The privatization of censorship

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.

14 comments

  1. We are also living in a society that hears something is being removed and actively goes looking for it to see what the fuss is about.

  2. I would prefer to go the other way-require everything to have mandatory tagging, and you had to set your personal parameters. Distribution isn’t restricted, only what you see at the end.

    So, while making kiddy porn is illegal and collecting it is illegal, distributing it-as long as it has the proper tags on it-should be no more of a misdemeanor than sending unwanted spam mail to your PO box. And, of course, removing the kiddy porn filter should include all sorts of warnings…

    1. a) technocratic scheme
      b) okay, it is sane compared to some technocratic schemes
      c) Technology seems like it would be complicated to implement
      d) I don’t trust other people in American society anywhere near enough to want to share such a technology with them.

      1. Which is why it’s in the “it’d be nice to have, but I don’t see it happening any time in my lifetime (i.e. less than 50 years)” pile of things that would be nice to see but probably won’t happen.

    2. THIS.

      This is honestly the only reasonable solution. And we are probably a lot closer to this than you might realise.

      Blockchain and distributed tech already does this to a certain extent — you can store *anything* on a blockchain, but you subscribe to a filtered view to clear out the trash.

      Odysee/Rumble uses a protocol that allows users to ‘agree’ on whether the slug (http://website/your-video-slug-here) is appropriate for the content, and has a system to ask ‘do users have a stake in distributing this information’ which could be used as well.

      Minds.com also has user-based ‘juries’ where you can get paid in Minds tokens to participate in adjudicating cases that potentially violate the rules.

      Put some of those ideas together and it’s not a huge leap. Tags can be MUCH easier to agree on & define strict interpretations for, and for edge cases you can use a jury of your peers (basically people can vote on whether a tag is appropriate or not).

  3. I think that which concerns me most might be the attempt to exclude certain kinds of speech from litigation.

    If one was purely concerned about an excess of irresponsible lawyering, one would also mention Ben Crump and Marilyn Mosby. Because those two are no more responsible than those lawyers who assured us that their lawsuits would result in our grievances being addressed. That one picks only the allegedly unfounded statements of political opponents, instead of opponents, neutrals, and allies, shows that one is partisanly, not professionally, motivated.

    If conservatives want a legal system that represents them fairly, they can make their own.

    I have seriously investigated that avenue of remedy. Okay, my results are an absolutely terrible plan, but I have made an attempt.

  4. Censorship is one of two places where my libertarian “let it all be free/ harm none, do as thou wilt” collides with “kids shouldn’t be exposed to THAT.” I oppose censoring ideas and books, and speech in general—direct incitement to riot or murder being an exception. What to do about it? Ah, that’s where I have to say, “I don’t know.” Vote with your dollars, find ways around the censorship, complain and protest, preserve hard copies if possible . . . None of which really help when The Powers That Be (of any kind) hide the data so that you don’t even know it existed to begin with.

    1. I have the same issue. But I’d say that parents are responsible for what their kids see. Yes, kids see stuff because other parents don’t control, but then you get those discussion opportunities with your kids. But, yeah. That sort of censoring should be between parents and kids.

  5. I’d argue that making the possession of kiddie port illegal isn’t censoring. To get kiddie porn, one must exploit and abuse children. That right there is criminal behavior. Therefore by creating, collecting, distributing, and watching kiddie porn you are contributing to criminal activity.

    As for me? I’m writing as much as I can about “forbidden” topics where and when I can. I will be increasing my writing.

    1. I’m with beckyj47 about the children. And any other rape. But if I had a facebook it would be pg13 because that’s how I roll. But if someone wants to run p**nhub, good luck with that.

  6. A) The USA is a country where putting up a sign that says “F- Joe Biden!” is a crime, because F- word. Maybe start start looking for the problem there.

    B) Privatizing censorship -seems- like what’s happening, but IMHO this is more the European Fascist model where Big Government tells Big Business and Big Media what to do, and they go do it. Technically separate, de-facto a monolithic structure.

    What to do about it? Well, it took ~10 years and WWII to sink the Third Reich, but this time -we- are the Third Reich. It took 80 years and several wars to destroy the Soviet Union, the one that hurt them the worst was Afghanistan.

    We just finished doing the same thing they did in Afghanistan (I’m including Canaduh here), and FDR’s New Deal was about ~80 years ago, so we’re about on timeline to come apart just like the Soviet Union. It’ll be a race to see if Pax Americana falls apart before the PRC.

    What am -I- doing about it? All I can do is boycott their media and internet outlets, which I do. No cable TV, no radio, no newspapers, and no dead-tree books. I restrict my web surfing to sites I have previously found reliable, but I remain vigilant that they don’t go the way of Little Green Footballs, Andrew Sullivan or Drudge Report.

    In this way I can at least keep track of who’s lying the loudest this week, and keep their depressing shit out of my mental space to a certain extent.

    But those are all passive things. Active, the only avenue of attack I have open to me is my fiction. I refuse to write everyone is horrible, everybody does it grey goo. In my books, everybody DOES NOT do it. The ones who are bad get their asses handed to them. Nobody dies, nobody gets tortured, no disgusting lust triangles, no mangled children, drowned kittens or any of the rest of the panoply of socialist horseshit we see all around us every day.

    F- ’em. I’m not playing.

    By the way, I figured out how Valkyries attack an armored hotel. One word, my friends: Spectre. And two more words of reminder for all you military nerds on how to get off a too-short runway: Fat Albert.

    This is much more fun than grey goo.

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