Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I've seen both opinions, and many more nuanced variants thereof, argued in a well-reasoned, persuasive manner here on HN.

Adding my voice to the "good riddance" side of the aisle: thanks to what freedom of speech, association, etc. actually mean in the legal / constitutional context, said twats are guaranteed a space for communication - the real world! They can stand on a corner or picket their local City Hall and spout all the hateful nonsense they want.

(They can't, however, verbally assault bus drivers / police officers, or yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, or directly incite violence, or disturb the peace at all hours of the night, or needlessly interrupt judicial / civil proceedings, or...point being: even in the US, the exercise of free speech comes with limits and responsibilities.)

Like publicans of yore banning rowdy drunks from the premises (which itself came with political / legal overtones; see https://www.amazon.ca/America-Walks-into-Bar-Speakeasies/dp/...), many owners of online spaces are deciding - as is well within their rights as owners of a private space - to ban users and groups who disproportionately degrade the experience for all others.

(This is my general surface-level opinion, without getting into discussions like https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/rnhzlo around the amplification of extreme voices by short-sighted metrics optimization, or debates on whether providing space for hateful voices effectively denies free speech to the targets of their hate, or explorations of the tradeoffs different open, democratic societies have made around hate speech.)

Private entities can put restrictions on their private space, but doing so implies that they no longer provide the same freedom of speech guaranteed to citizens on public spaces, so they are indeed restricting the freedom of speech.

...and now we've touched on a fundamental philosophical question: is freedom of speech a natural right or a legal right?

There's also potentially an assumption here that free speech is overall reduced through restrictions on it. As a thought experiment: suppose that, within a society of _n_ people, some small _k_ of them are "louditarians": they believe that part of the right to free speech is the inalienable right to speak as "loudly" as possible (for whatever value of "loud" matters over various media) so that no one else can effectively speak. This raises a few difficult questions:

1) To what degree the free speech rights of louditarians and non-louditarians mutually exclusive? 2) If you were a non-louditarian in this society, what would you do? 3) If you had control over this society, would you let the louditarians speak? Would you limit their speaking rights?

My general position here:

1) Almost entirely: when louditarians speak, they prevent the effective exercise of free speech rights by non-louditarians; non-louditarians can only meaningfully have free speech if louditarians are carefully managed. 2) As a non-louditarian, I'd advocate for limits on louditarianism (as best I'm able; this may first require the creation of non-louditarian-only spaces where I can be heard). In the absence of those limits, I'd probably feel like I was being effectively silenced by louditarians. 3) This is the difficult one, and I lean towards "yes - reluctantly, warily, and with limitations". Some examples: maybe louditarians can only speak at certain times (see: nighttime "disturbing the peace"). Maybe the practice of louditarianism is banned from certain spaces, like offices and legislative chambers (see: contempt of court, noise bylaws). My reasoning is utilitarian: I'd rather _n - k_ non-louditarians be able to speak, even if that means curtailing the rights of _k_ louditarians.

In other words: I strongly believe that, by imposing limitations on louditarians, I'm increasing the overall freedom of speech in this hypothetical society. (Not to mention the quality of life, mental health, and vitality of public discourse.)

My secondary reasoning is that louditarians seem to think that speech is a right without responsibilities - in effect, they believe that their right to free speech is more important than that of non-louditarians. IMHO, this violates the social contract of functioning modern societies, and for what? So an obnoxious fringe group can be really, really loud?

Yes may be for vocal speech, but for platforms build around written forms of speech like most online forums, how does that analogy hold since then the right of one to say a thing does not restrict another body's right to say a different thing at the same time.

Generally freedom of speech issues arise largely for written word, than the spoken word.

This metaphor might be saved if you consider amount of (limited) public attention to be analogy to amplitude of sound. You can softly type in your niche forum all you want, but nobody will hear you if there is somebody else screaming into the twitter megaphone nearby.

But readers have a real choice and freedom on what to read, in that situation, what benefit does restrictions on writers bring?

Ah - the goal is not necessarily the choice / freedom of readers, but that of other writers who might be drowned out, intimidated, or otherwise coerced into silence.

When this happens across a large and popular enough cross-section of media, though, it could easily start to have a noticeable effect on readers.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact