Free speech means the government can't silence you. The free market means Twitter can.

After rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers into hiding and ultimately leading to the deaths of five people (six, if we count the Capitol Police officer who died by suicide in the days following), Twitter took the unprecedented step of permanently banning Donald Trump from its platform. Since the election Twitter had flagged the president's tweets that pushed disinformation about the election, but in the wake of the violence in the Capitol, concerns about incitement to more violence led them to warn Trump that he risked being banned if he kept up his inflammatory posts.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted. And so Twitter followed through, as did Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms that could be used to stir up extremist violence.

And quite predictably, people who inexplicably still support the president started crying about free speech.

Twitter also took the step of removing in bulk accounts that were dedicated to pushing QAnon, the quacky conspiracy theory that says Trump is in the process of taking down a secret cabal of Satan-worshiping, pedophile Democrats and celebrities. QAnon adherents have been a growing part of Trump's extremist base and the falsehoods they push have grown more and more a part of mainstream right-wing rhetoric.

In fact, they've grown so mainstream in the conservative ecosystem that removing those accounts resulted in many high-profile conservative politicians and personalities losing tens of thousands of followers all at once. And hoo boy, were they not happy about it.


But instead of acknowledging that a big chunk of their following are living in a dangerous bonkersland (and that many of those followers were probably disinformation-pushing bots anyway), they started crying about free speech.

Let's be clear. The first amendment of the constitution guarantees the right to free speech, meaning that the government cannot silence us. We have the right to say (almost) anything without being shut down or locked up by the government.

Government is the key word here, though. Twitter is not the government. Neither is Facebook or YouTube or any other company. Free speech is a constitutional right; a social media account is not. A social media account is a product we get to use in exchange for seeing ads and handing over some of our personal info. It's also something we can only access if we agree to a set of terms and conditions and then abide by them. Once we've done that, the company is well within its rights to boot us if we break the terms of service.

Trump was not silenced by the government. In fact, he has a literal microphone that can literally reach the entire world literally down the hall from where he lives and works. He can hold a press conference and say whatever he wants at any time. His free speech is still totally intact—and he still has a huge megaphone at his disposal.

As for the other people who have had their social media accounts suspended? Their right to free speech is also intact because, again, a company is not the government. No one is entitled to a platform.

This is how the free market works. Pretty much the only thing a company can't do is discriminate against someone based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age, thanks to anti-discrimination laws. But a business can deny you service for being a nuisance, for yelling at other customers, for using profanity, for not wearing shoes, and all kinds of other actions if their rules stipulate that they won't tolerate those things.

There are also common sense things we just can't do, even if they aren't explicitly laid out in a business's rules. For instance, I can't walk into Nordstrom and shout into megaphone, "Hey fellow customers! Feel free to just take whatever you want for free because Nordstrom's prices are exorbitant and they don't need our money anyway!" That would get me kicked out in three seconds, and the company would have every right to do that.

The president can't go on Twitter and tweet messages that are likely to incite violence, especially after his followers already stormed the U.S. Capitol on his behalf and chanted about killing the vice president. That would be incredibly dangerous.

People can't go on Twitter and push the idea that our nation's lawmakers are part of an evil cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who stole the election from Trump and deserve to be publicly executed. That's dangerous, and we've let it pass as absurdity instead of recognizing it as radicalization for way too long.

There are things people just can't do in a business space. Incitement of violence is something that people can't legally do in any space, but even pushing disinformation that fuels the beliefs that have led to violence—namely the entire "Stop the Steal" lies about election fraud—is dangerous at this point. Our country is on fire. Anything that directly fuels that fire needs to be kept far away.

Let's be extra clear here. These social media companies are not banning "conservative" speech or silencing conservative voices. Political views that aren't insane and dangerous conspiracy theories and that aren't driving people to mob violence are still up and running and will continue to be up and running (assuming they don't start violating those rules). In fact, Facebook's top 10 posts today are 80% conservative voices, as per usual, so cries of partisan censorship fall a bit flat.

Banning the president of the United States is a huge decision, of course. But again, he has an entire press corps at his disposal and his title and position do not exempt him from terms and conditions. It's not like Trump hasn't broken Twitter's rules of service before. As Sam Harris pointed out in his podcast today, people have gotten kicked off of Twitter for far less every single day that Trump has been president. As Harris said:

"Trump has been violating any sane terms of service on Twitter for years. He's threatened nuclear war on Twitter. More importantly, he has ruined people's lives intentionally on Twitter. As president of the United States, with tens of millions of rabid followers—many of whom he knows to be quite deranged—he's attacked private citizens repeatedly, knowing they would be doxxed and inundated with death threats. That should get you kicked off Twitter. He should have been kicked off years ago. In recent months, he's relentlessly spread misinformation about the election, and he's destabilized our society in the process. And then he incited an attack on the Capitol. Twitter isn't obligated to give him a platform to do those things.

This is not a free speech issue. This isn't a 'Why can't we just debate all ideas?' issue. This is 'Why should we let the most dangerous cult leader on Earth use our platform to sow division in society' issue. Why should we give him the tools to produce mob violence? Honestly, I would expect to get kicked off of Twitter for causing 1/1,000,000th the harm Trump has caused on the platform."

Those clear violations aside, there is a lot of gray area in terms of what counts as violating a social media platform's rules, and there are legitimate complaints to be had about what does or doesn't get flagged or banned. We have to rely on the people who make such judgments to be working in good faith, and we can't always trust that that's the case. We also need to have important discussions about the power of these huge tech companies and the role they play—or should play—in keeping the world from spinning out of control. But those discussions will necessarily involve the role of government regulation, and right now that's tricky as most of the people complaining about social media purges at the moment are the same people who decry government regulation.

At any rate, suspending a social media account has nothing to do with free speech. Unless the government makes Twitter shut down someone's account, no one's first amendment rights are being violated here.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Adelin Preda on Unsplash

A multinational study found that bystanders intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The recent news report of a woman on a Philadelphia train being raped while onlookers did nothing to stop it was shocking and horrible, without question. It also got people discussing the infamous "bystander effect," which has led people to believe—somewhat erroneously, as it turns out—that people aren't likely to intervene when they see someone being attacked in public. Stories like this uninterrupted train assault combined with a belief that bystanders rarely step in can easily lead people to feel like everything and everyone is horrible.

But according to the most recent research on the subject, the Philadelphia incident appears to be the exception, not the rule. A 2019 multinational study found that at least one bystander (but usually more) will actually intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The idea that people in groups aren't likely to intervene stems largely from research on the 1964 story of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York, while dozens of onlookers in surrounding apartment buildings allegedly did nothing. However, further research has called the number of witnesses into question, and it appears that several did, in fact, call the police. Someone reportedly shouted out their window and scared the attacker away for a few minutes, and someone did rush to Genovese's aid after the second attack.

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