Hate Speech and Hard Choices

In The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo an iconic choice. Take the blue pill, and Neo can wake up in bed, wrapped in the security of the life he has always known. Take the red pill, and Neo would give up life as he knows it, embracing a new truth and the uncertainty that comes with it. Refusing to pick a pill would be as much a decision as red or blue. Neo had no choice – he had to choose.

A similarly decisive moment arrived this week for a cadre of social media and tech giants. After months of mounting pressure, Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify made their choice and banned Alex Jones from their platforms.

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It’s Time to Have a Talk About Social Media

Our relationship with social media officially needs counseling.

We first met in college (Harvard, to be exact).1 Social media promised a future of easy connection, open sharing, and endless possibility. It was fun. Exciting. Different. We were infatuated.

As our infatuation grew, we shared more and more. What started as a quick text, a short status update, swelled until we had left our photos on their shelves and built our businesses through their networks. Our friends, family, and identities became deeply intertwined with social media. Infatuation turned into commitment.

It’s changing you, they warned. Some said that we were losing ourselves in the relationship, losing touch with our true friends, or that our new partner was hurting our self-esteem. We didn’t listen. The constant flow of approval and entertainment was too addictive, too captivating. Like. Retweet. Share. Social media just felt too good.

But the honeymoon is over.

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Disarming the Unabomber: Choice in the Digital Age

“What the manifesto has to say about our relationship with technology and with society is more true right now than it was when Ted published it. It’s about our relationship with our smartphones 20 years before a smartphone existed. It’s about the way technology constrains us and defines our lives, the way that when your phone dings, you answer it. It doesn’t matter that you know it’s stupid and unimportant. It doesn’t matter that there’s a person in front of you that you are talking to. You obey.”

Andrew Sodroski, executive producer of Manhunt: Unabomber

From 1978 to 1995, Ted Kaczynski mailed or hand-delivered 16 deadly bombs, killing 3 people and injuring 23 more. Kaczynski eventually offered to put an end to the bombings if a major newspaper agreed to publish his manifesto, titled Industrial Society and its Future. The FBI recommended that the Washington Post publish Kaczynski’s work in hopes that a reader would identify the author from its contents. Ted’s brother David recognized the writing and tipped off the FBI, finally leading to the Unabomber’s capture.1

It has been 12 years since the Unabomber’s capture, yet his ideas are far from forgotten. Instead, they are experiencing an unlikely renaissance.

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