Fish on Facebook and Free Speech

by Nov 1, 2019Worldview3 comments

Free speech issues have made the news recently as political tensions rise—along with distrust in and fatigue with social media.

No one has helped me understand the issues at stake better than Stanley Fish. His Winning Arguments is very helpful, and this article from Fish on Mark Zuckerberg may whet your appetite for more Fish.

And if you need help appropriating Fish into a Christian framework, I’m your redheaded man.

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  1. tlewis3348

    I just recently read your ARJ paper on Fish and have been going through other things you’ve written about him/commented on. The quandary related to how to handle social media is one I’ve given significant thought recently, and I’ve concluded it’s unsolvable. Biblical principals lead us to the conclusion that we should “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind”, and therefore free speech is extraordinarily important. However, free speech leads to all kinds of undesirable content.

    Indeed, the most die-hard popular-level free speech social media platform is Gab, and they have numerous extremely prominent right wing anti-Semites. Therefore, if a mass-market platform is desired, some kind of a filter is required. But different people have different “Overton Windows” ( ), and therefore, the only filter that is going to have a chance of being effective while still allowing people to not have to put up with trash is one that allows users to post anything and everything they want, but also gives users controls on the content they see.

    This necessitates the accurate labeling of content and/or people in some manner. A person could claim that “artificial intelligence” could perform such a task, but such a tool would need to be created by a human and trained on a dataset selected by that human. Alternatively, you could ask people to either label themselves or label each other or their content, but to the extent people would even be willing to do that, it would merely get used as a tool for self-promotion or attack, depending on who’s doing the labeling.

    Ultimately, this leads to the conclusion that should be obvious: the only way to have a broadly friendly free speech platform is to have people with an accurate understanding of truth and error labeling content and/or people as accurately as possible and allowing the users to filter what they see based on those labels. Obviously, this is only possible if the leadership in charge of the platform is Christians who prize free speech. Since that in and of itself would prevent the platform from reaching anywhere close to a critical mass of people in today’s culture, I conclude that the best we can hope for is a social media platform with some moderate level of free speech that censors speech that is outside the Overton Window of those unbelievers in control of it.

    • Mark Ward

      My thoughts have run down similar tracks!

      • tlewis3348

        Nice! 🙂