You’ll Never Guess This One Crazy Thing Governs Online Speech

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Slate Magazine

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Early last week, Twitter announced that it would be using new tools to curb hate speech and harassment on its site. The news came on the heels of a tell-all report on BuzzFeed that chronicled how 10 years of dogmatic commitment to “free speech” combined with persistent mismanagement led to the popular social media app becoming “a honeypot for assholes.” Twitter’s former head of news, Vivian Schiller, told BuzzFeed, “The whole ‘free speech wing of the free speech party’ thing — that’s not a slogan, that’s deeply, deeply embedded in the DNA of the company.” That ethos made it all the more difficult to regulate abuse on the site.

But absent from discussion is a more fundamental question: Should we be using the notion of “free speech” to understand online speech at all?