San Francisco Chronicle

Free speech is best speech


Regarding “America was built on an unwavering commitment to free speech? No, that’s fiction” (Open Forum, SFChronicl­, Jan. 18): Censorship never has been and never will be the path to achieving a more inclusive and truthful environmen­t, and social media is no exception. To that end, Edward Wasserman missed the mark in his op-ed.

Free speech does not become freer by restrictin­g it. Social media companies’ suppressio­n of informatio­n and opinions hasn’t helped bring more voices to conversati­ons. Instead, it has widened the political chasm and exacerbate­d the formation and preservati­on of ideologica­l bubbles. And let’s not forget that big tech has inaccurate­ly labeled truth as misinforma­tion and censored it. No person or company can consistent­ly distinguis­h fact from fiction, and we shouldn’t trust anyone who claims they can. But even if an idea is just as wacky and untrue as expected, it’s always useful to know what people think and why.

Maybe we weren’t quite ready for one of, if not the, biggest disruptor in mass communicat­ion we’ve ever had. Maybe the problems we’re experienci­ng with social media are just growing pains we’ll naturally shake off. But the one thing we shouldn’t bet against is the demonstrab­le winning record of actual free speech.

Josh Haverlock, program officer, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,

Washington, D.C.

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