July 29, 2022   

Freedom of Speech or Right to Justice

A doctor friend sent me a recent interview with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who opposed the lockdown during the pandemic. At this point, he is not fighting over the COVID policies but what he deems as the restoration of science because the scientists who disagreed with Fauci felt scared to voice their opinions.

I also listened to a podcast where several intellectuals debated whether “freedom of speech” is under threat, as many claim. It reached no conclusion and made me realize that casting this as the problem of speech is misleading. Facebook banning you is not technically “censorship” because it is a private entity. Legally, it is within its right to ban anyone it wants. Those who were banned can still use other platforms. This is where debates about “freedom of speech” get muddled.

What we are confronting is the terror of technological efficiency. Since the advent of the Internet, the degree to which people disagreed with one another hasn’t changed, but the efficiency at which people can punish dissenters has. Before the Internet, even if you made a controversial statement, the number of people who could hear it was limited. Nobody could coordinate enough people to pose a real threat to your well-being. The inefficiency naturally protected us.

The ideological question here isn’t “censorship” but whether the court of public opinion should be able to overrule the justice system in a civilized society. Should a mob, or an entity like Facebook, under pressure from the public, be able to define its own justice system and impose punishment? Cutting people off from their social connections is a cruel punishment. It is also repressive to constantly live under that threat.

Today, you can potentially reach millions of people, and it is only fair that they can also disagree with you. But this does not mean that they have the right to punish you. Any coordinated effort to retaliate against dissenters should be considered terrorism. So, Facebook depriving us of our social connections based on its own definition of justice should be considered terrorism too. A private entity should have no such power over our fundamental need to communicate.