from the that's-not-how-this-works dept
There are some really bizarre ideas out there — and one that has popped up a bunch recently is the idea that fact checking is antithetical to free speech. We’ve seen a few faux “conservatives” arguing that fact checkers should be regulated and that they’re not protected by the 1st Amendment. This is wrong of course. Fact checking is (1) speech, and (2) stating an opinion on the veracity of some other content. It’s quintessential protected opinion.
But, the most bizarrely stupid version of this argument was published recently in the Hill, by columnist Armstrong Williams, in a piece entitled: Uninhibited Speech is the Ultimate Weapon in the Fight Against Misinformation. You might think from this title that he would support fact checking — which is part of that “uninhabited speech.” Instead, he seems to think it’s an infringement on rights.
For too long, Big Tech has controlled what we say by imprinting into the minds of the masses a certain worldview. Big Tech has silenced dissenters, making those who dare to disagree with them outcasts. The ?fact-checkers,? both manual and automated systems, review social media posts and censor them when they determine a post to be false or misleading. The very notion that a company would hire someone to fact-check private speech is outrageous. We should not tolerate lies, but it is not the job of a powerful few to label something as a ?lie?; it is the job of the content consumer to do so. Giving a few entities the power to brand people as liars gives them disproportionate power to determine truth by labeling some lies as ?fake news? but not others, according to their agenda.
So… we should have uninhibited free speech… unless that speech is coming from a big tech company? Because that’s no longer uninhibited.
Now, there is a legitimate point buried amidst all the muck here, noting that just because someone has done a “fact check” on a piece of content, does not necessarily mean that the fact check is accurate. But a fact check is, undeniably part of the “more speech” approach. Williams isn’t mad about “fact checking.” He’s mad that he doesn’t agree with the results of these fact checks. Indeed, he could have made a stronger point if he had argued not against fact checking (which is clearly speech), but what is then done with the results of those fact checks (though, again, moderation decisions by private companies are also protected expression). Either way, when you get to the crux of his argument, it’s that companies who fact check don’t deserve any free speech rights to do so.
Did we need fact-checkers to end the idea that slavery was ?natural,? as Aristotle said? Did we need fact-checkers to guide our Founding Fathers? hands in writing the Constitution? No, what we needed was the natural, unfiltered flow of ideas from one person to another.
And… some of that “natural, unfiltered flow of ideas” is someone fact checking the content. That’s how the marketplace of ideas works. You can criticize the fact checkers and the end result of their fact checks. That’s reasonable. Fact checkers often get stuff wrong. But to argue that their speech somehow impinges on someone’s speech is nonsense.
It’s really funny how much he wants to silence speech in favor of letting speech flow if he likes that speech. I mean, this paragraph is just pure nonsense:
Rational thought spread like wildfire without the need of social media, and irrational thought died with the few patrons who consumed it. The world was changed by the thoughts of a few ordinary people who dared to think. Of course, people disagreed, and some even became violent, but a person?s right to open his mouth and unleash volumes of unique ideas upon his neighbors should not be stifled by the vitriol that their thoughts create.
Apparently, a person’s right to open his mouth should not be stifled unless that person is fact checking.
Does Williams have no principles at all?
Labels make it easy to destroy people. They shift burdens of proof to the party being labeled, making it impossible to peel away the label one is given.
Labels are speech, dude. If you disagree, you should speak up and explain why the label is incorrect, misleading or inappropriate. That is uninhibited speech. But fact checking and labels (and moderation decisions) are all speech in themselves.
We should all continue to express our thoughts honestly, unfiltered and uninhibited.
Unless you’re a fact checker or someone who labels people in a way that Armstrong Williams does not like?
Every person should conduct his or her own research to determine whether something someone says appears to be true.
Again, unless you’re a fact checker or someone who labels people in a way that Amstrong Williams does not like?
Each of us must consider the facts, connect the dots, and come to our own conclusions.
And, a fact checker is part of that discussion. No one says you have to believe everything a fact checker says.
Sure, we might get it wrong; everyone does that sometimes because we are human. But right always prevails over wrong, the truth overcomes fallacies, and good triumphs over evil.
Apparently, Williams believes this applies to everyone… except fact checkers.
What a bunch of censorial garbage.