Connecticut Senator Calls on Tech Companies to “Do More” to Combat Hate Speech

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Connecticut Senator Calls on Tech Companies to “Do More” to Combat Hate Speech

 

Alex Jones and Infowars had long pushed the boundaries of acceptable political speech, pushing false conspiracy theories about numerous events, ranging from the September 11th attacks to the Sandy Hook shootings. Social media companies had long faced calls to remove him from their platforms, and finally did so in early August. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy applauded the move, but urged these companies to go even further in policing their content. That prompted some to accuse Sen. Murphy of advocating censorship.

 

The discredited conspiracy theories advocated by Alex Jones have been condemned by people across the political spectrum. In response to his repeated false assertion that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, families of the victims recently sued Jones. Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify then removed Infowars content in early August.

 

For Sen. Murphy, this was a good first step. The Sandy Hook shooting took place in his state, and he had long been critical of the Jones. After his removal from social media, Sen. Murphy tweeted, “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.”

 

While many people supported Sen. Murphy’s words, others questioned whether a government official should be asking private companies to remove content. To these critics, it appeared that Sen. Murphy was edging close to using government pressure to police speech.

 

Reacting to criticism, Sen. Murphy followed up the next day with this tweet: “Private companies deciding not to let their platforms be used to spread hate and lies is not the same as government censorship. If it feels the same, then we need to ask why a small handful of companies have so much control over the content Americans see.”

 

Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have terms of services that lay out what is acceptable content by their users. As private companies, they can remove speech that violates these terms of use. Even though there was no First Amendment violation with their actions, some observers are wary of these companies policing political content. They say that this could lead to more mainstream voices being silenced if they upset politicians like Sen. Murphy.

 

Do you think that Facebook and Twitter were right to remove Alex Jones and Infowars? Should senators be calling on private companies to police their content?

 

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