Xonen wrote: ↑26 Mar 2020 22:00
Salmoneus wrote: ↑26 Mar 2020 20:29
Xonen wrote: ↑25 Mar 2020 17:37
Right. There's also the minor issue that a private business has absolutely no obligation
to respect your "freedom of speech" on their platform in the first place.
They certainly have a moral obligation!
I'd say they also have a moral obligation to, say, not aid in the spread of dangerous misinformation during a pandemic.
That's a whatabboutism. The fact that one sort of immorality is possible doesn't mean that other forms of immorality are not also possible. Yes, some people speak irresponsibly, but that does not mean there is no general right to free speech.
I guess I was thinking in terms of this specific context and others comparable to it, and failed to consider various abstract ethical generalizations, so... yeah, I probably should've been more careful with my wording. I am, in fact, aware that any terms and conditions that are unlawful in the relevant jurisdiction are not binding, and that there are various anti-discrimination laws for specific cases.
Then I'm not sure what you were trying to say at all. I don't know how to interpret "absolutely no obligation" in a way that's compatible with "a great many obligations".
However, companies can obviously set restrictions on what kind of content they allow or pay money for; that much is simply stating a fact, no? And these restrictions quite often seem to be stricter than what (Western liberal) governments tend to allow. If there's a case where they've actually broken (and been convicted of breaking) the law in so doing, I'd be interested in hearing about it.
Again, this is a strawman. Saying that companies have SOME rights is not the same as saying they have ALL rights. Saying that a company can restrict speech in SOME ways is not the same as saying that they have "absolutely no" limits on what they can or should restrict.
And even if Google does de facto pretty much rule us all already, it's still technically a private company and not a government, and hence it has every right to choose what kind of content it allows or pays for.
That's an amazing non sequitur you have there! I know a lot of people get very excited about rich people, but the fact that somebody is acting on behalf of a mega-rich conglomerate does NOT grant them special rights - in morality and in legal theory, at least, even if in practice they may often be able to extract special rights by force.
Private companies in fact have - certainly in law - much FEWER rights over what thy can and cannot do than governments do.
Really? Deciding what kind of business your company accepts is a "special right" now? So if a publisher refuses to buy your manuscript, you should just sue them for violating your freedom of expression?
Oh come off it!
The discussion is whether companies have an absolute exemption from rules (moral or legal) protecting free speech, or whether they can sometimes have an obligation to respect free speech.
Yes, if "the kind of business your company accepts" can in a particular situation seriously limit free speech, then having absolute freedom over it would indeed be a special right that non-companies do not enjoy. Obviously your strawman situation does not arise much in practice, because most companies cannot seriously influence freedom of speech exept by truly egregious acts.
However, it's certainly well established both in law and in ethics that corporate acts CAN be problematic for freedom of speech reasons. For example, if you're a newspaper selling advertising space, and you refuse to accept a request (otherwise acceptable - right fee, etc) to advertise, say, a charity campaigning for gay rights, then yes, you probably can be sued for, in essence, obstructing that charity's freedom of speech (note that this example does not fall under pure discrimination principles, because it's based entirely on the content of the speech, not the personal characteristics of the people seeking to place the advert). There are exceptions to this in many jurisdictions - there's often different rules for a publication that is considered to be effectively a private mouthpiece for an individual or group, there's often safeguards to allow the publication to make clear what is advert and what is editorial, and there's often exemptions where the publication (etc) is being asked to be actively creatively involved. So in the US, for instance, a baker can refuse to themselves write "happy gay wedding!" on a cake, but they can't refuse to sell a cake to somebody on the grounds that they've said they're going to write "happy gay wedding!" on it - because they cannot impinge on your free speech to use the cake however you wish, but you cannot impinge on their free speech (in this case the freedom to remain silent) by forcing them into an artistic expression they don't want to make.
In the case of a publisher who refused to take your manuscript: there probably are a range of reasons why this may indeed be an illegal infringement of your free speech rights, but they would be almost impossible to enforce in court. Partly this is because it's often easy to invent plausible excuses for any given act of censureship that are very difficult to disprove without some clear evidence.
But moreso, it's because now we're talking about laws, rather than rights. Laws are often created to protect rights, but laws are also created in the knowledge that they will be enforced by the state, and that enforcement of the law can itself intrude on rights. Laws must therefore balance competing rights.
In general, in liberal countries the laws prioritise limiting the possibilities for tyrannical oppression by the government, and therefore err on the side of safeguarding the rights of individuals and companies against the government. Against that background, exceptions are created to allow tthe government to intervene to protect particularly essential rights, or the rights of particularly vulnerable groups.
In the case of publication, you have a free speech claim against the publisher. The publisher, however, has a property claim against you - they have a prima facie right to avoid a financial transaction that will deprive them of their property (i.e. if they think publishing you will lose you money). The publisher has a free speech claim against you (you cannot force them to 'speak' against their will). And the publisher has a free speech claim against the government (the government cannot control what the publishers publishes). Given this complicated situation, the law errs on the side of letting people sort it out for themselves. However, in particular cases (particularly around protecting minorities), the government can step in.
However, morally speaking, yes, if a publisher refuses to publish your book for no reason other than to prevent its contents becoming widely known
, then they could be violating your right to freedom of speech, yes. Whether they are ACTUALLY violating that right would then depend on whether their refusal to publish you materially impaired your ability to have your message widely heard - i.e. to what extent the publisher has a monopoly.
The moral position of an effective monopoly like Twitter is much more problematic than that of a single ordinary publisher in a diverse marketplace (though the latter is becoming more problematic with increasing monopolisation in the publishing sector).
But that's kind of my point: private businesses don't operate like governments, so just expecting them to grant you the same kinds of rights and freedoms by default strikes me as kind of odd.
Obviously companies don't grant you rights. But then governments don't grant you rights either. Governments recognise in law the rights granted either by nature or by society; the right remains whether it is recognised or not (otherwise it would be impossible to accuse a government of human rights abuses, if your rights were only what the government granted!).
Speaking of non sequiturs, a single concept being difficult for someone to grasp does not make them a "simpleton", in my view. There's all kinds of reasons why something might be difficult for someone to grasp; strong opposing convictions perhaps most commonly.
Maybe I should've said "weird" or something rather than "funny", since I meant it more in that sense, but anyway... Also, I'm not making ideological statements here – or at least I'm not intending to.
You're making statements about morality and political theory - these are by nature ideological!
And don't treat me like an idiot with the 'who, me?'. You're not unaware that saying things like "I can't understand how you can't even grasp this simple fact!" is effectively calling people who disagree with you idiots. You assume that what you believe is not only absolutely true (a fact) but so simple that it's astonishing (or weird, or funny, etc) that some people can't "grasp" (i.e. understand) it.
Given that you know fine well that other people don't believe it to be either a fact OR simple, you're effectively calling us... I don't, know, delusional?
In any case, dismissing an entire academic field
as pointless because the truth as you see it is so 'simple' that it's baffling that anyone doesn't 'grasp' it is usually not something that will make people see you as either polite or well-informed.
Whoa, gun to the head? The way I see it, it's more like complaining that you don't like McDonald's food. I mean, I get that you think the burger they serve is terrible, but who's forcing you to eat there, then?
But given the absolute nature of your claim - companies have absolutely no obligation to ever respect freedom of speech - how can you specify that the analogy must be so limited and specific? The range of possible companies and possible corporate actions is so vast, I don't see how you can rule out the possibility that some of them might be more like a gun than a burger. And that's the point of the gun example: if there is even one example where your rule (and in this case the sub-rule that "if you can legally refuse to enter a contract, the terms of the contract by definition cannot violate your rights") does not hold, then the rule as a whole is not valid.
Even within your analogy: what if McDonalds is the only source of food in your area? What if it is the only source of food you can afford?
And even without the gun: what if McDonalds is putting drugs in your food that have a 5% chance of causing you to drop dead when you turn 40? Even if - being only 20 and not understanding risk or caring about the future, and being more concerned with not looking like a pussy to your friends - you agree to eat there knowing that fact, do you really not think that this would be, at the very least, morally suspect on McDonalds' part? Do you not think a government would have the right to intervene?
The point is, being theoretically able to avoid a contract doesn't make the terms of the contract morally justifiable. Harvey Weinstein is a monstrous predator who abused women - even if it is true that, legally and theoretically, those women could have refused to have anything to do with him. The power imbalance - founded on Weinstein's oligopolistic control over the product he was offering - was so great that he was able to exploit people despite their theoretical freedom (despite, to use your analogy, the fact they could have just "not eaten at McDonalds").
And of course if we go further back, Hollywood does offer an exact example of the sort of behaviour you're defending: the blacklisting era. It's now generally recognised that the practice by which Hollywood studios refused to offer employment to any individual suspected of harbouring pro-communist (or insufficiently anti-communist) opinions constituted a clear case of an immoral infringement of the right to free speech (and the right to association). Nonetheless, those were private companies, so by your reasoning should be exempt from such complaints. And again, those who were blacklisted had the freedom to take their scripts and their acting skills elsewhere - to 'not eat at McDonalds'.
So if Twitter would be justified in suppressing any ideology it disapproved of (like, say, "digital monopolies should be broken up"), do you also believe the Hollywood studios were justified their actions in the McCarthy era?
Granted, it could be argued that at this rate, we'll at some point be pretty much forced to use Google's services for some essential things, which is rather disturbing. And before that happens, it would in fact be nice
if governments were to put more restrictions on its (and other massive IT companies') behavior.
Nice? Not, say, justified?
I don't understand how you can be so eager to defend large corporations, even while acknowledging their 'disturbing' monopolistic power. Even libertarians should be willing to oppose monopolism!
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't expect it to behave like a company rather than a government.
But that's not the point. These companies are made out of people. We expect people to behave ethically - why is it then that as soon as they join together to form a corporation, we have to wash our hands and say "well, they're a company now, we can't expect them to obey laws or not use babies as cat food, ethics no longer applies to them"?
Given that it's fair for you to be upset if I, as an individual, infringe your rights*, why is it OK for a company to do so?
*consider, for instance, a situation where we live in the same house, and you discover that I've been sneaking onto your computer and deleting all the e-mails you receive that I don't like the content of, and that I've been following you to the postbox, taking out and reading the letters you've sent, and burning any that I don't like the content of. Why is that wrong - I hope you'd agree that it's wrong - but it's OK if I do the same thing with a 'plc' by my name?