Freedom of Speech

11 Jan 2021

In very recent news, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cut off Parler, the toxic wasteland and echo chamber of right-wing sympathizers and extremists. It naturally follows that lively discussion would spring forth in Hacker News, bastion of libertarian technocrati.

Many of the users on Hacker News did not disappoint when I read their informed opinions from their positions of privilege. They argue that what Amazon did was wrong because this infringement on a platform of “free speech”1 2 would thus encourage further censorship. This brings into question an inconsistency core to liberatarians' beliefs, namely laissez-faire economics and individual liberty 3.

To those who decry AWS' decision, they seem to conflate AWS as the government enforcing its rules. Last I checked, AWS was a subsidiary of Amazon, Inc., a publicly traded company. Why is it that AWS responding to widespread public pressure to deplatform Parler, suddenly an issue? Isn’t this exactly what their beloved free-market economics is? It’s really curious, hilarious almost if it was not actually harmful, the Olympics-worthy mental gymnastics performed just to protect a platform of white supremacists.

On the topic of individual liberty is an inconsistency that many self-proclaimed libertarians love to sing to the hills and back: that taking away somebody’s freedom of speech, no matter how harmful, is harmful to society as a whole. How can an individual have liberty, if somebody else’s vile and violent hateful free speech, prevents them from doing so? This kind of justification is a prime example of the Paradox of Tolerance.

We cannot, as a society, allow a platform that organizes terrorist attacks to continue to exist. To deplatform Parler is to protect free speech and individual liberties, the very things that libertarians say they want to do.

  1. Parler is not a free-speech platform, try as they might to brand themselves as so. They need to be called for what they are: a swamp for domestic American terrorists to stroke one another’s egos and a place for creative and unfounded conspiracies. ↩︎

  2. Did you know that the Mercer family, investors of Cambridge Analytica is the lead investor of Parler? ↩︎

  3. Here, I speak mostly of contemporary American libertarianism, a bastardized form of what is actually a humanitarian set of views. ↩︎