The fine line between protest and violence has been repeatedly crossed these past days. Despite the hostility, few of those who feel legitimately threatened seem to be pressuring the government — or even private organizations — to monitor the Internet for “hate” or threatening speech.
On the other hand, many electors feeling left out of the process due to their candidate’s loss have used the Internet to urge others to pay attention to a surge in attacks against minorities in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential win, despite the fact several instances of “Trump inspired” aggression or vandalism have mostly turned out to be fabricated.
But in contemporary times, these discrepancies matter as much as President Barack Obama’s record-breaking war on the Muslim world.
As social media companies are pressured to “do something,” Facebook and Twitter launch a war against “fake news” and offensive content. And while in America, this campaign has just begun to scare social media users, in Germany, companies like Facebook might soon be held criminally liable for “hate speech” that isn’t purged from its pages.
But Facebook is just one company. And while its service is important and often considered essential to users who feel more connected to their loved ones due to the opportunity for nearly constant interaction the social media site offers, it isn’t responsible for what people see.
Like Twitter, Facebook is a private organization. It should be allowed to set its own standards and user rules. But policing what people are discussing openly in its pages is not necessarily an easy task, nor is it productive. Censorship, after all, has bad and sometimes even hilarious consequences. But what censorship also does is to protect individuals from ideas they do not often consider on their own, entrusting society with the task of watching out for the individual while removing personal responsibility from the picture.
In a world in which censorship is its official doctrine, the man in the bubble is now each and every one of us. Living in a magical environment where words can make us bleed and violent acts seem reasonable by comparison. Unfortunately, this may help to explain much of the apathy the public now seems to embrace when discussing Obama’s extrajudicial killings.
As Germany officials urge the government to classify companies like Facebook as media property, forcing them to be held criminally liable if “hate speech” isn’t removed in full from its pages, critics begin to surface, giving the American public their reasons to keep this dangerous policy at bay.
On Tech Dirt, an article tacking Germany’s recent steps to up its anti-hate speech campaign makes the case for personal responsibility. “[I]f you have to have” hate speech laws, the publication contends, “at least hold the proper party responsible: those doing the speaking.”
Following a recent purge of “alt-right” accounts on Twitter, Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie warned that Twitter’s shutdown of accounts deemed offensive would simply “cede … magical powers to the stupidity of the alt right.” Instead of blocking them, Gillespie contended, “[l]et them say what they want to say in public and be rebuffed or be ignored.” But regardless of what critics contend, it’s in the hands of the companies what rules they embrace. But once governments get involved, the consequences become much more harmful.
In places like Germany, the incredibly tough set of hate speech and blasphemy laws has been used repeatedly to stifle the debate. But in America, the hate speech fever has begun to spread like wild fire. And as we see cases of U.S. legislators pushing laws that defend the collective from the individual, we also see the erosion of freedom happening at an alarming rate.
It’s time to say no to government-backed speech protections and restrictions. Instead, let’s allow those around us to choose for themselves what they consider offensive and hurtful so they may act on it on their own. After all, blocking individuals who you do not wish to follow is more cost-effective than employing an army of bureaucrats to enforce a law that pushes haters and true aggressors underground.