The privacy-free zone is the overlap between the public and the private dimensions.
This Thursday, President Donald Trump’s Twitter was permanently suspended from Twitter. Following the decision, the social media platform announced that he was “likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as an encouragement to do so.” On January 6, Trump held a rally in Washington, D.C. which he concluded by motivating the supporters that were present to march on the Capitol where the Congress was preparing to ratify the electoral victory of President-elect Joe Biden. Following the decision made on Thursday, Twitter announced that Trump’s account risked a “further incitement of violence” which already had a history of doing so and promoting conspiracy theories to over 88.7 million followers. The First Amendment Section 230 allows Twitter, and other related platforms, to have the right to curate their platforms. The Section outlines liability protection which allows for internet companies to avoid being held legally responsible for everything hosted on their platform. Other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Shopify have also removed or indefinitely suspended his account. Additionally, other platforms are removing content violations (ex on Twitch) or tracking down videos that reiterate voter fraud claims (ex on YouTube).
In their response to the Twitter decision, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted their concern over social media platforms adopting the role of a censor. They argued that platforms should be transparent and consistent in the application of their rules rather than being permissive towards politicians but strict towards ordinary users. Today Caitlin Johnstone reacted to the Twitter decision writing and reiterated a similar concern as EFF, she wrote that
“The censorship of a political faction at the hands of a few liberal Silicon Valley billionaires will do the exact opposite of eliminating right-wing paranoia and conspiracy theories, and everyone knows it. You’re not trying to make things better, you’re trying to make them worse. You’re not trying to restore peace and order, you’re trying to force a confrontation so your political enemies can be crushed. You’re accelerationist.»
“Supporting the censorship of online speech is to support the authority of monopolistic tech oligarchs to exert more and more global control over human communication. Regardless of your attitude toward whoever happens to be getting de-platformed today, supporting this is suicidal.”
Privacy is too big.
The privatization of the public domain creates new constraints within the internet. While it may appear to be a solution to delete accounts such as President Trump’s, this is further dividing groups already divided among and between each other. As well, as making the internet an increasingly censored forum by the discretion of corporates in big tech. The internet caters to profit-oriented, private corporations that are “embedded into a digital ecosystem optimized for control over users and competitors” rather than remaining digital public spaces that promote discussion and interaction (Women in AI). Auto-control of one’s correspondence seems to be a rarity nowadays. If there were more morals taught and practiced for respect, equality, and justice then many of these problems could be avoided. There would not be a need for control. But procedures on the etiquette of online would still exist. Therefore, how do we remain objective on procedures and rules to foster a community? A privacy-free community online and offline. Social medias are intended to be spaces of discussion, gathering, sharing. However, platforms like Twitter are private entities and therefore not constrained by the First Amendment. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2019, which had a 5-4 split ruling that ultimately concluded that
“When a private entity provides a forum for speech, the private entity is not ordinarily constrained by the First Amendment because the private entity is not a state actor. The private entity may thus exercise editorial discretion over the speech and speakers in the forum.” (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-1702_h315.pdf)
This seems to be a problem with the law in terms of defining private entities and their scope of control over freedoms such as speech, expression, and opinion.
Privacy can be defined by the boundaries created between oneself and others. It is often mistaken to be an absolute truth when it is a concept subjective to context, culture, and situation. Everyone has different sensitives regarding what should be private due to the value placed upon it. Similar to other important concepts such as truth or property, it is difficult to establish a definition of privacy. This being said, it is even more difficult to protect it, as well as private corporations. The ability to protect personal space and personal information constitutes the protections outlined by privacy policies. It is impractical to create such property rights over data, especially when they emerge in public spaces. The information loses control and becomes part of collective knowledge, it cannot be protected. Imagine: desiring the same level of protection over your possessions that you have when you are in your home as when you are in a public space, whether that be online or physically.
Privacy is too big. Not the actual physical size, rather the number of entities that it becomes involved in. The privacy-free zone is created when you step outside of your home, or into a digital realm. It extends with every physical or digital step, thought, correspondence, and interaction. It hides what is in your mind and cannot be seen, in your past that has not been shared, and in the future that has not yet been pursued. But it reveals everything else that is said or done in the presence of others. Public space is an area of inclusion, deleting a post or individual account can be more dangerous in the long term than any image or text they post in the short term.