My co-contributor on this blog recently expressed his righteous indignation and outrage over his Twitter account being suspended. From what he wrote, I would agree that Twitter wrongfully suspended his account and I agree the Internet should ideally be free of censorship and tyranny. I must however disagree with his concluding sentiment.
We must remember that our libertarian bent on this blog means we must tolerate the censorship imposed upon us by private companies, because they as much as individuals share the rights and protections from government found in the Constitution. The 1st Amendment states that Congress (i.e. the Government) shall make no law abridging freedom of speech; it makes no mention of private companies or other citizens. The fact is that Twitter too has a right to free speech, and their censorship of Corben can be seen as an exercise of this right. The Supreme Court called it “the heckler’s veto”.
In more simple terms, if you don’t like Twitter’s censorship policies don’t use Twitter. Parents are fond of the phrase “My house, my rules”. Well, Corben was in the house of Twitter, and their rules allow them to censor Corben.
We as citizens have freedom of association where we can freely associate with Twitter by using it, and they have the equal right not to let us use Twitter unless we agree to their rules. And their rules include you agreeing to their right to censor you. Are those rules fair? No, of course not. Corben was wrongly shut down by Twitter; wrongly not because they had no right to shut him down but instead because they used that power incorrectly and unfairly. But if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use Twitter.
That is what freedom is. Corporations like Twitter have the freedom to censor Corben, Corben has the freedom to use Twitter, Twitter has the freedom to require Corben to submit to their rules (however arbitrary, unjust, or unfair), and Corben has the freedom not to use Twitter in the first place and to protest their unfair treatment of him.