Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) speech, privacy and technology project, warned Monday that bans against Alex Jones and Infowars could set a dangerous precedent.
Wizner told HuffPost that the hate speech policies many social media companies cited when they banned Jones can be “misused and abused.”
Earlier this month, Jones’s content was pulled from Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Vimeo for violating policies related to hate speech. He was later hit with a temporary suspension by Twitter as well.
Wizner said companies had a constitutional right to regulate speech on their platforms, but added that hate speech “turns out to be an extremely subjective term.”
“If [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, for example, were deciding what’s hate speech, he would be less likely to think KKK and more likely to think [Black Lives Matter],” he said.
In particular, Wizner told HuffPost that he is worried about massive private companies holding the power to define that ambiguous category.
“I have some of the same concerns about platforms making those decisions,” Wizner said.
“Governments at least purport to be acting solely in the public interest, but platforms are making these decisions based on what’s in their financial interest,” he continued. “So their interest might be in avoiding controversy, but do we want the most important speech platforms in the world to avoid controversy?”
Some platforms have attempted to expand their policies beyond the limitation of hate speech to preclude fake news as well, while others resist doing so.
President Trump has also expressed his own concerns about platforms’ attempts to police content. On Monday, he told Reuters that it is “dangerous” for Facebook and Twitter to limit who can and cannot speak on their platforms.