First Amendment

Free Speech and High Tech Censorship Reach Crossroads

In the wake of this week’s violent clashes between the radical left and pretty much everyone, free speech advocates have a dire warning for Silicon Valley.

The First Amendment is an extremely poignant and beautiful piece of the American experience.  Without this most sacred of right, the United States would be no better than any other nation on earth, and our ideals of liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be simply impossible.  This freedom is so viscerally vital to the continued supremacy of our nation that we have brave men and women signing up to risk their own lives in order to protect it.

Americans now are grappling with exactly where the First Amendment and hate speech collide, and what legal recourse should anyone have to limit the opinions of others.

After the Battle of Charlottesville last weekend, one concern became incredibly clear:  So-called “antifa” protesters are willing to resort to heinous violence in order to promote their singular world view.  No, I am not defending neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  I’m simply defending their right to their horribly misguided and unethical opinions.

You see, the difference between those who believe in the power of the First Amendment and those who wish to alter it is the idea of consequences.  Those who understand the true nature of Free Speech realize that you have no right to live your life without being offended.  It’s a tough but true reality of living in a free society.  How you react to that offense is how your character will be judged.

For those on the radical left, “antifa” train, the First Amendment should be…um…amended to exclude speech that could be considered uncouth.  Our nation already has laws on the books about hate speech and inciting violence, but those are not nearly strict enough for the militant liberals of 2017.

Much more worrisome still; much of the tech world is blindly joining the Free Speech fray without any true understanding of the Constitution’s power.

“On Thursday, the nonprofit privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation said tech companies including Cloudflare, GoDaddy Inc. and Google, part of Alphabet Inc.,threatened freedom of expression online by blocking Daily Stormer. The three tech companies pulled support for Daily Stormer after it published a story denigrating Heather Heyer, the 32 year-old woman killed in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. The moves made Daily Stormer’s website inaccessible.

“’Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected,’ the EFF said in a statement. ‘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.’

 “Over the past week, tech companies including Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., and GoFundMe Inc. removed white supremacists from their platforms, overthrowing the image some of the companies convey of being neutral platforms with free-speech principles.

“On Thursday, Spotify said it began removing white-nationalist acts from its music-streaming platform. ‘Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,’ a Spotify spokesman said in an emailed statement. Dating site OkCupid, part of Match Group Inc., said it banned Chris Cantwell, a white supremacist who participated in the Charlottesville riots, within 10 minutes of being alerted that he used the service this week.”

The reality of this sticky situation is that as vile and unethical as some of these opinions are, they are protected by the First Amendment so long as they are not threatening violence or considered “hate speech”.

Without government intervention, it is quite likely that these instances of possibly illegal censorship will take several years to resolve through the American court system, likely leading all the way to the Supreme Court that is so often utilized in issues of Free Speech.

Again, we may not agree at all with what it is that you are saying, but your right to say it is important to each and every American citizen.

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