In WIRED‘s Free Speech issue, Zeynep Tufekci describes how so many of the “most noble old ideas about free speech simpy don’t compute in the age of social media.”
The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.
These tactics usually don’t break any laws or set off any First Amendment alarm bells. But they all serve the same purpose that the old forms of censorship did: They are the best available tools to stop ideas from spreading and gaining purchase.
Suzanne Nossel writes in Dare to Speak
“The imperative of excoriating the content of objectionable opinions can seem far more compelling than the virtue of defending a speaker’s right to voice them.”