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Ryan Bomberger: Facebook, Free Speech, and the Fragility of the NAACP

The NAACP has forgotten its history. Apparently, free speech is no longer a civil right. Who knew?

“I Have a Dream” would be erased from our collective memory. A former slave, by the name of Frederick Douglass, would be unknown. 

Our nation’s historical fight for human equality would’ve been impossible without the liberating power of the First Amendment.

Today, that very freedom is threatened as the Left censors and deplatforms ideological opponents, mainly Christians and conservatives. Big Tech engages in what I call Jim Crow 2.0—reshaping platforms to be more separated and unequal. And civil rights organizations, like the NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, are praising the censorship under the false pretenses of “hate speech.”

Facebook has suppressed my speech repeatedly (herehere, and here).

I was also sued, ironically, by the pro-abortion NAACP for truthfully parodying their name in an article entitled, “The National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.” NAACP executives absurdly claimed they’ve never taken a position on abortion as their president at the time, Benjamin Jealous, was headlining a $1000-a-ticket fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. We won this free speech case after a surreal two years in federal court. 

But Americans are losing this sacred right one social media platform at a time. 

Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently tried to cast his company as a defender of freedom of expression in a Georgetown University speech. Instead, he delivered contradictions, conflations and little credibility. He awkwardly tied his $16.9 billion company to the rich self-sacrificial legacy of the civil rights movement, providing situations that actually belie his confused narrative. 

Zuckerberg invoked Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail to bolster his “dedication to free speech.” King was jailed because infamous segregationist Bull O’Connor got an unconstitutional injunction against all free speech protests in the city. King denounced local clergymen who considered him an outsider: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Yet, Facebook decided to suppress the voices of “outsiders” when it came to Ireland’s 2018 Abortion Referendum. Back in July, Zuckerberg boasted about blocking American pro-life organizations from using their voices in the global community. 

King’s legacy is firmly rooted in a robust First Amendment; Facebook regularly undermines it.

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense Fund President, wasn’t buying what Zuckerberg’s speech was selling. But she offered her own plate of propaganda in her Washington Post Op-ed, Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Know His Civil Rights History: “What Zuckerberg failed to note is that King was the subject of violent assaults (and finally assassination) that were the result of the same kind of hate-fueled disinformation campaigns that infect the Internet and are now aimed at a different generation of civil rights leaders.” What Ifill fails to note is how she defines “hate” and actual “disinformation” and that 2019 is nothing like the 1960s. None of today’s civil rights leaders are targets of violent assaults or assassinations. Pretending so diminishes the sacrifices many made before us so that humanity would change.

Ifill continued her anti-free-speech revisionist history: “The civil rights movement was not fought to vindicate free speech rights under the First Amendment.” There could never have been a civil rights movement without the First Amendment.

Zuckerberg invoked powerful, yet incomplete, words from Frederick Douglass who called free speech “the great moral renovator of society” and that “slavery cannot tolerate free speech.” But Douglass’ prescient 1860 speech actually illuminates the criminality of Facebook’s daily censorship: Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money.”

“Slavery cannot tolerate free speech.” Amen! Neither can “progressivism.” Neither can LGBTQ activism. Neither can pro-abortion feminism. Neither can fake civil rights. 

It’s astonishing that the NAACP and NAACP LDF see the First Amendment as the civil wrong and censorship as a human right. 

“Facebook had been a particularly useful tool in a misinformation campaign that targeted African-Americans more than any other voters,” Ifill accuses. She’s referring to the nefarious “Russian meddling” in our elections. The NAACP even launched a #LogOutFacebook campaign decrying voter suppression (despite decades of significantly increasing minority voter turnout) and demanding that “users of color have a right to be protected from propaganda and misinformation.” First of all, we’re all “users of color.” Secondly, how infantilizing! African-Americans can’t critically think and come to reasoned conclusions?  

The NAACP and NAACP LDF are not interested in protecting the “black” vote, but the liberal “black” vote. In responding to their role in Facebook’s one-sided “Civil Rights Audit”, NAACP President Derrick Johnson demanded that social media platforms prevent “bad agents” from “spreading misinformation and further disenfranchise people of color.” In the very next sentence, Johnson goes on to spread misinformation: “For millions of African-Americans and people of color, the results of the 2016 election have been detrimental to our very livelihood.”

Under the Trump administration, blacks and Hispanics have the lowest unemployment rates (5.5% and 3.9%, respectively) ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Poverty rates for African-Americans (which hit 27.5% in 2011 during the Obama administration—the highest rate in decades) are lower under Trump (20.8%) than under Obama (21.8%). HBCUs have received more taxpayer dollars than under any previous President ($32 million more than under Obama). According to Pew Research, minority voter turnout in 2018 was the highest it’s been since 1978. Among eligible voters, here are the percentages of those within each “racial” category who voted: 57.% white, 51.4% black, 40.4% Hispanic, 40.2% Asian. In 1990, only 40.2% of eligible black voters voted. 

The real suppression going on is that of the truth. And the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Crooked Propaganda is helping to lead the way.

Ryan Bomberger is the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of The Radiance Foundation. He is happily married to his best friend, Bethany, who is the Executive Director of Radiance. They are adoptive parents with four awesome kiddos. Ryan is an Emmy Award-winning creative professional, factivist, international public speaker and author of NOT EQUAL: CIVIL RIGHTS GONE WRONG. He loves illuminating that every human life has purpose.

The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Black Community News.

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One comment

  1. One should never censor free speech nor our First Amendment right to do so. A great man, George Mason, once said the right of a free press is “one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty.”