Matthew Prince asks the question:
I helped kick a group of neo-Nazis off the internet last week, but since then I’ve wondered whether I made the right decision.
To ask the question is to answer it.
Matt Prince knows the correct answer.
I have a lot of sympathy for that view – the transaction wasn’t profitable and the company chose not to pursue the relationship. But he made a moral choice, not a business choice.
When standing up to government requests or angry Twitter demands to silence unpopular speech, it was powerful to be able to say we’d never terminated a customer due to political pressure. I’m not sure we can say that anymore.
Indeed – no, you can’t.
I’d like to fall back on the First Amendment. I’m the son of a journalist. I grew up with discussions around the dinner table on the importance of freedom of speech. But the First Amendment doesn’t compel private companies to let anyone broadcast on their platforms.
That is a terrible, terrible argument. It is true, of course. Yet I would like to see the underlying internet infrastructure to remain in private hands and not face pressure to be regulated as utilities or even nationalised and operated as utilities. Matt Prince alludes to this point:
The upshot is that a few private companies have effectively become the gatekeepers to the public square—the blogs and social media that serve as today’s soapboxes and pamphlets. If a handful of tech executives decide to block you from their services, your content effectively can’t be on the internet.
Nobody really cares about Nazis – but now we know that commercial reality isn’t what motivates our gatekeepers but rather their personal values.
On this note if you haven’t ever seen it, the movie Skokie it is highly recommended.