Breitbart holds town hall meeting in Metairie to discuss free speech

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - Alt-right news network Breitbart was in Metairie Thursday, holding a town hall with some big names in conservative politics. It's called Masters of the Universe: Big Tech versus Free Speech and Privacy. It focused on internet censorship and what should be done to stop it.

Dozens gathered at Andrea's restaurant to hear panelists like Ann Coulter talk about the internet and free speech.

"That's how most people get their news is the way you break through what the president has often correctly called fake news. I mean, an awful lot of really big stories. How do you find out the truth about what's going on?" said the political commentator and author.

Coulter says many people turn to the internet for news. That includes social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Yet, she says those who look to such sites may not be getting the full picture.

"They're deciding who can tweet and who can't tweet and some tweets are suppressed and Facebook is putting warnings on content," Coulter explained.

Coulter says these sites may present themselves as a forum, but claims they're censoring speech.

"This is you don't like the content of the speech. The government absolutely cannot do it. Can monopoly, the people who control monopoly internet forums?" questioned Coulter.

Coulter says legally, it's uncharted territory.

"Is it like a cable news that it can be regulated like utility?" she asked.

Political analyst Dr. Silas Lee says sites like Facebook and Twitter don't need to be held to the same standards as cable news because they're not legitimate news sources.

"They are social media sites where people often re-post news stories and re-post other stories. They can post anything, so it's the wild, wild west of social media," said Lee.

Dr. Lee says these sites recognize people can sometimes carry free speech beyond what's protected by the Constitution by making threatening or inflammatory remarks that could be perceived as inciting violence. Moreover, Lee says sites like Facebook and Twitter are businesses and can censor  what they see fit.

"They are trying to protect their brand. They're trying to protect their image. They're trying to, naturally, protect how investors will see them. So if they become a wholesale site for speech that would be considered intolerable and offensive, certainly that damages their brand beyond repair," Dr. Lee explained.

Yet, those like Coulter don't agree.

"If your speech is being silenced, it really doesn't matter whether it's the government or Mark Zuckerberg," said Coulter.

Other panelists tonight include author Peter Schweizer and research psychologist Robert Epstein.

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