Hate speech inflicts damage. Jokes about the prophet Mohammad kindles death threats and assassinations. Threatening POTUS with harm assures jail time. Yelling a false alarm in crowded venues initiates stampedes resulting in injury and potentially death of those trampled. Verbal abuse of children shatters their self-esteem and distorts their world view. Exhibitions of wrath herald subsequent destructive ramifications.
About a year ago, DW News constantly called President Trump the “Twitter in Chief.” On Twitter, Donald Trump sought to block any critics following him. In March, the appeals court ruled that Trump could not block his critics. Blocking critics from following his account being employed as a public forum was ruled as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. This issue has slowly inched toward SCOTUS consideration. In May, Twitter required that users read a notice before viewing Trump’s tweet. His tweet warned retribution for the actions of George Floyd protesters in Minnesota. Twitter asserted that he violated its policy of glorifying violence. Subsequently, the president issued an executive order using Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (liability protection for contents of posts), wherein Trump accused Twitter of violating his freedom of speech. In June, Twitter deleted a “racist baby” video posted by the president. This tug-of-war dynamic has revealed anger’s exploitation of free speech.
Twitter’s approach of labeling inflammatory speech initially appears reasonable. Yet, questions linger about the methods for evaluating errant posts. Perhaps transparency and adjudication offer a solution. The demand exists not to eliminate but to flag hate speech, misinformation and half-truth in the media, especially during this fall’s election. Søren Kierkegaard proposes a cause for the current situation, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”