Free speech is about more than legal standards

Jacob Mchangama in Arc Digital:

After years of providing oxygen to the political guerrilla tactics of Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey finally decided that fanning the flames of violent insurrection through a firehose of incendiary falsehoods violated their terms of service (sort of).

From a purely legal point of view, Facebook and Twitter were on solid ground. The First Amendment might be the most protective free speech standard in the world, but this bulwark of liberty protects the social media platforms from government officials, not government officials from the platforms.

Since Facebook and Twitter are private entities, some liberals see no free speech issue at all with how they moderate user generated content distributed to billions of people across the world, many of whom rely heavily on social media for news and information.

In the specific context of Trump, the narrow legal purist understanding of free speech is seductive. Indeed, the muting of Trump feels almost cathartic after four years of incessant disinformation, petty grievances, and stab-in-the-back legends with Trump as the victim fighting heroically against the “Enemies of the People.”

However, the larger ecosystem needed for free speech to thrive does not begin or end with the law.

More here.