End of free speech on the social media? 17

On September 3, 2011, and again on September 28, 2015, we posted an article that makes the case for free speech.

Today we repeat this vital part of it:

The greatness of the West began with doubting. The idea that every belief, every assumption, should be critically examined started the might of Europe. When those old Greek thinkers who founded our civilization learnt and taught that no one has a monopoly of truth or ever will have, they launched the intellectual adventure that has carried the human race – not without a long interval in the doldrums – literally to the skies.

Socrates taught the utility of suspicion. He is reputed to have said, “The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.” He was not, however, the first to use doubt for discovery. Thales of Miletos, who was born 155 years before Socrates, dared to doubt that religion’s explanatory tales about how the world came to be as it is were to be trusted, and he began exploring natural phenomena in a way that we recognize as scientific. He is often called the Father of Science. With him and his contemporary, Anaximander, who argued with him by advancing alternative ideas, came the notion – for the first time as far as we know – that reason could fathom and describe how the universe worked.

Science is one of the main achievements of the West, but it is not the only product of constructive doubt that made for its greatness. Doubt as a habit of mind or tradition of thinking meant that new, foreign, even counter-intuitive ideas were not dismissed. Europe, before and after it stagnated in the doldrums of the long Catholic Christian night (and even to some extent during those dark centuries), was hospitable to ideas wherever they came from. …

Our civilization cannot survive without this openness. Critical examination is the breath that keeps it alive. But it is in danger of suffocation. It is more threatened now than it has been for the last four hundred years by dogmatisms: Marxism, environmentalism, religion – above all Islam which absolutely forbids criticism.

Now to those sources of destructive dogmatism we must add another: the European Union.

The ideas of Marxism, environmentalism, Islam most need to be criticized. Because they are inherently intolerant, terroristic, and totalitarian. Over and over again, unendingly, they need to be torn to pieces by critics who hate them.

And they are the very ideologies that the European Union wants most to shield from critical examination. 

Breitbart London reports:

The European Commission has today [May 31, 2016] announced a partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in order to crack down on what it classes as “illegal hate speech” while “criminaliz[ing]” perpetrators and “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the European Union favours.

A press release from the Commission this morning claims the new initiative has been set up “to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally”.

The move has been branded “Orwellian” by Members of the European Parliament, and digital freedom groups have already pulled out of any further discussions with the Commission, calling the new policy “lamentable”.

The unelected, executive branch of the European Union (EU) released a Code of Conduct today that “includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe” developed “together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (‘the IT companies’)” who have “signed up”.

That the bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU should try such a deplorable move is not surprising.

But why are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft conceding to its authoritarian anti-freedom demands?

The commitments include “educat[ing] and rais[ing] awareness with their users” and building a “network” of “trusted reporters” to flag unwanted content. Facebook and Twitter are to provide “regular training to their staff on current societal developments” and work more closely with national governments and “their law enforcement agencies” to remove content the EU does not favor.

Most alarmingly, however, the platforms have also promised to engage in the active promotion of views and organisations the EU does favour, and the re-education of supposedly hateful users.

Facebook and others must, “recogniz[e] the value of independent counter speech against hateful rhetoric and prejudice, aim to continue their work in identifying and promoting independent counter-narratives, new ideas and initiatives and supporting educational programs that encourage critical thinking.”

Note that in  current leftist-dominated jargon, “critical thinking” means “uncritical thinking” – ie. meek acceptance of leftist dogma.

Janice Atkinson MEP told Breitbart London: “It’s Orwellian. Anyone who has read 1984 sees it’s very re-enactment live.

The Commission has been itching to shut down free speech in the Parliament and now they’re attacking social media. We have already seen Facebook ‘policing’ so-called right-wing postings.

“If an MEP, such as the centre-right Hungarians, the Danish People’s Party, the Finns, the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian FPO, say no to migration quotas because they cannot cope with the cultural and religious requirements of Muslims across the Middle East who are seeking refugee status, is that a hate crime? And what is their punishment? It’s a frightening path to totalitarianism.” …

The Code of Conduct has also been slammed by groups who have been working closely with the Commission. In a sign of an impending backlash, one organisation which promotes privacy, data protection, and net neutrality has already vowed to break ties.

The European Digital Rights (EDRi) announced its decision to pull out of future discussions with the Commission today, stating it does not have confidence in the “ill-considered code of conduct”.

“Faced with this lamentable outcome, and with no possibility to provide meaningful input to this process, the Commission has left us with no other choice but to withdraw from the discussion,” said Estelle Massé, EU Policy Analyst at Access Now. …

What does Facebook have to say about it?

Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook, said: “We welcome today’s announcement and the chance to continue our work with the Commission and wider tech industry to fight hate speech.”

Last September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overheard confronting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about “hate speech”, with Mr. Zuckerberg replying: “We need to do some work”

Now, the EU has described how: “The IT Companies support the European Commission and EU Member States… They share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.”

Promote freedom of expression by censoring it? How does the Commission (ie. the bureaucratic oligarchy that governs the EU) reconcile these two contradictory activities?

The Commission argues that expanding censorship will somehow protect and expand free speech, because “[hate speech] negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms”.

Orwellian indeed!

Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said the new measures would counter Islamist 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”.

Some excuse! The Islamic terrorists use code. And it is primarily to protect Islam from justified and desperately needed censure, that this whole scheme is being hatched, anyway.

What do Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have to say about it? We are given only a Twitter statement:

Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe, Karen White, said: “Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter … We look forward to further constructive dialogue between the European Commission, member states, our partners in civil society and our peers in the technology sector on this issue.”

“Hateful conduct”?  People express their opinions on Facebook. They argue for what they like and against what they don’t like. If they can no longer do that, there won’t be much use for it. What will Twitter be used for if not opinion? And how interesting will YouTube be, purged of argument?

Who will use the social media merely to repeat authorized opinions like mantras? By agreeing to carry only permitted orthodoxies, they are destroying themselves.

  • I see huge technical and constitutional problems with this plan.

    EU countries want to censor free speech with the assistance of US IT companies. Presumably the new limitations will not be applied to US users as well? Surely US users are protected by the First Amendment or at least would be affected by the principle of it? I suppose these companies can censor speech on their platforms however, but what is to stop other platforms/companies appearing? There are already other platforms that are not signed up to the plan. Users may just move to other platforms.

    Although the EU may be able to make and enforce laws that limit free speech, surely the US cannot without truly abandoning the constitution? There is nothing to stop us Europeans using other platforms outside Europe that are not being censored. To stop that would require separation of the internet – as China has done. I suspect that might be a step too far for many in Europe, the EU might finally face a widespread backlash. They are losing credibility by the day anyway.

    Furthermore, there are technical ways of appearing to be in one country when you are in fact in another. People may just latch on to this and start “logging on” as if they were in the US or other countries.

    I think the whole plan illustrates just how utterly clueless the Eurocrats really are. If they try to force everyone to use ID cards to log on to the internet, I think that might finally tip things over the edge.

    • Facebook is a private company. They can allow or disallow anything they see fit on their service, no First Amendment issues are involved.

      • liz

        Hopefully the free market will kick in and they’ll go out of business because of their suppression of free speech.

        • I doubt that will happen, my investigations suggest that the number of people who use Facebook and actually know how to spell the First Amendment is relatively small.

          However what it will do is create a niche market for companies that do value free speech (as wordpress seems to for example).

      • “They can allow or disallow anything they see fit on their service”

        Right, that was the point I was making above “Users may just move to other platforms.”.

        This is the whole problem with censorship on the internet, it has to be applied in a truly authoritarian manner, you either have to:

        a) cut your country entirely off from the rest of the internet, as per China. If the EU tries to do this I think even the most subdued and complacent people are going to start wondering what the hell is going on.

        b) persuade every single other country in the world that is connected to the internet to enact a similar law – global governance of the internet, globally agreed limits on free speech.

        c) ban all encrypted communications, because these can be used as a workaround to access e.g. social media sites outside your country.

    • liz

      I hope they reach the tipping point. I think we in the U.S. may have reached it already and Trump is the the product of it. Whether he intended to or not, he’s become the tip of the pendulum that is now swinging back from the far reaches of leftism. Hopefully it will lop off a great number of fat leftist heads on the way!

      • That’s my thinking here. They are talking about issuing ID cards to everyone who wants to use youtube, its mind boggling. Even people who just like to watch videos of kittens playing are going to find that irksome.

        • liz

          I’m even hearing about people getting arrested or issued warnings for posting supposed “hate speech”. The whole concept of “hate speech”, and of banning it, should itself be banned.

          • There was a case in Scotland – man arrested for “offensive” post about migrants arriving on his Scottish island. This is thanks to Tony Blair’s Communications Act of 2003. Note the word “offensive”, you don’t have to incite violence to break this law.

            Spoke-person said: “legal restrictions prevented her from confirming what was written in the posts.”

            http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/man-arrested-for-offensive-facebook-posts-about-syrian-refugees-arriving-on-scottish-island-of-bute-a6878981.html

            • liz

              Yes, it’s really sad that countries that used to uphold free speech have come to this – suppressing it in the cause of assisting a hostile invasion.
              It’s “offensive” to protest it? But what if I am offended at being invaded by barbarians and betrayed by my own government? Too bad – shut up!

            • Scotland the rapee!

              All that nationalistic fuss about separating from England and then they do this – start the process of becoming a completely different nation.

              Mass lunacy. And one sane man is criminalized for talking common sense.

              Some Humza sings their praises. One of the MacYousafs o’ the Isles.

            • This is the very bizarre thing about the Scottish National Party. They are “racist”, but only against the English. Really though I think there are a lot of people in Scotland who support the SNP who are racist against all foreigners, hopefully the SNP will eventually alienate their own supporters. Yousaf the Muslim MSP who insisted on swearing the oath in Urdu.

              https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/05/13/watch-muslim-politician-in-a-kilt-swears-oath-in-urdu-to-british-queen/

            • So Hamza Yousaf is a member of the Scottish National Party!

              Ever more absurd.

  • I don’t use Facebook and I never will; it has, far and away, the worst noise to signal ratio on the Internet. It is the preferred forum of every left-wing nincompoop, prevaricator and buncombe artist; Facebook “discussion” consists almost entirely of bumper-sticker nitwittery.

    Like you, Jillian, I use my own web site to tell people what I think and no government body, EU or here in the States, will ever tell me what I may or may not write on that site. I dare them to try.

    • I applaud you for that, Animal.

      I also confess that we do have a Facebook page as well as the website. (Plain-to-see link in our margin.) We put good stuff on it – often hotly attacked by persons of the Left and other faiths. We have gathered over ten thousand “likes”. And we have not as yet been censored. But we know we are at risk.

      • I’ve seen the link but not followed it. I admire your fortitude for entering that snake pit, but I’ll continue to eschew it myself.

  • liz

    Just like the Left invented the concept of “racism” as a weapon to silence all opposition to its agenda, they’ve invented “hate speech” to do the same thing. 1984 is becoming a reality, truly “a frightening path to totalitarianism.”