Censorship is an impulse that no true totalitarian can resist. Re-branding censorship as curtailment of “hate speech” may give it a facade of legitimacy, but it is an attack on free speech nonetheless. Consider the latest overreaches happening in the most democratic of countries:
- A conversation last September (2015) between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was caught on a hot mic. Merkel pressed Zuckerberg to do something to suppress “anti-immigration” postings and Zuckerberg affirmed that they were working towards this.
- In January (2016) Facebook Germany launched the Orwellian sounding “Initiative for Civil Courage Online” with the mission: “To promote the civil courage displayed by organisations and grassroots activists carrying out valuable counterspeech work online.” By “counterspeech”, they mean to find and suppress free speech that contradicts the narrative of the political leadership.
- On April 15th (2016) the Merkel government granted a Turkish request to allow the possible prosecution of a German TV comedian (Jan Böhmermann) who wrote a crude poem about Turkey’s president. This appeasement of the Turkish president’s demands is tied to the migrant crisis that has become a major problem for Merkel and other EU governments.
- Last month (May, 2016), it was revealed by Facebook insiders that the social network was suppressing conservative news in its “trending” news section even though the items were trending among Facebook users.
- Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube signed a pledge May 28, 2016 with the European Commission to stop the spreading of the loosely-defined term “hate speech.”For better or worse, social media has taken a central role in many peoples lives. Through its acceptance, those people have surrendered their privacy and are now complacently forfeiting their free speech.
- A German prosecutor is pursuing “anonymous” group for criticising migrants. Those behind the group’s Facebook page, are wanted for “sedition” and public incitement of criminal acts. The prosecutor did not go into detail regarding the charges, though noted that the site had been advertising “right-wing” views.
- The Facebook page “Anonymous.Kollectiv” was shut down earlier this year by request of the German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. The group had released leaked documents detailing the German government’s plan to spy on Internet users and curtail dissenting opinions. The leaked documents showed the cooperation of the government with ex-Stasi agent Anetta Kahane.
- On June 1st 2016, Facebook deleted the account of the Gatestone Institute’s Swedish expert, Ingrid Carlqvist apparently for her journalism related to the migrant crisis. Gatestone is a pro-democracy, human-rights advocate with many prominent progressive Muslim authors and contributors who are working to counter the narrative of violent jihadism and Islamism. However, even well-researched, fact based criticism of immigration policy is being targeted for merely questioning the prevailing political dogma.
One of the justifications for the censoring of “hate speech” is to counter terrorism:
“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred.” – Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner
Even if one accepts (and I do not) that so called “hate speech” causes terrorism and that social media suppression is effective in stopping terrorism, there is a problem. Once a pretext for censorship has been established, the power to censor will be misused as in the case of Ingrid Carlqvist and many others.
The misuse of social media censorship is well underway. Even posting about Facebook censorship can get you banned. When such bans happen, there is often no explanation or opportunity for appeal.
In order to expand into foreign markets, Facebook and others have chosen to appease despots and theocratic demagogues by employing censorship in those markets. For example, Facebook has censored ‘blasphemy’ by request of the Pakistan government. However, the “Initiative for Civil Courage Online” is aimed at supposedly democratic countries!
There is a reason that DogmaWatch doesn’t have a facebook page: because we will not be constrained by the whims of others to determine what are acceptable forms of expression. We intend to express heartfelt opinions that will often deviate from the politically approved socially dominant narrative and that will certainly be offensive to some.
Do you trust any government or corporation to decide for you what you’re allowed to post on the internet? I do not, and your a fool if you do!
The right to free speech was crucial to the civil rights moment and many other socially progressive movements. However, it is increasingly being supplanted by the demand to not be offended. So called “hate speech” laws are incompatible with free speech and have no place in a democracy.
Freedom of speech is not obsolete. It needs to be defended!
The hashtag #IStandWithHateSpeech is now trending because many of us are tired of self-appointed, social justice warrior types trying to hijack reasonable debate and silence anyone who dares disagree with their facile, morally bankrupt, ignorant, and narrow political dogma.
Christopher Hitchens is one of the best defenders of the absolute right to free speech and his words are increasingly prophetic: