Facebook recently removed a post by a Congressional candidate, saying that it violates the prominent website’s rules against “language that incites or facilitates serious violence.” The post, by Marjorie Taylor Greene, showed Ms Greene holding a rifle, and juxtaposed that with photos of three left-wing Democratic members of Congress: Reps Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Tlaib, members of the so-called freshman “squad.”
Ms Greene is the Republican Party’s candidate for Congress in Georgia’s 14th congressional district. The district is in the northwestern corner of the state, and includes both Rome and Dalton.
One might reasonably ask: if Greene had posted the same image in a context in which it had first amendment protection, for example as part of a full page ad in a newspaper, would Greene have subjected herself to any criminal or civil penalty for inciting violence? The answer is: probably not. Although inciting violence can put one outside the scope of the first amendment, the circumstances in which it does so are quite narrow.
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On the other hand, Greene posted the image on a Facebook page, and Facebook is a privately owned corporation, which has its own first amendment rights. So Facebook was free to take down this posting in accord with its own rules.