In the wake of a mass shooting in Buffalo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went on ABC to advocate for “balance between free speech and safety.” She did not specify how this balance might be achieved, or who would have the last word in defining it.
Seemingly suggesting that suppressing free speech to some (unspecified) extent would be the way to go in dealing with cases of extreme violence, this US official made it clear that it was once again social media that politicians would like to see moderate and censor even more than they do now.
Speaking on Sunday, the Democrat also complained that it is impossible for her party to carry out its gun control proposals in the Senate, and urged “vigilance” among the population, encouraging people to report others to the authorities in case somebody is suspected of being “on a path” to committing acts of violence.
Social media companies, meantime, should “address” and also track down whatever gets classified as extremism, Pelosi’s comments suggest.
The Buffalo shooter, an 18-year-old, is presumed to have adopted the ideology of white supremacy, and Pelosi’s mention of social platforms needing to step up their speech policing game appears to stem from investigators at this time thinking that some online postings praising previous mass shootings “may be associated” with the gunman. There have also been reports of a “manifesto” being posted online before the deadly incident occurred.
Pelosi’s sentiment focusing on the role of social media was echoed by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who said tech companies must be “held accountable” and be made to provide assurances that they are “taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information.”
Pelosi has long been “at war” with social media, notably while pressuring Facebook to remove an edited video of her, that her supporters at the time referred to as a “deep fake.”
Also in 2020, she egged on advertisers to use their “tremendous leverage” to force social media companies to increase the level of censorship of what she considers to be misinformation. At the time, speech that Pelosi believed needed to be more strictly controlled had to do with topics such as elections and Covid.