Fake news is a big problem. And as I’ve written, technology is about to make a lot worse.
But censoring online content to combat fake news is equally problematic. And it doesn’t matter where on the political spectrum your opinions lie…it’s a problem for everyone.
From a legal perspective, it’s clear that the government can’t force the media to filter out fake news. After all, the First Amendment reads, in part:
Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.
But private companies are free to censor anyone they want. That’s how iTunes, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube justified removing Jones’ audio and video content produced by online provocateur and right-wing activist Alex from their platforms last August.
It’s hard to deny that Jones posted fake news. Perhaps his most infamous claim is that the 2012 school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in which 20 children were murdered, never happened. Or as Jones put it:
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Sandy Hook is synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured.
But as big a problem as fake news is, online censorship isn’t the answer. Like it or not, booting Alex Jones off social media puts us as a society on a dangerous slippery slope. And we are sliding down that slope now. On October 11, within weeks of kicking off Jones, Facebook removed hundreds of pages of smaller left-wing, libertarian, and anti-war media outlets. Four of the more prominent organizations affected are Cop Block, the Free Thought Project, the Anti-Media, and Press for Truth.
Alex Jones was initially kicked off social media for alleged hate speech in his audio and video,…