Vivek Ramaswamy, founder of Strive Asset Management, clashed with CNBC anchors Thursday over free speech and censorship on social media, citing how experts have been wrong, especially in the past few years.
“I’m concerned about threats to democracy but i think those threats to democracy,” Ramaswamy said during a segment on “Squawk Box.” “And one of those threats to democracy is the centralized determination of truth.”
CNBC anchors Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin dueled with Ramaswamy, arguing that social media companies need to take a more active approach on policing misinformation and hate speech.
“This is not unique to this moment. We have been having this debate in this country since 1776, since 1789. This is the fundamental debate in this country. It’s the bargain of free speech in our country. Free speech is not intended for the speech we love. It is intended for the speech that we do not love.”
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“You can have an opinion, but there are certainly facts in certain cases, to be able to say whatever garbage you want until you are proven otherwise is not what -” Quick said before Ramawamy interjected.
“You take a look at the debates around closing schools there were people who were censored on YouTube and other channels for making the arguments against school closures. Now we look back and say that those were probably policies that we regret,” he responded. “I believe we would have gotten to the right answers sooner if we had not censored those views.”
Sorkin said social media has changed the way information travels.
“It used to be that you could stand in Times Square right behind us and shout whatever you wanted, but you could only get 30, 40, 50 people around you. Twitter is different,” Sorkin said.
“When you see these kind of heinous stories, conspiracy theories about a Paul Pelosi situation that seems to lead to violence in other situations as a result of it, the question is, do the companies bear some responsibility for trying to rein that in? I would argue they do,” he added. “But to also put it on them to decide what’s false is also a complicating factor.”
“Exactly, if the company is going to take something down as false speech, the company bears the burden of proof to show that it was false,” Ramaswamy responded. “History over the last two to three years teaches us that many of our current beliefs will be modified in some way.”
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Ramaswamy, a prominent critic of environmental, social, governance (ESG) investing, argued that social media companies shouldn’t police hate speech.
“The way you treat the misinformation point is different from the way you treat the category of hate speech. I think you can’t have hate speech as a category because all opinions are allowed,” he said.
“I will acknowledge that operating Twitter as a free speech platform is not an easy thing to do, because a social media company cannot function without some level of content moderation” Ramaswamy continued” “Literally, the things that would fill your feed would be things like spam, porn, things that most people do not want to see on their feeds.”
Ramaswamy said the aforementioned examples should be removed from social media, but outside that other categories such as hate speech should not be removed from the platform. In fact, he argued for abolishing hate speech as an enforceable category.
He argued that while he finds hate speech repulsive, the solution to hate speech is to address it in an open forum and debate against it rather than suppressing it and allowing it to fester.
“This is not a unique question at this point in American history. I think that takes some of the pressure off this conversation. The question then for the house is, do the Nazis get to march in Skokie or not?” Ramaswamy asked. “This is a cardinal case in constitutional law. We learned it in the first semester, in the first year of law school, and it’s a debate then as it is today.”
National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977), was a landmark Supreme Court decision that established that a neo-Nazi group had the right to hold a rally in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. While the ACLU, which represented the neo-Nazi group, and the Justices themselves expressed opposition to Nazis’ rhetoric, the Court ruled that they still had the right to express their views, no matter how repugnant.
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Ramaswamy said people need to “condemn heinous speech,” not censor it.
“Free speech is not intended for the speech we love, it is intended for the speech that we do not love. Without it, it’s not a free speech country,” Ramaswamy said.