Censorship is a slippery slope and never ends well
Who decides what is good and what is bad?
When it comes to social media content the Canadian government is about to make itself an arbiter of just what is acceptable. Or rather it’s going to demand Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others police content and remove that which “is used to used to threaten, intimidate, bully and harass people, or used to promote racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and homophobic views that target communities, put people’s safety at risk and undermine Canada’s social cohesion or democracy.”
It sounds laudable, I suppose, if you want to deny any kind of Internet platform to hate groups. But who defines hate?
Then you start to wonder, why? Why is this necessary? Why does the government need to pass legislation to regulate something that isn’t a problem.
Sure, there is some alarming content posted online but for the most part Facebook and Twitter are fairly quick to delete it and block the posters once they get a complaint, sometimes in a heavy handed way, deleting posts which their automated processes have misinterpreted.
As such, the issue is already fraught with difficulty. Censorship – which is what we’re talking about here – is a slippery slope and it never ends well.
It’s a powerful tool in the wrong hands to silence criticism and remove opposition. We’ve already seen how Cancel Culture has been used by political factions to shout down those whose views don’t conform to the demanded narrative. It’s form of censorship and is abhorrent to anyone who treasures a free and democratic society.
My friend Lorrie Goldstein’s column on this hits the nail squarely:
“Given that we already have criminal and civil laws to deal with these issues, it appears what the Liberals really want to target is speech they think “undermines Canada’s long-standing commitment to diversity.
Can you imagine a world where social media companies would have 24 hours to take down “illegal” postings that allegedly undermine the Liberals’ definition of “diversity” or face “significant financial penalties,” if not criminal prosecution, to say nothing of what happens to the person posting the “illegal” tweets or other comments?
That is, speech that offends Liberals.”
As Lorrie points out there is already an abundance of existing legislation in place to attack hate speech, not to mention civil remedies such as libel which have been used successfully. He also notes the Supreme Court of Canada has broadened the legal defense of fair comment.
I’d add this also flies in the face of traditional communications law which was established to release telephone companies from liability in the case of harassing calls. You can’t for example, sue the phone provider because you keep getting calls from air duct cleaning services or the Visa fraud department of if your ex boyfriend keeps calling to beg you to take him back. There are other more appropriate ways to deal with that.
Similarly, there is the concept of Net Neutrality though it’s arguable it applies to the Internet itself that the providers of that acess, not platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.
The context of this proposed legislation, the details of which we have yet to see, is also curious given the recent banning of outgoing United States President Donald Trump. For months Twitter was slapping warnings on his Tweets and then finally it booted him off the platform, along with hundreds of thousands of other accounts.
It’s a private company and Twitter is not a public platform. It’s a private platform which the public has access to if they follow the rules. Same as going to a bar. You can sit and drink and have fun but if you start a fight you’re going to get bounced.
The issue with Twitter and Facebook’s policing of content isn’t that they don’t remove content, its that they often remove innocuous content for the wrong reasons. And that’s the issue with censorship.
Twitter and Facebook famously blocked the New York Post’s stories about Hunter Biden’s alleged influence peddling and other media ignored it, saying it was a plant or that they’d look at it after the election. Whether or not the story or parts of the story were true is immaterial. The fact is people made conscious decisions to censor the information instead of letting the story circulate and then die a natural death. And that’s censorship.
For example, videos or links to papers about climate change have often been targeted and shut down. Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans was removed from You Tube because of a minor copyright issue. It was a ploy by Climate Alarmists who really wanted it removed because it contradicted their narrative.
Other videos about climate change have also been targeted and blocked. There’s an awful lot of debate about the subject but there are some who declare the debate is over and that the science is settled.
It isn’t. Clearly there are many scientists and researchers who say while the climate is changing, it has always changed and while man may be responsible for some of that change, there’s no clear way to quantify it.
Finally, many say the immediate prescriptive measures demanded – stopping fossil fuel consumption, ending meat farming, grounding air travel, switching to other forms of electricity sources – aren’t going to have that much impact on the climate and that there are other more effective environmental measures we could take now such as cleaning up ocean plastics and ensuring clean water and sanitation for communities.
Many people don’t want to have that discussion. It’s their way or revolution, they want you to act as if “your house is on fire” because the world will end in 10 years. Or is it 20? Or was it supposed to end already. I’ve been hearing dire predictions since I was a lad in school and back then it was the new Ice Age we were told to fear.
When Twitter de-platformed Donald Trump and thousands of others, it did so for political reasons more than anything. Twitter boss Jack Dorsey defended the decision but said it raises uncomfortable questions:
“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us….And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she found the ban “problematic” while Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said: “I don’t like anyone being censored.”
Polish lawmakers are going the other way, introducing legislation to make it illegal to censor views on social media: “Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are right and which are not,” wrote the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, on Facebook earlier this week, without directly mentioning Trump. “There can be no consent to censorship.”
Yet incoming President Joe Biden says he will remove the law which protect social media platforms from liability of users’ posts, essentially removing a protection that goes back to the telephone.
The questions remain, however. What is good and what is bad? Clearly calling for the genocide of a race or culture of people is hate speech and few would disagree that it is unacceptable. There are laws in place, though, so we’re really talking about those uncomfortable shades of grey, those, I disagree with you but I defend until death your right to say it moments.
Or are we? Some factions, notably the Totalitarian Left would silence any narrative which doesn’t conform to their truth.
Some have gone further, blocking production and delivery of newspapers because they deemed their climate change coverage insufficiently alarmist. Others have rioted in Portland’s streets, setting fires, attacking building and people, injuring police officers, smashing windows of businesses and intimidating home owners in suburban areas to underline their demands for a police-free world and the dismantling of capitalism.
It is somewhat amusing in a bizarre world way that the storming of the Capitol in Washington elicited so much outrage and response yet the eight months of violence in cities across America was ignored, especially by the mainstream media who called the protests “mostly peaceful” while fires raged in the background on the screen.
What then is good and bad? Who discerns that? A government bureaucrat? How will these decisions be made, by committee? A trial? Is there an appeal process? Or is it a matter of, I don’t know much about free speech but I know what I find offensive. So it’s subjective?
Will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau censor those trying to find out where billion in tax payers’ money has been wasted? Or just those who call him a liar, fraud and incompetent?
The surge to censorship has also snared some old media in Canada.
The Epoch Times may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the free distribution newspaper claims to be the largest newspaper in the world. We won’t delve into that boast but we will note that it’s also the one newspaper, run from Canada by a group of exiled Chinese ex-patriates whose distain for the Chinese Communist Party knows no limits.
Curiously, they’ve attracted a lot of hate from people who mistakenly think they are a house organ of the CCP and from others on the left who are outraged because it leans right and they say it publishes false news.
I’ve read a few editions but I can’t say anything jumped out at me as patently false. They do a good job reporting China’s progress on trying to take over the world, better than most Mainstream Media I would say. Their politics are no further to the right than the Toronto Sun or National Post and they’re not screaming for someone to be censored or cancelled every second page.
Also, one of my favourite writers, Bruce Pardy, a law professor at Queen’s University writes for them so they can’t be all bad, though you have to sign up for premium content to access his columns. He also writes in the National Post, btw.
That’s not good enough, however, for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers which is agitating for its employer to stop distributing it on the grounds that it is racist, homophobic and spreads conspiracy theories.
Perhaps CUPW might table examples of these claims and demand the Epoch Times be shut down on legal grounds under existing laws? They won’t of course, because they alone have decided, mostly based on hearsay without reading it. Such is the nature of Cancel Culture and Social Censorship.
Finally, there’s a journalist named Andy Ngo whose mere mention of his name attracts a barrage of seething anger. He’s someone the Totalitarian Left and even others more moderate would love to cancel, permanently, as in six feet under. They’ve made death threats to that effect.
He’s gay but that doesn’t cut any slack with them because he doesn’t bow to the approved narrative. Just like conservative Blacks Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell refuse to bow to the corresponding narrative from the Black left that all biPOC are victims of historical and ongoing racism.
Ngo has a new book coming out and already the ANTIFA activists, the foot soldiers of the Totalitarian Left, are attacking stores planning to carry it forcing one, Powell’s to say it would not have in on shelves but would offer it online.
Here’s the thing. Not one of the so called journalists or critics or haters has read the book because it’s not available for three more weeks..
Think about it.
You can buy it here and read it for yourself, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy. I think I will order it just because any time one group I don’t like wants to censor something, it’s a good reason to support the target of their ire. You can decide for yourself. It’s already Number 1 on Amazon before it’s Feb. 2 publication date. What was that about Banned in Boston? Of course, it’s Number 1 until the Wokeists threaten Amazon with enough violence to force them to remove it.
So get it while it’s hot.
For the Totalitarian Left, Antifa, Trudeau, Climate Alarmists, CUPW and so many others Cancel Cultist it’s all about: “We decide what is offensive and must be gagged.”
You see, by eliminating contrarian views you control the story and if you control the narrative, you control the outcome.
As William Shakespeare wrote: There’s nothing good nor bad, ’tis only thinking makes it so.