According to a number of tech industry insiders/organizations, the latest move by internet giants like Google, PayPal, Cloudflare, GoDaddy or Spotify has been regarded as a threat to freedom of expression online. Just as a quick reminder, a number of tech companies worked together for blocking a neo Nazi website (Daily Stormer) along with banning/blocking so-called “white supremacists” on their platforms, thus creating a very troubling precedent.
Cloudflare’s CEO effectively banned Daily Stormer from appearing on the world wide web and himself admitted that what he did was morally wrong. Here’s from an interview with Matthew Prince, Cloudflare’s founder and chief executive officer:
“As [an] internet user, I think it’s pretty dangerous if my moral, political or economic whims play some role in deciding who can and cannot be online
“Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.”
Other companies like GoFundMe Inc., Facebook and Twitter removed so-called white supremacist content from their media platforms, despite their claim to be neutral and enforcing free speech. Spotify started removing white nationalist bands from its platform on Thursday, claiming the respective bands were breaking the terms of service, i.e.:
“Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,”
Spotify’s statement that “Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,” is laughable. Does Spotify even listen to the Gangsta Rap portfolio available on Spotify? It should; or maybe rape, murder and assault are not considered violence by Spotify if not done by white males?
Hasn’t Google amassed every book written since the beginning of time? Looks like they’re going to start burning them. Perhaps it’s time to regulate these internet services as public utilities. Moreover, that’s why free speech has to be absolute. You start making exceptions and then get more and more invasive over time. It becomes a mob rule situation.
Finally, following simple logic, is there a difference between a bakery refusing a wedding cake to a gay couple and a tech company refusing to host a website for a group they don’t like? Just like liberty of association, free speech is a constitutionally protected right. Or at least it used to be.
Free speech is not just about the government, it’s the foundation of a free society. Just because corporate censorship of the public space may be legal, doesn’t make it beneficial or right. I certainly don’t want corporate executives and their bureaucrats to determine what I can see or read any more than I want government censors to. Fascism isn’t about the government, it’s about a way of thinking. Censorship is fascism, whoever practices it.