Facebook grapples with the paradox of tolerance

Enrique Dans
May 4 · 2 min read

Facebook seems to be applying the paradox of tolerance formulated by the philosopher Karl Popper, a topic I’ve written about, by banishing a number of characters and organizations from the extreme right all the way through to radical Islam that it accuses of hate speech.

Even in a country where the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, we should remember that this doesn’t mean anybody is obliged to listen to it, provide a platform for it, or be tolerant of intolerance. If, because of what you think or say, other people ignore, insult or exclude you, that’s your problem, not the state’s.

Facebook may not have handled the move well by allowing the likes of Alex Jones to advertise their move to other platforms, but the decision is the right one and should be followed by other social networks, because unlimited tolerance inevitably leads to the disappearance of tolerance. A mature society is not necessarily one in which everything can be said, but instead is one that sets clear limits about what can be talked about and how it should be talked about.

Needless to say, the problem arises when these platforms operate in countries where elected representatives, or even the government, spout intolerant views. In the United States, eliminating intolerance from social networks would mean barring, for example, a significant part of the Republican party, and possibly even the president. When intolerance is expressed on behalf a significant part of the population or even by the head of state, then a country has a real problem, and social networks are merely a reflection of a much more serious problem.

As long as we fail to understand that the rules of society evolve over time, and that views that might have been accepted or tolerated a few decades ago are no long so, the problem won’t go away.


(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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