The new social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, have gone too far in trying to censor content on their platforms, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson argued in his talk to a conference on digital freedom, organised by ECR, European Conservatives and Reformists, in Rome 10–13 December 2021. He recalled John Stuart Mill’s three classical arguments for freedom of thought and expression: that fallible censors might suppress sound ideas; that some ideas contained both errors and truths and that a free discussion was necessary to eliminate the errors; and that even if an idea was totally wrong, it would be a worthwhile exercise to try and refute it vigorously. Gissurarson added two further arguments: that in a democracy freedom of expression was an indispensable constraint on government and that it could also serve to vent off frustrations which otherwise would lead to violence.
Gissurarson agreed that the social media should adopt some restrictions on what could be expressed on their platforms, for example a ban on child pornography and on any incitement to violence. But the recent ban of President Donald Trump could hardly be justified in such a way. He had often been rude and offensive publicly, but freedom of expression was also the freedom to be rude and offensive. If the social media were strong enough to disconnect the leader of the most powerful nation in the world who had received almost 75 million votes in a recent election, how could they then treat others? Another example was the ban imposed both by Twitter and Facebook for a while on any speculation that the corona virus had escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan and not been transmitted from an animal to a person. This now seemed the most plausible explanation of the pandemic which had turned the world upside down for the last two years. This was a matter of vital importance, and yet the social media did not for some time allow their users even to mention it.