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The imaginary right to post

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“Leave the world’s richest man alooooooooooone!” says gonzo punk-rock journalist

Adam Serwer explains the idiotic assumptions underlying the premise that it somehow violates the First Amendment to request that revenge porn be taken off the internet, if that revenge porn is part of a Republican ratfucking campaign:

Early December might have marked the first time anyone ever asserted a First Amendment right to see the president’s son’s penis, an argument that the Framers likely did not anticipate.

In November, the billionaire Elon Musk purchased Twitter, proclaiming himself a “free speech absolutist,” in defiance of a rather extensive record of retaliating against speech he opposes. A month later, Musk, citing five tweets that had been deleted at the Biden campaign’s request in October 2020, asked, “If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, what is?”

The tweets in question included explicit pictures and video of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter—unambiguous violations of the platform’s standards. Nevertheless, the Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson called their deletion a “systemic violation of the First Amendment, the largest example of that in modern history.”

here are some problems with this assertion. One is that Twitter is not the government and so is not bound by the First Amendment. Another is that the Biden campaign was not the government and was also not bound by the First Amendment. Still another is that there is no constitutional obligation for private actors to host images of a candidate’s son’s penis, and indeed, rather than a violation of the First Amendment, the choice not to host such images is itself an exercise of free speech.

The catalyst for these novel interpretations of the First Amendment was a Twitter thread by the journalist Matt Taibbi, which included the recently purchased platform’s internal deliberations over whether the Hunter Biden story violated the company’s policy on hosting hacked materials. Taibbi wrote in his newsletter that he was granted access to the files under unspecified “conditions.” The New York Times said it had requested access to the same files, but did not get a response.

Curiously, as the writer Osita Nwanevu notes, among Taibbi’s observations was that requests by the Trump White House for deletions were also “honored.” The Trump White House, of course, actually was the government.

Now, those requests for deletions were not necessarily nefarious. Sources attempt to persuade media outlets not to publish things fairly frequently. Sometimes, those sources are in the government. Unless coercion or threats of retaliation are involved, there’s no violation of the First Amendment. Of course, the Trump White House did openly threaten to punish tech companies over their editorial decisions, to broad support from people who think the Constitution bars Twitter from deleting Hunter Biden’s dick pics.

[…]

But that wasn’t enough. Conservatives wanted the Hunter Biden story to derail the Biden campaign and pave the way for a Trump victory. They have now convinced themselves that it was somehow a constitutional violation for private companies not to take the bait, and that the state should force them to do so in the future.

The insistence that social-media companies should not be allowed to make editorial decisions about what is welcome on their platforms, that it violated theConstitution for a publisher to reject a story it saw as unreliable, that a private company is obligatedto let you use its platform to hurl racist slurs at strangers from behind the safety of a screen—this understanding reflects belief in a new constitutional right. Most important, this new right supersedes the free-speech rights of everyone else: the conservative right to post.

As always, read the whole thing — a lot of useful historical context and a detailed account of why editorial discretion is a critical free speech right follows.

Meanwhile, the TWITTER FILES 2.0 were given to another one of Elon Musk’s poodle bloggers, and needless to say BarI Weiss is every bit the dishonest propagandist that her co-lickspittle Matt Taibbi is:

The main takeaway here is that if anything Twitter gave way too much leeway to hate accounts like Libs of Tik Tok. My only hope is that Musk refusing to give the story to an actual journalist will make the mainstream press skeptical of the latest Republican snipe hunt.

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