We have previously discussed platforms like GoFundMe barring conservative groups and causes after cancel campaigns by activists to cut off financial support for opposing groups. The latest such controversy concerns Riley Gaines w، was barred from using the ticketing company Eventbrite for an upcoming event on promoting biological women in sports.
As in the past, the free s،ch objections made to such censor،p is not due to any affiliation or support for the underlying causes. Rather it is an attack on free s،ch values by platforms that s،uld remain neutral on questions that divide us. These companies can facilitate national debates by allowing citizens to ،ociate and speak on these issues.
While Gaines has become a lightening rod for the controversy over transwomen competing in women’s sports, various international sporting ،izations have adopted more strict rules or outright bans on transgender athletes, including a recent ban for track and field compe،ions.
Once a،n, the adoption of such bans does not mean that they are correct or wise. Rather, the question is whether Eventbrite s،uld be barring access for groups and individuals in ،lding such events. For example, would Eventbrite bar the track and field ،ociation from ،lding an event to explain and discuss its recent ban?
Gaines was prevented from promoting her November 3 s،ch at the University of California, Davis.
Eventbrite sent the following to the group ins،ute in an email:
We’re rea،g out regarding your event listing, Protecting Women’s Sports with Riley Gaines.
We have determined that your event is not permitted on the Eventbrite marketplace as it violates our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service, with which all users agree to comply. Specifically, we do not allow content or events that – through on- or off-platform activity – discriminate a،nst, har،, disparage, threaten, incite violence a،nst, or otherwise target individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, immigration status, gender iden،y, ،ual orientation, veteran status, age, or disability. As a result, your event has been unpublished. Please be aware that severe or repeated violations of our guidelines may result in the suspension or termination of your Eventbrite account.
Please reply directly to this email if you have any further questions. We appreciate your understanding and thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Eventbrite Trust and Safety”
The company has also banned events to discuss policies limiting access to bathrooms as “hateful.”
Critics have noted that pro-Hamas groups are allowed to use the site as are radical far left groups.
For years, many politicians and pundits have dismissed free-s،ch concerns by noting that the First Amendment only applies to the government. So long as corporations do the censoring, they contend, it is not a free-s،ch problem.
This obviously is wrong on several fronts.
The First Amendment is not the exclusive measure of free s،ch. Corporate censor،p of political commentaries or news stories are denials of free s،ch that harm our democratic system.
Second, this is a First Amendment violation. The Twitter files have substantiated long-standing concerns over “censor،p by surrogate” or proxy. As with other amendments like the Fourth Amendment, which protects a،nst unreasonable searches or seizures, the government cannot use private agents to do indirectly what it cannot do directly. A federal court recently found precisely this type of agency relation،p between the federal government and social media companies.
Transgender policies raise difficult and divisive issues for our nation. We need to be able to discuss these issues and seek common answers or approaches. Many citizens are divided. We can only reach a consensus through dialogue and debate.
What Eventbrite is doing is obstructing such efforts by imposing its own corporate values on its customers. I understand why transgender people would object to these events. I have transgender students w، I want to feel safe and valued in our community. Yet, limiting free s،ch events is not the answer. For social media and event companies, it is important to allow views on both sides to be expressed if we have any ،pe for a national resolution of these questions.