Dallas Morning News: Free speech isn’t easy, and Twitter’s reluctant tolerance for Alex Jones shows us why

August 24, 2018

There’s little about Alex Jones, the Texas-based fabulist and wildly irresponsible provocateur, that merits esteem, or even sympathy. He makes outrageous statements, including claiming the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax, that land him at the center of controversy.

But we’ve watched Twitter handle his tweets, videos and other content with a greater degree of care than its counterparts across the social media spectrum, including Facebook and YouTube. Those two companies have banned Jones’ accounts outright. In doing so, they’ve not only condemned his past speech but also blocked him from saying anything in the future on their platforms.

Twitter has taken a different approach. It will let him continue to post but will sanction or remove his future tweets if they violate rules against harassment or other banned behavior.

The best remedy to fight bad speech remains more speech, rather than suppression. That’s why Twitter’s path strikes us as prudent. It’s also familiar. Our system of government regulates the marketplace of ideas, after all, not by prior restraint but by a legal system allowing injured parties to sue for libel, invasion of privacy or other forms of abuse.

Twitter’s approach will be to delete Jones’ tweets whenever they break the rules. Enforced with enough oomph, this approach may even influence Jones to modify his offending behavior. But the biggest chance at doing that remains where it has always been — in the hands of other Twitter users. Those who object are free to denounce, ignore or block his tweets. By banning Jones entirely, Facebook and others risk undermining the idea that speech can be self-regulating in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

— Dallas Morning News

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