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On Saturday, the co-founder of Twitter apologized for his creation. Why? Because it allowed the election of Donald Trump. In an interview with The New York Times, Evan Williams explained, “I think the internet is broken. And it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken.” This is silliness, of course — the internet isn’t broken, any more than guns are “broken” just because bad people use them sometimes. The internet is a tool that can do wonderful good or great evil. But Williams, like many of the Left, believes that if a freedom can be exercised for great evil, it shouldn’t be a freedom at all.
Thus, he continues: “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that. … It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in [electing Trump]. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
This is the problem with leftist thought. There were many Americans who were deeply unhappy at Trump’s election. But there were just as many Americans unhappy at President Obama’s election. Just because many Americans don’t agree with Ev Williams doesn’t make a forum for argument and discussion bad. In fact, that’s what should make the forum important.
The shortcoming isn’t Twitter, any more than the raucous debate that surrounds politics thanks to the First Amendment is responsible for excesses performed by individual human beings. We simply do not have the right to control what other people think or say, even if that results in bad people sometimes winning victories. We have the right to argue them out of their position; the moment they move toward violence, we have the right to stop them. But Twitter didn’t win the election for Donald Trump. It just provided Trump a forum for espousing his views, which those on the Left were unable to counter effectively.
I don’t believe all speech is created equal — some is evil, some is valueless, some is great. But I also don’t believe I have the right to be the sole determinant of where those lines are drawn, and I certainly don’t think that tech executives who vote universally Democrat have that right, either, on a moral level. When Williams compares himself to Prometheus and says that he deserves to have eagles “peck out his guts for eternity … for giving the power of tweets to Donald Trump,” he forgets that he didn’t give the power of free speech to Trump — God did. He just provided a forum that wasn’t moderated by someone with which he agrees. Which is a good thing. Perhaps he ought to help his Democratic friends come up with better arguments other than “shut Trump up” if he wants Trump to lose.
But Williams has another solution: restore the gatekeepers. “The problem is that not everyone is going to be cool, because humans are humans,” he explained to The New York Times. “There’s a lock on our office door and our homes at night. The internet was started without the expectation that we’d have to do that online.” Except for the fact that there’s no lock on our mouths, nor should there be.