The idea that social media should be moderated to conform to community standards is now coming back to bite activists, as seen in a new piece from Ars Technica.

The piece laments that Facebook and Instagram posts detailing how abortion pills will be sent interstate are now being removed. Offers to do so for those seeking them cannot be made on those platforms.

This is not some aberration. Rather, it’s the inevitable outcome of the last few years of insistence that none of those outlets should be carrying posts activists find objectionable.

If what may be said on social media is defined purely by what is legal and not legal, then we’ve all got the one cheat sheet that we can look at. Incitement to immediate violence is illegal, therefore we can’t say that on social media – and good, too.

The moment the moderation – censorship is usually associated with government and that law – becomes what certain loud parties would like to limit people from saying, then we’ve all got a problem. This has come up time and again as complaints arose about what social media platforms would allow people to post on with regard to Covid or Black Lives Matter protests.

But once the infrastructure of such moderation is built then it will, inevitably, at some point start to limit that speech the original activists support.

Which is exactly what is happening here. Our point is not that pills for early-stage medical abortions should or should not be advertised, or given away, on Facebook. Rather, the moment there is a system that limits what we may say online then that system will, sooner or later, start to limit the things the original activists would like to be said. The correct answer perhaps being well, ain’t that a shame swiftly followed by may we all have our free speech back, please?

Ars Technica is part of that Conde Nast empire, the part that deals with tech. It’s just outside the top 50 for media outlets dealing with tech and gains some 14 million visits a month. It’s an important part of that tech subculture.

At which point we do think they should have been able to predict this. When limits are placed upon what may be said online then there will be limits placed upon what may be said online. And who ever promised that all those limits are going to be the ones you like?

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