At a disinformation panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) said that Americans are not allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded theater. The yelling fire argument has almost become a meme because of how it is repeatedly used by those in favor of censorship and has been debunked by constitutional experts and is itself misinformation.
Related: Yes, you can yell “fire” in a crowded theater
The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation panel discussed how “the public, regulators, and social media companies can collaborate to combat disinformation.”
Moulton said that Americans are taught that it is not legal to shout “fire” in a crowded theater.
“This concept of preserving public safety, even under the banner of free speech, is actually something that we’ve accepted for a long time,” Moulton said. “We get taught in grade school the concept of ‘yes, you’re allowed free speech but not crying fire in a crowded theater.’”
However, constitutional experts agree that yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is protected by the First Amendment.
Britain Stelter, formerly of CNN, who was hosting the panel, asked Moulton, “Haven’t we seen many Democrats in the last six years pressuring Facebook and Twitter and now TikTok to be stronger in content moderation?”
Moulton responded that the censorship pressure was done as a “measure of public safety.”
Moulton said, “It’s very much more in your face than it was 30, 50, 100 years ago. But I think it’s always been a reality. The difference is when I have a constituency that I’m trying to keep healthy and I can’t get them to take a covid vaccine because of misinformation that’s propagated on the internet.”
Moulton went on to say that online “disinformation” makes his job harder because people don’t agree on facts.