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November 17, 2023

Nikki Haley’s Free Speech Miscue

By pushing for name verification on social media, the GOP presidential candidate betrayed an ignorance of the importance of free speech.

It’s too early to tell what if any fallout will come Nikki Haley’s way for her recent promise to deny the privacy and anonymity of those who post on social media. But if the reaction at Not the Bee is any indication, the former South Carolina governor and current Republican presidential candidate really stepped in it.

“Nikki Haley says ‘every person on social media should be verified by their name’ when she becomes president,” reads Not the Bee’s headline. “I’ll assume this is her dropping out of the race.”

That’ll prove to be an incorrect assumption, but the point is a good one: Republicans are supposed to be the party of free speech and other constitutional rights, while the Democrats are the thugs, the goons, the antifas, the censors, the speech suppressors, the safe-spacers, the doxxers.

Anyway, the problem with social media isn’t anonymity. After all, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison used the pseudonym “Publius” to publish The Federalist Papers. No, the problem with social media is ideological censorship on the one hand, and its addiction, familial breakdown, and educational failure on the other.

To be fair, here’s exactly what Haley said Tuesday on Fox News’s “Voters’ Voices”: “Every person on social media should be verified by their name. First of all, it’s a national security threat. When you do that, all of the sudden people have to stand by what they say. And it gets rid of the Russian bots, the Iranian bots, and the Chinese bots.”

Haley never spelled out the specific “national security threat” posed by anonymous posting on social media, but she didn’t need to. As threats go, we suspect it’s far enough down the list so as not to merit serious consideration. And who knew that Russian, Iranian, and Chinese bots were such a grave threat that they’d necessitate a suspension of our constitutional rights?

Think of it this way: How is Nikki Haley’s proposal to “out” private citizens any different than doing away with the secret ballot in our nation’s elections? How is it any different than New York Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul’s sleazy “hate speech” surveillance efforts? How is it any different than Big Labor’s thuggish “card-check” practice of going door to door and strong-arming folks into signing a petition to organize and collectively bargain and pull union dues out of the paychecks of its members? How is it any different than the Left’s push for so-called donor transparency, by which the names of all donors to all political causes are made publicly available? Ask Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich how that worked out.

“Here’s the problem, aside from constitutionality,” writes David Strom at Hot Air. “Anonymous accounts also empower people to express unpopular views that could get people ‘canceled’ much more freely, and allow people to stay off the radar of overzealous security state types who might, for instance, send the FBI after you for opposing abortion or being a conservative Catholic.”

Whoa, wait a sec. FBI agents wouldn’t conduct a heavily armed early morning raid on a peaceful pro-life activist and his wife and young children, would they? And they wouldn’t snoop around Catholic churches looking for “radical traditional Catholic hate groups,” would they?

Where, then, did Haley get such a cockamamie idea? It’s hard to know, but perhaps this 10-year-old tweet from someone named “Real Donald Trump” can tell us something: “It should be mandatory that all haters and losers use their real name or identification when tweeting — they will no longer be so brave!”

We’re sympathetic to the argument being put forth by both Haley and Trump about the lack of civility and accountability on social media. At times, the place is a cesspool. But the solution isn’t to “out” law-abiding citizens who might prefer to exercise their First Amendment rights without risking ostracism within their community or at the workplace.

When in doubt, stand up for free speech.

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