The First Rule of Social-Media Censorship Is That There Are No Rules

Yesterday, my colleague and podcast co-host Alexandra DeSanctis wrote a piece describing a confrontation between Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims and an elderly woman who was apparently praying quietly outside a Planned Parenthood office in Pennsylvania. Sims’s actions toward the woman were absurdly aggressive. He mocked her faith, her age, and her race. He impeded her path, and then tried to get her address so he could go “protest” in front of her home.

Later yesterday, another video emerged, this one on Sims’s Facebook page, in which he mocks a small group of young protesters, tries to dox them, and attacks their race and religion. Most of the response to Sims yesterday focused on his ridiculous substance and demeanor. He’s a public official trying to bully and intimidate people who are quietly and peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.

But I have a different question: Where are the social-media police?

Just last week, Facebook banned a series of extremist accounts for being “dangerous” after evaluating their content and their owners’ “activities outside of Facebook.” Twitter has launched its own round of bans against far-right figures, including — for example — banning Laura Loomer after she tweeted that Ilhan Omar was “anti-Jewish” and part of a faith in which “homosexuals are oppressed” and “women are abused.” Just today, Twitter suspended a clearly marked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez parody account, in part for attempting to “manipulate the conversations on Twitter,” whatever that means.

Shouldn’t the exact same rules that empowered bans of far-right figures apply to far-left Brian Sims? Let’s look at Facebook’s community standards. They prohibit “hate speech” and define it as “a direct attack on people based on [their] protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.” Moreover, they also prohibit “soliciting” certain kinds of “personally identifiable information,” including addresses.
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