I’m sure everyone is well aware of what transpired on Capitol Hill this past week. It was Mark Zuckerberg goes to Washington, to testify, or rather attempt (or not) to explain why Facebook blocks content and otherwise censors conservative voices. Many, like internet sensations Diamond and Silk, have been at the center of this free-speech firestorm. This, thanks in large part to my man Ted Cruz and Rep. Billy Long. Their content was deemed by Facebook to be hate speech. In fact it is just dissenting opinion the left so fears.
Now, Zuckerberg could have simply stated that Facebook is a private company and as such can do whatever the heck they want regarding limiting free speech, and he would have been right. But he didn’t.
Some would argue that he was smart not to invoke this right. Instead his company will water down their “hate speech” policy for a while, giving the leftist political class a chance to catch up. By then his company will have in place Artificial Intelligence (AI) “to automatically flag and remove hate speech before it appears.” This, Zuckerberg says, will be in place “within five to 10 years.”
But who will be in charge of defining what hate speech is? For that matter, who at Facebook is in charge of it now? Someone at the company, or a contractor, will have to originate the program the AI platform will run on. Or maybe they will let someone in Chuck Schumer’s office determine the parameters.
This is a dangerous game that is being played. As we on the right often say – it’s a slippery slope. And it’s been recognized as such for hundreds of years.
On March 15, 1783, George Washington addressed the officers of his Army, stating:
“For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”
And this was eight years prior to the ratification of Bill of Rights, containing the First Amendment.
Washington, as did most of the founders, understood the slippery slope of silencing disagreeable speech. They knew, as should we all, that, in fact, “hate,” or dissenting speech, should be the most protected speech. No one is going to have a problem or wish to limit speech that doesn’t potentially offend, so there is no need to “protect” it. It is naturally protected by reason of this lack of offense.
However, the progressive left have been attempting to muzzle dissenting opinion since the time of Woodrow Wilson, and actually long before.
In 1798, the first Sedition Act became law. Known as the Alien and Sedition Acts, it was rammed through Congress by Alexander Hamilton and congressional federalists, without even consulting President John Adams.
“The Sedition Act permitted the prosecution of individuals who voiced or printed what the government deemed to be malicious remarks about the president or government of the United States. Fourteen Republicans and mainly journalists were prosecuted, and some even imprisoned, under the act.”
Thanks to the efforts of Adams, Jefferson and Madison, Hamilton’s act was not long for this world.
But another bite of the apple didn’t come until 1918 under the aforementioned President Wilson. Wilson’s Sedition Act “forbade American citizens from criticizing their government during a time of war. The American people could not, ‘utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language’ regarding the government or the military.”
“In the Wilson police state, citizens were not even safe in their own homes if they spoke ill of the president. Federal attorneys and U.S. marshals publicly claimed that citizens had nothing to fear as long as they ‘Obeyed the law and kept their mouths shut.'”
As bad as we think Facebook’s behavior is, they have a long way to go to catch up to their radical predecessors.
So when we on the right speak, and are mocked for warning of slippery slopes, know now that we’re not just making it up. It’s happened twice before and will happen again if we’re not vigilant.