In case any of our younger votes are looking wistfully toward Europe as a model for how we should do things here in America there is yet another reminder coming out of France regarding the basic rights you take for granted. Do you enjoy participating in the public debate on policy and the upcoming election? Do you make your views known on social media? If you were doing that in France you just might be running afoul of the law. And the social media outlets you rely on could be shutting down your free speech in order to avoid being charged by the government, which is what may be happening next across the pond. (India Times)
Three French anti-racism associations said on Sunday they would file legal complaints against social networks Facebook, Twitter and Google’s Youtube for failing to remove “hateful” content posted on their platforms.
French law requires websites to take down racist, homophobic or anti-semitic material and tell authorities about it.
But French Jewish students union UEJF and anti-racism and anti-homophobia campaigners SOS Racisme and SOS Homophobie said the three firms had removed only a fraction of 586 examples of hateful content the anti-racism groups had counted on their platforms between the end of March and May 10.
I know it can be tempting to think, of course we don’t want hate speech on Twitter and Facebook! I know, right? Who does? But do you really want to turn over the definition of “hate speech” to the government? Or, in this case, you might be handing the reins to some third party group which can influence the decisions of the government and they may not see things the same way as you. If you’re a liberal who sympathizes with the Palestinians and disapproves of various policies enacted by the Israeli government, what would it take to cross the line into anti-semitic material? That one question alone should give you pause.
And if you’re a conservative all bets are off. I would imagine that virtually every article I’ve written about transgender bathroom issues would qualify as “homophobia” in France, so my Twitter account would probably already be shut down and I might be on my way into court. (Twitter has already shut down 4% of accounts receiving complaints in France and let’s remember that anyone can complain. This is the internet, after all.)
We do things a bit differently here in America. In fact, we go out of our way to defend the rights of people who say “hateful” things we disagree with, up to an including some really ugly material from the fringes of society. You, in turn, are free to rail back at them and call out their nasty opinions. But you can’t demand that the government shut them down or lock them up. If you do, you might be the one they’re coming for next. Just keep that in mind as you read these stories of censorship in Europe and across various socialist and communist nations.
Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.