a little blog with a comments section knows this is true — if you don’t have a moderation policy, there will be swarms of abusers who who will take advantage of the laxity. Even if you do have a moderation policy, there will be people who try to work around it, just because they can. You will always have to block people; there is no such thing as a viable policy of absolutely unfettered free speech.
The only question is who will be blocked, and for what reasons, and that will always be a reflection of the values on your site. Not censoring Nazis is not a neutral stance, it is actively pro-Nazi.