After reading “The Circle”, it was easier to see some of the changes going on in our culture because of social media. Mike Isaac (the reporter of the article that inspired this, which linked at the end) does an excellent job capturing the hot-spots of Milo Yiannopoulos’ banishment from Twitter:
Is it fair to censor Milo?
Does/Should a private company have the capability to limit Constitutional freedoms?
What “rights” do people have on the internet?
I don’t think it is fair, or right, to censor Milo. Unless his speech incites violence or lawlessness, it isn’t illegal; but what’s more important is that he (and his followers) should be allowed to say it. Because (my right-leaning friends are probably jonesing to point this out) someone could troll Milo for a lot of things, in the name of social justice, and not be touched.
So he gets to say ugly things and lead the horde of trolls to Ms. Jones’s doorstep; but what is the response for Ms. Jones or her fans? Jim Jeffries, in his latest special “Freedumb”, addresses the conflict between love and hate. “Now love doesn’t always beat hate. But it does do something…Think about a person who hates you and you hate them. From now on just show that person nothing but love…Eventually, everyone will see them as the asshole.” And that’s the thing, Milo’s hate-game has an expiration date that comes quicker and quicker the fewer people that react to it. So if you’re really upset about all this: love Ms. Jones’s work, ignore Milo’s, and create something better on your own.
My short answer to second question (framed with “Should” instead of does, because I don’t know what the legal precedent is) is, “No.” Companies exist within our society, not above them, and so we aren’t relieved of society’s rules or privileges because we use a service. Are there examples where this has happened? Of course! “Globalization” flies in the faces of what I just said, but again, I’m answering what I think should be the status quo.
So Twitter has to play by the rules we’ve set down here in the States. Unless Milo’s words incited violence on Jones’s person or estate, then it is simply hate-speech which is protected. (Now an interesting debate could be, is Ms. Jones’s online profile considered a part of her person or estate?) Also, I think it will be counter-productive to their aim of more civil space.
This may have alluded to my last answer, about our “rights” on the internet. Frankly, we don’t have any yet; at least not entrenched rights, which are protected by the Constitution, and are arguably the most steadfast ones. In this case, the right to avoid offense – even hurt – isn’t something we should expect or advocate for. I worked for an advocacy group, and our lawyer’s office was within earshot of my cube. One morning I overheard his half of a phone call where he said, “It’s a free country. And you’re free to be an asshole in it.”
So I don’t know that a law or Constitutional act can address this kind of behavior. But there are some questions about this sandbox we’re creating online, particularly around privacy and anonymity, that would strengthen our fledgling-legs before we go further along on our society’s journey through modernity.
Play nice out there.
NYT Article: http://ow.ly/kWfV302r0Bp
“The Circle” (Review): http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2013/11/21/eggers-circle-when-privacy-is-theft/