Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Twitter: #FreeSpeech or #EthicalCleansing?

"There has been a storm of somewhat overblown hysteria about the US and UK authorities secretly spying on citizens’ private emails and postings on social-media websites.

Yet there is far less debate about a much more open attempt to police free speech online in the UK, through the public pursuit, arrest and prosecution of those deemed to have said something offensive or outrageous on Twitter or Facebook."

The latest bizarre episode in this campaign of ‘ethical cleansing’ on the web occurred at the end of last week, when a 21-year-old London student was sentenced to 250 hours of community service as punishment for a 16-word tweet, having been found guilty of sending a malicious electronic message at an earlier hearing.

Cases such as this demonstrate how the creeping culture of You Can’t Say That is now spreading across the supposedly free fringes of the internet. As other incidents listed below show, it can now be deemed a crime to post accusations, insults or just ‘naughty’ words that tweeters, the police and the courts consider ‘inappropriate’, ‘offensive’ or ‘insensitive’. And we thought that Thought Crime belonged in the realm of fiction.

There is a pressing need to defend freedom of expression across the media and the web, with no buts. True tolerance does not mean endorsing anything that is said. But it does mean accepting that there are more important principles at stake than public sensitivities. Nobody has to be a model of piety or a cracker of family-friendly gags in order to enjoy freedom of expression.

There is now so much crud and crap to take exception to online. We should all be free to read it, rubbish it, ridicule it – or, often the most sensible response, to ignore it entirely on the basis that life, both real and virtual, is too short to bother. There are far more important things to worry and argue about.



Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a Constitutional right to be sensitive. Well, not yet anyway.

"Political correctness if a far greater threat to our freedom and liberty than is terrorism..." -- Spider

Anonymous said...

With the first link, a chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied --chains us all irrevocably.

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
- Robert Heinlein