Free Speech & its Censorship
I’ve become increasingly worried about the censorship of free speech online and more broadly this year. I worry that we seem to be seeing ever more censorship enacted by not just major platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube, but also society, our institutions, and media generally, and often done inconsistently, hypocritically, and for purely subjective and ideological reasons. It is at times a form of fascism.
I’ve thought for years that we need user-friendly decentralised uncensorable alternatives to the current platforms in the future, at the very least as a buffer, but this is the first time I’ve thought we need these options right now.
Swarm on ethereum and IPFS both have basic projects to try and begin building alternatives like this - check out Tweether for example - but these won’t be ready for a while, and Synero has been around promoting this space for a year or two as well. Even Wikileaks recently announced a desire to launch a similar network.
I never post on Twitter, really just auto-share the Sunday SciTech posts, but the other day I posted a quick “reply” post for the first time in many years, to a user who was inquiring about decentralised alternative social platforms, and simply informed them about some of the alternatives above. Twitter deleted my reply about alternatives to Twitter; I’m sure there was a simple, innocent reason for this ;)
One of the main common themes running through this phenomenon seems to be that feelings, and ideology, are given more weight and more importance than facts, evidence, and reality, and in a sense entail actively denying uncomfortable truths. It is almost like George Orwell’s 1984 is coming to life but it isn’t the State censoring and silencing us, it is ourselves, our broader society trying to censor and silence each other, influencing corporates to do the same, and leading to an amazing rise in groupthink and doublethink - a paradox in the egalitarian Information Age if it weren’t for the filter bubbles and echo-chambers our beloved InterWebs also empowers.
Of course this is just the west; in China and Iran and other places state based censorship is a whole different and very worrying problem that needs addressing.
Some good, recent commentary on these themes that came my way in the last two weeks include:Welcome on Stasibook!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUmN80JB8cA
, looking at the case in Germany with Facebook actively supporting the German government in censoring free speech, including raiding people’s houses for posting ramblings online and on Facebook. The draconian use of poorly-crafted hate speech laws, the rampant double standards of punishing different groups of people differently when they commit the same crimes. In the height of irony Facebook actually hired a former Stasi
officer to report posts to the government . . . which simply beggars belief. AllSpeechMatters: We’re In Trouble Herehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcXQpYKPl_s
, looking at YouTube censorship of videos that may cause offense or hurt people’s feelings or criticise religion and social movements, and stemming from other very loose hate speech policies, and yet applied haphazardly to remove some content while leaving very similar content untouched. The potential start of a very slippery slope that risks later being used to censor the speech of those same people who used it to censor their perceived dissenting opinions of the time. A call to speak out, be more opinionated, and put your beliefs and ideas out there, not only online but in the real world. Milo Yiannopoulos, Twitter, and Freedom of Speechhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiuKREqBFsg
, Gad Saad discusses his take on free speech, defending the rights of holocaust deniers to speak, and the efforts of academics to silence him personally by declaring some questions shouldn’t be asked. Stating that this is the first and most inalienable right people have, and the importance to a free and prosperous society of having and engaging in an open marketplace of ideas.