The Meghan Murphy situation proves that Twitter is not a free speech zone
In an unsurprising court decision, Twitter prevailed in another lawsuit from a permanently banned user. Meghan Murphy, an articulate and prominent feminist advocate, lost her account for violating “misgendering” policy which has changed what they deem to be “hate speech.”
Murphy opposes the compelled speech which would force her to refer to what she calls “trans-identified males” using their self identified pronouns.
The question of whether or not “hate” is in the eye of the beholder or the mind of the speaker is part of the current debate. Murphy’s position has sought to identify biological facts about the differences between genders and the danger of pretending those differences don’t exist.
An act of speech is now considered by many to be an act of violence. Of course this undermines the meaning and seriousness of “violence,” but that’s not something we’d expect Twitter to resolve.
The court decided that Twitter has the right to provide or refuse service at their own discretion, but Newton proved that all action has an equal and opposite reaction.
While science usually prevails, it can get a bit more complicated when mobs take control of facts. Of course the mob can’t erase facts simply by virtue of mass disapproval but they can prevent science from guiding society for a rather lengthy time.
Right now it is a social fact that, despite employing the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum, Twitter will make choices based on which group of people causes them more fear. And it is a legal fact that they have the right to make that choice.
While some people might have believed George W. Bush when he declared he was “The Decider” most people file a lawsuit hoping to gain that evermore elusive challenge of finding an impartial judge.
Unfortunately, the civil court process doesn’t always give people an open venue to state their case and just getting to trial can be part of the challenge. If you do get to trial it may be more about words and technicalities than the actual events of the grievance. The legal system isn’t really a substitute for civil conversation.
Perhaps the conversation is best held in the public square with proficient moderators.
While Twitter’s right to choose who they allow on their website legally remains within their discretion, they lost the right to call themselves a venue for free speech. Advocates for free speech never prove their mettle until they are willing to protect speech they loathe.
Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey was most effectively grilled about his uneven application of community standards by YouTube content producer Tim Pool on The Joe Rogan Experience.
The court decision, shutting down Meghan Murphy’s lawsuit against Twitter for breach of contract, did not determine whether or not Murphy was guilty of hate speech. It only determined that Twitter was permitted to ban her from their website.
While some may try to paint the decision as validation that Murphy must be forced to engage in compelled speech, that issue is yet to be resolved. It’s just a matter of what platform that debate takes place.
Not only does the debate continue, the debate must be heard.