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Social Media Purge: Physical vs Economic Coercion

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After Trump and others were purged from social media, their defenders argued that this was a violation of their right to free expression. As noted in the previous essay, the 1st Amendment does not apply in this situation. But a moral argument can be made that the right of free expression should apply to businesses. This could then be used to argue that there should be a law or laws that protect this right. This would be a radical change: businesses now enjoy a broad freedom to use their power to coerce employees and customers and thus restrict their right of expression. It can be countered that employees have the freedom to quit and customers have the liberty to take their business elsewhere and thus no additional protection is needed. One reply is to point out that quitting or taking one’s business elsewhere might not be a viable option. For example, the big tech companies effectively control social media and there are currently no comparable alternatives to services such as Twitter and Facebook. A person who is banned by social media is thus silenced by economic power of these companies.  As another example, an employee who must choose between not expressing their political views outside of work and keeping their job might not be able to afford to quit—and thus they are silenced by the power of economic coercion. This seems to be a problem and one that is not just limited to the freedom of expression. As I have noted in other essays, businesses have considerable freedom in exercising power over employees and customers. To illustrate, employees can be fired at will and often have little or no right to privacy when it comes to their employer. Customers can be severely restricted in their choices (as in the case of social media) and subject to harms that are legal to inflict (or barely and rarely punished). The problem is that some people (such as Mark Zuckerberg) have far greater economic power than others and have the freedom to use it in ways that are harmful to. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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