Fred Reed asks some pointed questions about censorship, and how it’s been outsourced from “officialdom” to private companies. Here’s an excerpt.
Governments never like freedom of expression. In America, though, there was the First Amendment to which ritual obeisance need be paid. How to prevent expression of Bad Thought? The answer was to have private entities not subject to the Bill of Rights do the throttling of unwanted ideas: again Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest. These censor people, movements, and ideas that the coastal elites and federal government do not like.
While outrage at the burgeoning, targeted censorship is understandable, the complementary question is seldom asked: How much and what censorship is desirable? What would you, the reader, censor if you had the power?
Should kid porn be permitted? Almost kid porn? How almost? Pornhub? Do we want children of ten watching a German Shepherd copulating with a bound-and-gagged young woman? Angry videos calling for race war? Calculated misinformation crafted not to transgress libel laws? Libel hosted outside of American jurisdiction? Viral conspiracy theories?
. . .
Censorship is insidious. The first generation notices the absence of certain information and is annoyed. The second generation never learns that the ideas existed. The other day I looked for some of the clearly lunatic postings about the vaccines. I had seen these on large libertarian sites. They were gone. On another occasion I Googled on “Kill whitey” which used to bring up many exhortations from the Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, and others. Now, gone. Was this latter justified as calming racial tensions? Or was it hiding from the public the nature and current political state of the country?
Finally advancing technology has gutted the Constitution. The amendments protecting privacy say nothing about cloud storage, documents in electronic form, surveillance of web searches, or telephone conversations. It is unlikely that the Supreme Court or Congress will take a position in line with the intent of the Constitution and forbid such surveillance, and in any event snooping is so easy that law enforcement would not stop quietly using it. In China email is censored in real time. In America? I don’t know. Would you dare use the N-word in email, even just to see what would happen? Does Gmail filter for this? It easily could, and we have seen many examples of people being fired for something they wrote years ago.
There’s more at the link.
We all know the horror stories about Facebook and Twitter censoring posts, banning users for varying periods, adding suggestions for alternative viewpoints, and so on. We’ve also seen how Google and other search engines actively de-emphasize non-politically-correct search results while prioritizing those that hew to the “approved” line. There have even been reports that Amazon has blocked the publication of certain books due to their controversial content, although I’m not sure how often that’s happened or how widespread the problem (if it exists) may be.
Nevertheless, we’re living and writing in a society that’s getting more and more used to censorship, and more and more ready to accept that there are “arbiters” of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. There are fewer and fewer people willing to stand up for pure, unadulterated free speech. How can we, as writers, defend that principle, both in person and in our work? What can we do to “put our fingers in the dike” to keep out the flood of political correctness that threatens to overwhelm free speech?
I’d like to hear from you. What can you do? What are you doing? Let’s help each other.