National Constitution Center president Jeffrey Rosen warned in 2016 that “young lawyers at Google and Facebook and Twitter have more power over who can speak than who can be heard, than any king or president or Supreme Court justice[.]” He was right and the problem has only gotten worse in the past four years.
Hate speech policies are used to limit all kinds of facts, religious stances and politically incorrect opinions. Twitter bans users for stating the biological fact that “men aren’t women,” because it is “hateful” toward transgender individuals. As racial protests raged, Instagram banned graphs of federal crime statistics that challenged Black Lives Matter narratives. And YouTube refused to allow a Heritage Foundation video of a man, and former transgender, challenging the culture’s “affirmation” of gender dysphoria in children because he called it a “childhood developmental disorder.”
These companies, as well as Apple, Google, Facebook, Reddit, Vimeo, Pinterest, Snapchat and more, are protected from legal liability by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The companies have decided that means they don’t have to allow free speech. So they don’t.
These Big Tech companies set their own content policies and punish speech they disagree with but claim to be “hate.” And often when they do, conservative speech is unfairly restricted because the companies are chock full of liberal moderators biased against those opinions. Project Veritas found that third-party contractors hired by Facebook for content moderation looked for ways to censor President Donald Trump’s supporters under hate speech policies.
Only a few social media platforms, notably Gab and Parler, still defend free speech. But even Google and Apple can limit their reach. Both have refused to allow the Gab app in their app stores. In a mobile-first world, this is crucial.
- Reddit’s 2020 crackdown on supposed hate speech resulted in a huge purge of 2,000 subreddits, including r/The_Donald. Roughly a year earlier, Reddit “quarantined” r/The_Donald and threatened to punish users who upvoted content in quarantined forums.
- Tumblr announced an update to its hate speech guidelines in May 2020 and bragged that it removed 4.47 million reblogs over hate. It provided no transparency or examples, making it impossible to know if these were all dangerous extremists, or if conservatives were also unfairly caught up in the sweep.
- Twitter expanded its already broad hate speech policies to include age, disability and disease in 2020.
- Vimeo shut down the American Family Association’s (AFA) account in 2020. AFA said they were told Vimeo will not host an account owned by a “terror or hate group” — an inaccurate label the AFA attributed to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
- In a single quarter of 2019, YouTube eliminated more than 4 million channels for violating community guidelines. About 17,000 of them were axed for hate speech. The video platform also deleted more than half a billion comments. Comments are often flagged by Trusted Flaggers, a list that includes the liberal zealots of SPLC.
- The biased, left-wing SPLC is relied upon by Google/YouTube, Facebook, PayPal and Amazon to police what the organization labels as hate. Amazon even lets the group decide who can get AmazonSmile donations. Because of that, the Media Research Center stopped accepting funding through the AmazonSmile program. By 2019, Twitter had cut ties with SPLC. Before then it had been part of its Trust and Safety Council.
- YouTube updated its harassment policies in 2019 (an extension of their hate speech policies). The new rules prohibit "demeaning language that goes too far,” meaning content that "maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation." Ben Shapiro denounced the update as “insanely vague” and a “blank check to ban whatever content” the platform wants to ban.
- Facebook removed multiple Trump ads over an upside-down triangle in 2019. It claimed the triangle was like those used by Nazis and a violation of policies against organized hate. The Trump campaign said the triangle was used by Antifa (the subject of the ad).
- Instagram removed but later reinstated a comic strip opposing abortion and slavery, which illustrated similar arguments used to justify them.
- Facebook banned “dangerous individuals” Louis Farrakhan and Alex Jones for hate speech in 2019.
- Angel Moms founder Mary Ann Mendoza was banned by Twitter for criticizing open borders, sanctuary cities and illegal immigration. It said her tweets violated the “hateful conduct” policy, according to a screenshot provided by Mendoza. Her son was killed in a car accident by a drunk-driving, illegal immigrant in 2014. Facebook later banned her too.
- Two PragerU videos, “Make Men Masculine Again” and “Where are the moderate Muslims?” were deemed hate speech by Facebook and removed in 2018. The company also hid seven other videos so they were not viewed by PragerU’s 3 million followers. It later apologized and said it was a mistake.
- Candace Owens exposed Twitter’s double standard on hate in 2018. She mimicked several “horrifically racist” tweets New York Times editorial writer Sarah Jeong had written about white people, by substituting black or Jewish for “white.” Twitter suspended her for the tweets, although it had never taken action against Jeong. It later apologized and reinstated her account.
- Christians who speak about LGBTQ issues from a biblical perspective are habitually suspended from 24 hours to 30-days from Facebook under hate speech rules. One West Virginia pastor’s page was actually shut down for an entire year.
- Google designed an A.I. algorithm to help it catch hate speech starting in 2016. In 2019, researchers at University of Washington found the algorithm was “racially biased” — programming caused the algorithm to be inherently biased against African American’s speech. Embarrassing, but also proof that algorithms can be unintentionally and intentionally unfair.