Social Media Giants Go Down the Slippery Slope of Censorship



The White House wants private tech companies to monitor, censor and automatically report speech on topics related to ISIS and terrorism. The White House held a meeting with tech companies earlier this month to discuss addressing terrorists who use social media. There is a taskforce assigned for this purpose.

The government seems to think tech companies should be detecting terrorists but the danger is they will censor legitimate speech and disagreement.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Twitter’s new policies have two problematic changes because of their vagueness.

(1) a new policy that prohibits individuals from “threatening or promoting terrorism” and (2) a new ban on any speech that threatens other people “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease” or incites harm toward others on the same bases.

It grants Twitter a great deal of discretion to determine what constitutes a terrorist threat or hateful speech, meaning that the policies will likely be applied arbitrarily and potentially discriminate against certain communities. The company also provides no transparency about when and how often it blocks or removes tweets that run afoul of its new policies.

It’s a slippery slope that could erode free speech. Even though these are private companies, it’s precedent setting and it’s being guided by the government.

In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein re-introduced legislation aimed at compelling social media companies to report their users. It has huge First and Fourth Amendment implications.

The government seems to want social media companies to become agents of the government because the government cannot censor directly.

In the EU, there is no free speech. Speech is hate speech even if it’s dissent and it’s not only censored, it has serious implications. The accused can be put on trial, thrown in jail, publicly maligned and fined heavily.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has asked social media CEOs to censor so-called hate speech. Facebook has announced in Berlin the launch of a campaign against extremist speech on the Internet, called Online Civil Courage Initiative (OCCI). The initiative, supported by the German Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, has partnered with a London think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and a German NGO.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that Facebook is no place for the dissemination of xenophobia, hate speech or calls for violence. With this new initiative, we are convinced to better understand and respond to the challenges of extremist speech on the internet,” Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO said.

It is aimed at extremism and hate speech but who gets to define that and when does it cross over into censorship of dissent?

Martin Ott, who is the managing director for social networking in parts of the EU is UNDER INVESTIGATION for not monitoring it well enough! What are they going to do? Throw this man in jail over a bureaucratic error? This is where this type of control ends up.

The social media giants have all agreed to delete hate speech within 24 hours. What is going to get deleted? With threats like criminal prosecutions, they will err on the side of over-caution.

Facebook even outsourced much of the monitoring to a German company according to Der Spiegel as reported by Reuters.

The UN has has already called for global censorship.

Source: Forbes