Twitter, Free Speech, and Taking Xanax for Your Syphilis

April 7, 2013


FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is featured today on CNET commenting on a French lawsuit filed against the social media giant Twitter. Student groups in France upset over recent anti-Semitic tweets are seeking to punish Twitter under French hate speech laws. However, as Greg argues, this action is dangerous and ultimately counterproductive:



In order to be an effective mirror to global society, Twitter thinks of itself primarily as a platform and does its best to get out of the way. Therefore, we know things we simply would not know otherwise-from the trivial to the serious. The people who want to scour mass media and cleanse it of all hateful or hurtful opinions miss that their purge would deny us important knowledge. Simply put, it is far better to know that there are bigots amongst us than to pretend all is well.


Greg explains how First Amendment principles dismantle common arguments against free speech from academics who “paint themselves as a beleaguered, enlightened minority struggling against the unquestioned dogma of free speech.” Greg demonstrates how allowing individuals to freely express their views-even when distasteful or offensive-is a far healthier way to address social division than suppressing people’s speech. He concludes, “Forcing hate speech underground by banning it is like taking Xanax for syphilis. You may briefly feel better about your horrible disease, but your sickness will only get worse.” You can read the whole thing over at CNET.