Opinion by Santiago Barreto
Twitter suspended the satire site The Babylon Bee after it gave Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender Biden administration official, the title of “Man of the Year” in response to USA Today naming Levine “Woman of the Year." Political commentator Charlie Kirk was also suspended after commenting on the same incident.
Banning The Babylon Bee and Kirk directly contradicts Twitter’s commitment to freedom of speech. Twitter’s policy states that “Free expression is a human right – we believe that everyone has a voice, and the right to use it. Our role is to serve the public conversation, which requires representation of a diverse range of perspectives.”
Twitter's policies also state that “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” This rule is what The Babylon Bee and Charlie Kirk supposedly violated.
Even if some are offended by the tweets, they are an expression of the belief that gender is decided at birth, a belief that more than half of Americans agree with. An opinion held by more than half the country cannot be written off as fringe hate speech. Expressing such an opinion is an exercise of free speech.
Censorship that started as an effort to thwart extremism, overt disinformation, and hate speech has become a crackdown on freedom of speech. Seth Dillon, CEO of the Babylon Bee, responded to the Twitter suspension: “We’re not deleting anything. Truth is not hate speech. If the cost of telling the truth is the loss of our Twitter account, then so be it.”
According to The Verge, “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996, says an ‘interactive computer service’ can’t be treated as the publisher or speaker of third-party content.” This ensures that online platforms can allow free speech without facing legal consequences. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter claim Section 230 status. For these claims to be valid, they need to genuinely serve as a free speech bulletin board; they cannot curate content by censoring viewpoints they find offensive or disagreeable.
Twitter's censorship of The Babylon Bee and Kirk is a crackdown on opposition to orthodox progressive viewpoints rather than an attempt to protect marginalized communities from harm. While words can certainly have a negative effect on society, it is preferable to risk offending some than to allow Big Tech to shut down legitimate points of view.
Those in the highest levels of government are concerned with Big Tech’s censorship. According to The New York Post, “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is appalled with the expansion of Big Tech’s powers: ‘One person controls Facebook,’ he notes, ‘and just two control Google.’ Three people can erase anyone from the digital public square, in other words.”
While the general public does not have the direct power to regulate Big Tech’s crackdown, we have the power to vote. We must hold Big Tech accountable at the ballot box by voting for politicians who are willing to fight for free speech. Free speech will prevail if enough people are willing to fight for it.