Free Speech

I live in a place where I don’t have free speech. I grew up in a place where people talk about free speech all of the time. And despite that first sentence, I would consider the right to free speech to be one of my core values.

There’s currently a lot of discussion of that right in the context of Cloudflare cancelling 8chan’s service, and Facebook and Twitter either banning or not banning various users (see Ben Thomson’s take here).

To me, the core of the right to free speech is that speech should not be limited by the government, and should in fact be protected by the government in public spaces (with some exceptions for things like threats of violence).

Putting someone in jail for saying or writing something is a violation of free speech, and should not be legal. Kicking someone out of your restaurant for something they said, or kicking them off of your website or online platform for something they said (or didn’t say!) is also a violation of free speech, but it is not a violation of the core civic right that I see free speech to be, and so it shouldn’t be illegal.

However, that action can be judged in the public square. I’m happy that 8chan is no longer being served by Cloudflare, but if you’re not then you are free to complain about it. You’re also free to boycott Cloudflare, or set up an alternative to Cloudflare’s service that will serve sites like 8chan. Just like I should be free to choose not to use, and speak out against, organizations that do things that I don’t agree with.

This is the framework through which I see the right to free speech: it’s a right to not have my speech regulated by the government. The rest should essentially be a “free market”, in which private individual and entities are responsible for and allowed to make moral judgements and distinctions, and must deal with the consequences of those judgements.

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