Social Media and the Fate of Freedom of Speech

Last year, a law was passed in Texas that classified the largest social-media platforms as “common carriers,” or “publicly accessible conduits for the goods or communications of others.” In doing so, the law also barred these platforms from discriminating against speech on grounds of viewpoint. That law has since been challenged in court, and, as Philip Hamburger points out, the outcome of this case may have far-reaching implications for the future of free speech. He examines amicus briefs in favor of the Texas law, and notes the broader cultural conflicts reflected in these arguments.

At this stage, what’s most interesting is who is and who is not among the amici—friends of the court—who have come to the aid of free speech by filing briefs in defense of the statute’s constitutionality.

In a rare literary contribution to legal debate, David Mamet offers a powerful vision of the mental dislocation caused by censorship. Donald Landry—a distinguished scientist and doctor—recalls the fate of Galileo to express the danger of suppressing scientific dissent. Students at Columbia draw upon John Stuart Mill to remind us of the value of protecting even erroneous speech. In defense of comedy, the [conservative-leaning satirical website the] Babylon Bee makes a contribution!

The other side will soon have its own amici briefs. But there inevitably will be a stark contrast between the amici for freedom and the resources on the other side.

Big Tech money flows through large law firms, think tanks, and academia. This is not to say that these institutions have sold their souls, but the sheer magnitude of Big Tech’s wealth means there is no end of talent ready to argue for censorship. But legal and moral reasoning does not depend on the number or size of amici. There is, or at least should be, no strength in mobbing a court or representing groupthink. Rather, what should prevail are accurate arguments that uphold rather than twist the law, and that appeal to the mind rather than the passions.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: American law, David Mamet, Freedom of Speech, Social media


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict