Poll: Are Online Funding Platforms Violating Freedom of Speech by Blacklisting Users?
Americans are fiercely divided when it comes to hot button topics. Bringing up the separation of church and state or healthcare is an easy way to ruin a family dinner. We may disagree on difficult issues, but the freedom to talk about them is sacred to us.
Freedom of speech is arguably the one thing all Americans align on. Flag burning and other extreme examples aside, we understand that talking about the problem is the first step towards fixing it. Now, let’s get to the issue at hand.
Is a company violating the first amendment when it blacklists users from its platform? Twitter is constantly banning users that violate their terms of service. Alex Jones was removed from YouTube, Facebook, and Apple in 2018 for supposedly inciting violence against certain individuals. It’s a little different for Alex because his personal webpage generates the majority of his income. What about a user whose livelihood depends on a platform like YouTube?
Patreon is a place where users can pledge monthly support to their favorite content creators. Many creators, including those on YouTube, turned to Patreon when ad revenue alone stopped paying the bills in full. Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, was one of the numerous content creators funded through Patreon before they blacklisted him in December 2018.
Now, Sargon wasn’t the first to receive the ban hammer, but the reason for his removal triggered a mass exodus from the platform. Patreon stated that Sargon violated their hate speech guidelines that are vague enough to cover just about anything. Additionally, the podcast that got Sargon in trouble over wasn’t even hosted or monetized on his own YouTube channel or Patreon page.
How far is a funding platform allowed to go when removing unwanted content from their digital property? That question troubled many users and content creators alike, including some public figures that used Patreon. Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, and Ben Shapiro have dropped their accounts with the countless others fleeing this recent wave of censorship.
What’s your take on this recent development in internet politics? Do online funding platforms, like Patreon, violate free speech when they blacklist content creators that don’t align with their vision? Take part in this poll, and we’ll let you know the results as soon as possible!