Friday, August 18, 2017

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sounds a warning


The widely-respected Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-partisan group fighting online censorship and working for freedom of expression on the Internet, has sounded a warning over the actions of several Internet companies following the Charlottesville clash last weekend.

In the wake of Charlottesville, both GoDaddy and Google have refused to manage the domain registration for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism.” Subsequently Cloudflare, whose service was used to protect the site from denial-of-service attacks, has also dropped them as a customer, with a telling quote from Cloudflare’s CEO: “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”

We agree. Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today’s protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP’s voice was the one attacked.

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.

. . .

It might seem unlikely now that Internet companies would turn against sites supporting racial justice or other controversial issues. But if there is a single reason why so many individuals and companies are acting together now to unite against neo-Nazis, it is because a future that seemed unlikely a few years ago—that white nationalists and Nazis now have significant power and influence in our society—now seems possible. We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love.

Part of the work for all of us now is to push back against such dangerous decisions with our own voices and actions. Another part of our work must be to seek to shore up the weakest parts of the Internet’s infrastructure so it cannot be easily toppled if matters take a turn for the (even) worse. These actions are not in opposition; they are to the same ends.

We can—and we must—do both.

There's more at the link.  Worthwhile reading.

That's the problem, right there.  These companies have taken it upon themselves to act as society's conscience, whether or not all of society agrees with their interpretation of that conscience.  That's the camel's nose, right there.  If we allow them to get away with silencing what they consider to be extreme right-wing voices now, what's to stop anyone redefining what constitutes an 'extreme right-wing voice' in the future, and banning it in the same way?  What's next?
  • Opposition to abortion?
  • Opposition to the admission, much less the legalization, of illegal aliens in the USA?
  • Opposition to excessive entitlement programs?
The progressive wing of US politics would regard all of those positions as 'extreme right-wing';  yet between one-third and two-thirds of Americans (including yours truly) hold one or more of them.

If these Internet companies are allowed to get away with this position today, we're going to face worse problems in the future.  It's as simple as that.  We cannot afford to endanger the freedom of speech, whether by government fiat or commercial diktat, because without it, we lack the freedom of choice that democracy is supposed to provide.

Peter

7 comments:

0007 said...

Interesting that when I try to access the SBPDL site - a blogspot place that mostly features the reality of cities and places run by African-Americans, I'm now told that I have to sign in or register on goocrap to access the site. Hope Paul catches on and moves the place - assuming he can find a server that isn't in the tank.
Oh yeah, this doesn't seem to happen on other site that use BlogSpot - YET. And suddenly when I type "blogspot", BlogSpot itself automatically capitalizes itself. Looks a to me as if the sjw elites are on the move.
You're probably on their list, Peter.

Man of the Atom said...

While not easy, many of these problems are not hard.

ICANN: we can build our own domain resolver suite in the US. The reason there is currently 1 is so they don't conflict on IP addresses if occasionally out of sync. Who cares if syncing is an issue? We are now at war. And the UN ICANN would likely die on the vine once the news of a US resolver got out.

Domain Registration Services: You can see that is considered and in the works. To hell with GoDaddy, Goolag, and anyone else who wants to play at Social Justice.

DDoS Protection: Also coming -- relatively low bar to entry and relatively easy to scale up.

Funding is an issue, but once that nut is cracked, there are thousands of unemployed American coders and software engineers. Manpower and skills won't be a long pole in the tent.

Mike said...

Actually, I come down on the other side on this debate, because these are private companies, not government entities. I think GoDaddy and Cloudflare have just as much right to exercise their freedom of (non)association as the bakers, pizza places, etc. that have been attacked by the SJWs for not wanting to provide their services to people they disagreed with.

Freedom of speech is protected against government intrusion, but not commercial intrusion. They can choose who they want to work with.

Ray said...

The private companies that do web hosting, cloud protection, domain registrars, payment, funding are basically utilities, and unfortunately are now going to be regulated as such.

Has a utility company for water, electricity, etc. refused to service?

They are going after Breitbart.

And Google Store just banned Gab. And Apple store never let it in.

B said...

2 points:

These are private service entities, there fore they DON'T have to provide services to anyone. (Just like the Gay Bakery issue and such. You can't have it both ways here. I agree with Mike above.

And if you feel so strongly about this, then WHY are you using anything Google? Like this blogging service, ferinstance. And Gmail. And all the other services.

Why haven't you taken this blog to another server? A private domain? Why feed the Beast?
Go Daddy is a hosting service and and a Domain Name registrar. There are other services that can, and will, do the same service(s), for similar money. Or, you can do it yourself, if you care to set up the hardware and do the paperwork. They aren't actual, you know, utilities that have a monopoly...so that argument is invalid on it's face.

This is capitalism at work. And First Amendment Capitalism at that. If your product or website is bad enough, No-One will want to host it. Other communities call it Shunning.


Anonymous said...

I realise I'm getting to this late, but I wonder if those who want to restrict "hate speech" (& anything else the right or alt-right says that they disagree with) might remember a rather old message from The Simpsons.

IIRC it was the episode where Bart & Lisa managed to get "Itchy & Scratchy" taken off the air ("The Day the Violence Died" I believe), & it was replaced with an "educational" cartoon about a Constitutional Amendment to let the right restrict the "Free Speech" of the Left (specifically removing protections for "Flag Burning" & "allowing police to beat 'em", "'cos there's limits to our liberties, or at least I hope there are, because those liberal freaks go to far"....).

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech does not mean that I have to listen to what anybody has to say, nor that anybody (or company) has to facilitate its publication.

If the neo-nazis want to publish their stuff, and they can't find anybody to do it for them, they will have to do it themselves.

I believe that they have to right to say and publish whatever they like, and I would not make laws or regulations to stop them, but it is equally unreasonable to force anybody (except, of course, public organisations or institutions which have facilitating free speech as part of their reason for existing - in which case they should not be able to refuse) to publish or assist in the publication.

Stephen