Why banning ‘harmful’ online speech is a slippery slope

Cathy Young:

While Ngo (with whom I was on friendly terms for a period of time) started out as a solid reporter on culture-war issues, his recent work can certainly be criticizedas biased and often sloppy, and he can be faulted for getting too close to extreme elements on “his” side. But the same charges can be directed at many journalists on the left. And there is certainly nothing about Ngo’s Twitter presence to justify his banning.

Meanwhile, activists in Portland have been mobbing a bookstore for carrying Ngo’s new anti-Antifa book, Unmasked, in its online catalogue.

In recent months, attempts to de-platform or punish “harmful” speech have targeted criticism of violence and looting related to anti-racism protests, as well as arguments that troubled teens are being too readily steered toward medical gender transition. In such a climate, calls to de-platform “dangerous” expression can easily lead to a disastrous shrinking of space for much-needed open discourse and dissent.

Some argue that such concerns are misplaced and frivolous when far-right terrorism remains a clear and present danger. Adam Serwer, a writer for The Atlantic, summed up this view in a sarcastic tweet: