(   )
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                           (  (                  /\
                            (_)                 /  \  /\
                    ________[_]________      /\/    \/  \
           /\      /\        ______    \    /   /\/\  /\/\
          /  \    //_\       \    /\    \  /\/\/    \/    \
   /\    / /\/\  //___\       \__/  \    \/
  /  \  /\/    \//_____\       \ |[]|     \
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/      \      /XXXXXXXXXX\                  \
        \    /_I_II  I__I_\__________________\
               I_I|  I__I_____[]_|_[]_____I
               I_II  I__I_____[]_|_[]_____I
               I II__I  I     XXXXXXX     I
            ~~~~~"   "~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sat, 26 Aug 2017

Free Speech

There is some good commentary on free speech and protest rights lately in the gopher-verse [0][1][2][3][4][5]. I thought I'd add some comments on the matter.

While I broadly support the right of a private company to refuse to host hate speech, I would be careful. In some cases, these companies are so large, there are few alternatives. At what point does such a company become an essential public service? Cloudflare handles 10% of global internet traffic, and they recently terminated the Daily Stormer's account. The Cloudflare CEO was conflicted about the decision and raised some good points in a blog post [6].

My first reaction to the white supremacists being chased into an online corner and forced to use TOR was 'good riddance', but then I started to think about these groups becoming more public and what effect that might have - I think the old maxim 'sunlight is a good disinfectant' can apply here, especially in today's age of Twitter and rapid-fire news propagation. In my opinion, in the US, overt racism and hatred for minority groups has been largely underground, hidden from view for those who don't go looking for it. Now it is bubbling to the surface of the public and mainstream media's consciousness.

The overwhelming counter-protest in Boston recently is a good example of what a little 'sunlight' can accomplish. Online at least, the Boston white supremacists may have felt part of a very large movement, but in real life, they found the opposite. I would be interested to see how many of the Boston racists begin to rethink their views after being overwhelmingly outnumbered. Cynical me thinks some of them will feel victimized, and dig in deeper. Still, the community made a stand in Boston. Free speech works both ways.

I would also be leery of censoring speech based on moral arguments. The 1st amendment doesn't find utility in protecting popular, mainstream views. It protects marginalized, distasteful sometimes abhorrent views. And while it is not absolute, it does protect even those who advocate violence. The bar is set fairly high, the speech has to incite imminent violence to be constitutionally restricted, mere advocacy is not enough [7]. This seems like a sensible test to me.

posted at: 08:36 | path: / | permalink | 1st-ammendment, free-speech, usa