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Hearst Connecticut Newspapers featured Dyson Professor Daniel Bender's piece "Opinion: Why social media bans restore free speech"

01/25/2021

Hearst Connecticut Newspapers featured Dyson Professor Daniel Bender's piece "Opinion: Why social media bans restore free speech"

Recent fallout over the Capitol insurrection has radiated outward, from finding the bad actors to wondering about the role of social media. Is social media’s consumer orientation — sign up, post what you are thinking — an unintended medium for sedition?

If a post is deemed dangerous to the public good, the thinking goes, then it should be removed. Obscenities and hateful rants present an easy decision to remove the post, perhaps ban the poster. But if a social media becomes the platform for wily political opportunists to create mayhem? Is the claim that an election has been stolen by widespread miscounting and hence fraud an act of free speech, allowing the reader to decide for herself? Or is free speech too crude a term, unresponsive to gradations of intention that range from informed and rational to manipulative and inflammatory?

As the history of political incitement shows, a leader who is good at identifying an “enemy of the people” can use speeches — or tweets — to excite a group of fanatic followers who will lash out, full of high-minded reasons, at the supposed enemies. As immigrant Arnold Schwarzenegger recently explained, the hate-filled attack on Jewish businesses known as Kristallnacht was incited by Hitler’s desire to create fanatic loyalists. The armed bands needed an evil enemy — the Jewish community that had long contributed to the German economy. Once bonded in fanatic loyalty to their lying leader, these patriots would ensure a lifetime dictatorship for their god-like leader.

Read the full Hearst Connecticut Newspapers article.