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Ian Winer


Politics and Government

Ian Winer is an investor, philosopher, humanitarian, writer and public speaker who connects people to the truth of market places and human behavior. Ian is the author of the book, Ubiquitous Relativity: My Truth is Not the Truth. A regular contributor to CNBC, Fox Business, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Reuters, to name just a few, he is known for seeking connections through non consensus thinking and making it relatable to everyone.

The slippery slope of deciding what is "ok" speech and what is "hate" speech tests the premise of the right to free speech.


I try to look at stuff like this from two different angles. It is not an easy decision and I struggle with the "right" answer. But ultimately, I think its a bad sign when things like this happen.

On one hand, Facebook is a public company who can decide who gets to use their platform and who does not. Similarly, businesses have signs in the front of their stores saying they have the "right to refuse" certain customers. There are Anti-discrimination clauses that forbid businesses from refusing service to some protected classes. From this perspective, it seems like Facebook is simply making a business decision by banning these folks, a choice completely up to Facebook.

On the other hand, there is a slippery slope here. My personal opinion on the three people below is that they are people full of hate, conspiracy theorists who only want to watch things burn, and for lack of a better description, assholes. But that is irrelevant.

Facebook has 2 Billion users. It is easy to "care less" what happens to the folks below. Most people are probably thrilled to see this news.

But where does the line fall on what is "ok" speech and what is "hate" speech? Who gets to decide? Zuckerberg? Shareholders? Users?

I am a Jewish American. If someone goes off an Anti-Semitic rant, praising the Holocaust, Hitler, and posting pictures of themselves wearing SS gear, etc. that seems like "hate" speech especially to me. If they did this, it would likely result in them being banned. Case closed. One more racist who was shut down.

But lets make that decision area a little more gray. Let's say he just publishes an article; a well thought out thesis, about how he feels Jews are a major problem in the United States and posts it. Clearly, this is still "hate speech" but it seems a lot less aggressive and in your face and it does not use the imagery discussed in the example above. Should he be banned?

Now let's say he just posts: "I prefer Non Jews to Jews as friends." Hate Speech? Worthy of banishment from the platform?

The point is that once we start drawing lines around what is "ok" to say and what is "not ok" to say we begin to call into question the very premise of free speech. Typically the end result is that the majority gets to decide what is "ok" speech regardless of the size of the minority. College Campuses are a great example of this. A speaker is invited and may have views way outside of mainstream and significantly different than the majority of faculty and students. They are oftentimes shouted down, protested and yes, "banned" from coming to the campus. Most of the students may say it is "hate" speech, but does that make it so?

When this happens we begin to say that almost any speech we disagree with is like "yelling 'Fire' in a crowded movie theater."

Let's say someone posts "I hate fat people. They disgust me." This certainly seems like "hate speech." They are targeting a specific group of people and saying they hate them. Should they be banned?

The point is not to defend the likes of the people below. I only hope we pause for a second before banning people and make sure that the speech we are banning is genuinely "hate" speech and not simply speech we don't agree with.

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