Free Speech is a Public Good, So Twitter Has an ESG Responsibility Not to Censor Users of its Platform

A moral capitalism is not an end in itself, but a means serving a higher end – human felicity and well-being.  So, too, is moral government a means to that same end.  And so, too, is a just society.

It seems to me that we have evolved over the millennia to thrive best when provided with the right public goods (which include avoidance of public “bads”) and beneficial private goods.

As a means to promote moral government, there is a tradition, most actively practiced in constitutional democracies, of tolerating free speech and thought.  Such private goods, so to speak, are both a barrier against abuse of public trust by governments and a wellspring of individual agency and fulfillment.

But the protection and promotion of free speech and thought becomes a public good, for it is to be enjoyed by all without discriminations and builds social and human capitals of sustaining value to the community.

In the U.S. these past several weeks, we have been in a contretemps or a “dustup” among ourselves over the right of a private social media company, Twitter, to censor speech and so thought in order to guide and control public opinion.

Internal emails of Twitter employees have been made public, documenting these attempts to promote “right” thinking among Americans.

Many on the “left” here think such censorship is most valuable, as it contributes to the eradication of “wrongthink.”  On the other hand, many on the “right” find such censorship appalling because it discourages the discovery of truth.

A defense of Twitter from the left rests on the character of Twitter as a private company, noting that constitutional prohibitions against interference with free speech only apply to government.

While there is truth to that observation, private persons and companies also have moral standards to follow in their conduct.  So, we can very correctly and necessarily ask what moral or ethical standards might constrain Twitter’s private rights to censor users of its service?

In particular, right now, what do ESG moral objectives have to say about censorship?  Free speech is part both of “S” and of “G.”

In the following comment, I argue that ESG morality protects free speech because it is a public good, inculcating among us better “society” and better “governance.”

You may read my analysis and recommendations here.