Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > Censoring Speech on Internet is Always a Bad Idea: Aug 21, 2017

Censoring Speech on Internet is Always a Bad Idea: Aug 21, 2017

Over the previous few days, many short-sighted idiots.. I mean people.. of varying fame on the internet and various social media platforms have been supporting attempts by various corporate monopolies and oligopolies to deplatform people and organisations with connections to the so-called ‘alt-right’. Let us, for a moment, ignore that the so-called ‘alt-right’ is actually a bunch of different groups with overlap in some parts of their individual ideologies but large (and often irreconcilable) differences in other parts. Let us, instead, focus on the far more important question which is as follows:

Should corporations, with or without state support, be allowed to censor speech on the internet?

In my opinion, giving corporations (of any type) such power, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a very bad idea. Now some of you might say- but.. but they are trying to censor Nazis. What is wrong with bending rules to marginalize Nazis or people who profess to believe in that ideology? The short answer is that censorship of speech is always a bad idea, even if the groups or individuals you are trying to censor are vile and loathsome. Furthermore, censorship of free speech or similar instance of rules and regulations based on extreme cases are almost always counterproductive in the longer run in more ways than one.

The longer answer requires us to first consider the context and history of such demands and the almost certain negative and counterproductive consequences of such actions.

1] Many famous or credentialed morons.. I mean experts.. like to claim that free speech never “actually existed” are in the same ideological basket as those who defend slavery and Jim Crow because “that is how people used to do things”. I could show you the stupidity of that logic by asking them why those credentialed sophists why they prefer to use functional flush toilets and drink purified and treated water when neither of those have existed for most of human history. The nature of what is possible and justifiable has more to do with feasibility rather than selective interpretations of tradition. For example- the majority of people in USA are now OK with gay marriage largely because conservative opponents of gay marriage tried to couch their opposition in terms of appeals to thoroughly discredited traditional norms surrounding marriage.

2] Any half-decent analysis of history suggests that attempts to suppress ideas because they clash with dominant culture of the day often results in those ideas gaining more exposure and respectability. As some of you know, a number of ideologies from Christianity in the Roman Empire to Nazism in Wiemer-era Germany were able gain significant public interest because of persistent attempts by the prevailing establishment to shut them down and persecute their members. Sites such as the Daily Stormer, Rebel Media and many right-wing internet forums and social media recently gained tons of public attention because of the many attempts of internet oligopolies to shut them down. Moreover, trying to censor the content on such sites is problematic because it is quickly reproduced on many others.

3] Why would any person with basic critical thinking skills trust large corporations or government officials- both of whom have no worthwhile public accountability to make subjective decisions that are impartial? Why would they? What motivation do they have to be fair and reasonable? Do you really think that the legal precedent gained by censoring these neo-Nazis won’t be used to censor anybody else who they do not like? Do you think that social movements from such as BLM and various labor unions will somehow never be subject to high-handed censorship? Also do you trust the law enforcement apparatus in USA will not misuse such precedent to further their abuse of groups which they already like to murder and imprison? If you still trust large corporations, government officials and law enforcement to behave ethically, I have a bridge to sell you.

4] Laws criminalizing explicit violent threats and intentional libel have been around for a very long time. Therefore, we do not require new laws and regulations to prosecute those who commit such acts, either in real life or on the internet. What is most troubling about attempts by internet oligopolies to censor unpopular online speech by hiding behind the “Nazi exception” is that they are going after ideas and ideologies which by themselves are not innately violent or libelous. For example- a racist shitbag who opines that whites are the “master race” is just stating what he or she believes. As long as the person in question is not making an explicit violent threat, he or she is just being an asshole. And one person’s asshole could be an other person’s philosopher.

5] Right-wing ideologies such Nazism and similar ethno-nationalistic movements tend to gain most of their support from those who feel disenfranchised by the established socio-political system of that day. There is a very good why Mussolini became successful in the chaos of post-WW1 Italy or why Hitler rocketed in popularity after the great depression caused mass unemployment in 1930-era Germany. Similarly the rise of right-wing fascistic movements in west-European countries during the late 1920s-1930s was due to a combination of mass unemployment, unresolved nationalism and entrenched political establishments who did not want to change the unsustainable status quo.

In other words, the rise of neo-Nazis and similar right-wing movements in USA is a symptom of people losing their faith in the system and elites who are currently running them. You cannot treat a serious systemic disease by addressing a few of its minor symptoms. I would go so far as to say that the current interest in censoring unpopular free speech is basically an admission by the establishment that they are either unwilling or unable to fix the larger problems of socio-economic inequality. It is the policy equivalent of trying to patch up a banged up car with duct tape because you cannot afford to, or are unwilling to, repair it.

To summarize: Attempts to censor free speech (especially the unpopular kind) by large corporations and government officials are, at best, short-sighted and futile attempts to address minor symptoms of much larger socio-economic problems. At worst, they will make those assholes more popular and respectable while simultaneously abusing resultant legal precedents against a variety of relatively peaceful social movements and individuals. Therefore, in my opinion, it is far better for us a society to let a few assholes say what they want, even if they end up trying to test the boundaries of such freedoms. Large corporations, government officials, and “law enforcement” pose far larger risks and threats for the well-being and future of most people than a few idiots in office-cuck attires parading around some city with citronella-scented tiki torches.

Will write more on this topic in a future post, depending on your replies to this one.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    August 22, 2017 at 1:58 am

    A lot of people are having their lives ruined “because feelings”.
    I hope those people who have lost their livelihood “because feelings” can somehow “share their feelings” with the aid of projectiles, towards those that broke their ricebowl “because feelings”.

    But as it stands, (ugly/regular) men were already losing their jobs years earlier because “they made women uncomfortable” / “said problematic things”. Nobody said much then. Reminds me of what Niemoller said “First they came …” (not to be confused with the comedy “He came, She came, They came together”)

    Expect things to get much worse before they get better, this hidden censorship and firing of people is happening very quietly, returnofkings and brietbart (“Rebels of Google”) is covering this.

    http://www.returnofkings.com/128584/night-of-the-digital-knives-silicon-valley-launches-biggest-internet-censorship-purge-in-history by Ferdinand Bardamu / Matt Forney

  2. P Ray
    August 22, 2017 at 2:43 am

    Breitbart has also got a good article on the new brainteasers Google should use to hire a new set of staff, since they have changed from an advertising/technology company, into the Internet Morality Police:
    http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2017/08/20/madine-it-is-time-for-google-to-change-its-infamously-difficult-interview-questions/

    The way to achieve this change is to completely overhaul their interview process, and design questions that are not necessarily easier, but that will help them find the individuals that will make the best Googlers. It is apparent that the freedom loving computer engineers that built Silicon Valley are not the right fit anymore. To give them a head start, we’ve drafted some sample questions:

    1. You are part of a team designing a new office that will house 5,000 Googlers. Assume an equal distribution between the 67 currently identified genders. The building is historic and cannot be retrofitted with 67 different bathrooms. How will you manage bathroom breaks for the employee population to avoid microaggressions against any genders? What do you do when new genders are identified?

    2. Your team is developing augmented reality technology for firefighters’ masks to assist them in making decisions in the heat, smoke, and disorientation of a building fire. The AR tech will make suggestions to firefighters about the order in which they should rescue civilians trapped in burning buildings. In what order should the AR tech suggest rescuing the following people: A 250-pound transwoman person of color, a 150-pound trans-racial lesbian, and a 105-pound white pre-teen male. Does your answer change if the pre-teen male is the nephew of a Google VP? Should the program take into account the gender and upper body strength of the firefighter?

    3. You have been contacted by a YouTube manager in a panic. The A.I. algorithm developed to find pro-free speech channels and minimize their reach in search results is working effectively in most cases, but is incapable of distinguishing videos by women against feminism from videos by women in favor of feminism. Should the algorithm be adjusted with the risk of censoring some feminist channels by accident, or will you suggest manually searching for anti-feminist videos to censor? Should censorship of free speech channels be lessened so that ad revenue can offset the additional employee cost associated with manual searches?

    4. There is a protest against cultural appropriation in the Google cafeteria after employees of all races and ethnicities order sushi. You are tasked with a project combining Google’s DeepMind A.I. and facial recognition software to scan employees and instantly display a list of foods that they can choose from without being insensitive to other cultures. Should this rule apply to all employees equally? Should Americans of Japanese descent be allowed to order sushi, or only Googlers that were born in Japan? What should be done if the A.I. is offline for maintenance at lunchtime?

  3. chaoserrant
    August 22, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I completely agree with what you wrote but what about the argument that a corporation (especially if it is private) has the right to ban certain type of speech. If Google decides that criticizing antifa makes you a nazi, what mechanism of law can prevent that? The problem I think is not that Google can do that but that Google is too big and the question is to figure out how we came without good alternatives to it. Same with Facebook, by the way…

    • August 22, 2017 at 8:05 am

      ..since Google is a business, this also involves the question, “If a media business can refuse a customer who wants to print, ‘I hate blacks’ on a webpage, then is it consistent if a bakery business isn’t allowed to refuse a customer who wants to print ‘I love my gay partner’ on a cake?”

      • chaoserrant
        August 22, 2017 at 8:18 am

        I heard this argument too…But they say, no, the bakery discriminates on attributes beyond the person’s control (i.e. being gay is not a choice) so that would be wrong. Whereas you can change your racist speech if any…Of course, one can say having racial thoughts is also not a choice…If I were to choose I would go libertarian here (allow the baker to refuse service and allow Google to censor) but the Devil is in the details..i can change bakers anytime of the day…Google? not so easy…

      • August 22, 2017 at 10:02 am

        “(allow the baker to refuse service and allow Google to censor)”…yep, agreed although I’d disagree with both the baker’s refusing and Google’s censoring.

        Some, also, argue still that being gay IS indeed a choice, so that element enters the debate as well.

        But, yep again…Google’s function and influence versus that of a small-business bakery is probably the practical difference here — as the big kid, Google can get away with bullying if it wants. The small business won’t.

      • July 23, 2018 at 1:00 am

        The baker should have operated in Utah

        A mediocre white male libertarian retard.. I see.

  4. August 22, 2017 at 8:41 am

    This topic has merit. Irrelevant to the censorship of the white nationalists and alt-right, there’s been some censorship randomly on YouTube.

    I am unsure if this is of interest to you, but it has it’s similarities…

    On Black YouTube, there’s a lot of stupid gender war BS being spouted. Some of the black male YouTubers are acting like bitches, just want attention and throwing their own kind under the bus. Several months ago, several black women posse’d up to have certain people’s accounts get flagged, suspended and attempted to get people banned from YouTube. Back in 2009, a guy named Sergent Willie Pete got banned from YouTube (for 5 years) after a series of unfortunate events (especially when a mentally ill YouTuber went on a killing spree over some pussy in Detroit, Easter 2009). People used it as an excuse to eradicate the voices and commentary of certain people. Which only worked for a certain period of time. History repeated itself several months ago, where some fat black idiot named Obsidian Ali (who may be a carbon copy of Elliot Rodger) harassed older black female YouTubers, used pictures and voices of them and called them “spinsters”. This caused a “dating coach” to cut ties with him for business purposes among other reasons.

    Also, I was informed of a white nationalist website called Stromfront, which isn’t easy to access via address bar. You had to do a manual search and find a link to it. Otherwise, it takes you straight to Amazon. That’s a different, vague type of censorship.

  5. Eduardo the Magnificent
    August 22, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    National Socialism (and all its variants) are not right-wing. Socialism by any name is by definition NOT right-wing. Stop saying that. Otherwise, stellar article.

    • July 23, 2018 at 12:55 am

      Sorry to burst you bubble but the fascists were right wing.
      And they were nationalist and socialist

  6. August 22, 2017 at 10:55 pm

  7. from the gutter to your living room
    August 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

    It’s simply amazing that a bunch of vigilante shit-talking blog commenters have scared the establishment as much as they have. You know you live in an upside-down time when real people, real families, real professionals, support free speech more staunchly than a media that relies on FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTIONS TO STAY IN BUSINESS.

    No one cared about Nazis last year. Now all of a sudden, there is a moral panic about this extremely small and allusive group. They have no fucking power! Nazi really means… A smarter adversary who isn’t as moneyed as you due to nothing more than your privileged sinecure. This country really is run by a bunch of low effort bed wetters who add no value to society.

    Speech is the right from which all other rights flow. Without speech we cannot voice grievances, we cannot assemble, we cannot protect our other rights. Without speech we cannot lift the veil on propaganda and lies, we cannot examine or reason. Attacking the right of speech is not merely an act of silencing but an act of stripping people the ability to think, to render stupid.

    The current establishment lie:

    “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences”

    As a matter of fact, freedom of speech means nothing if it does not come with freedom from consequences. The only acceptable response to argument is counter-argument. The right of speech is essential to maintaining social equality within a community — without it, concentrated power is free to enslave those beneath it. Balance is paramount in a pluralistic society. If people wish to disassociate with one another over a difference of views, that is permissible and natural. If a group hears the speech of one person and chooses to ignore him, that is permissible and natural. But when groups of people choose to punish a speaker or speakers, or large corporations choose to take away his voice in public venues, then there is an imbalance that is plainly evil. The right not to hear speech is easily exercised, but it cannot extend to the right to force others not to hear it, or it becomes tyrannical.

    Bottom line. If everyone is required to communicate via a network, then speech will need to be free on that network. It’s time to break up the communication monopolies.

    • Dick
      August 24, 2017 at 10:53 am

      “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences”

      This is double think. Ironically this stance is supported by the very people who fancied themselves over picking up Orwell’s “1984” in reaction to Trump’s presidency. Fuck this.

      • crowbar
        August 24, 2017 at 4:14 pm

        Progressives use 1984 as a manual, not a warning.

  8. August 24, 2017 at 9:27 am

    If you need your dose of Daily Stormer, looks like it is back online:

    https://punishedstormer.com/

    and the link to the tor version is here:

    https://gab.ai/AndrewAnglin

    Never thought a cat and mouse game between corrupt tech companies and corrupt nazi’s could be so entertaining…

    I want to see it get taken down 50 more times, haha!

    • July 23, 2018 at 12:51 am

      You mean neofascist
      No such thing as NAZI in modern times
      The party and movement is no more
      It hasn’t been since 1950
      Such a party doesn’t exist in the US or anywhere else in the world.

  9. August 24, 2017 at 9:31 am

    yo tough guy, my comment is “awaiting moderation!”

    WTF!

    two links in one reply causes that to occur.

  10. August 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm

  11. July 23, 2018 at 12:48 am

    The internet is privately owned and operated.
    Property owners have the right to restrict, even censor internet content.
    If you don’t like it start your own ISP.

    Ahh.. the mediocre white man spouting libertarian ideologies. It is always fun to watch slaves fucking themselves over for their owner’s “ideologies”.

  1. February 4, 2019 at 4:45 pm

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