EARTH FUTURE ACTION
Amidst the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a growing push among U.S. tech companies, politicians and even academics for increased censorship of free speech.
While we don't have an exact opinion on the matter, we are simply trying to highlight the issue of free speech as it applies at this time.
THE ATLANTIC'S ARTICLE PRAISING CHINESE STYLE CENSORSHIP OF DIGITAL INFORMATION
In an article authored by a pair of law professors from Harvard and the University of Arizona, Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods, the Atlantic went as far as to say: "In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong."
Keep in mind that China is a nation where journalists can face 15 years in prison just for criticizing the government.
The argument of this Atlantic article is that control over speech on the internet is inevitable, whether it be by a government or a tech industry.
"Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values."
They went on to call the "public internet" of the last 20 years "backwards."
"The public internet in its first two decades seemed good for open societies and bad for closed ones. But this conventional wisdom turned out to be mostly backwards."
And then stated that adherence to the First and Fourth Amendment made it difficult for the U.S. government to combat Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"Russia used a simple phishing attack and a blunt and relatively limited social-media strategy to disrupt the legitimacy of the 2016 election and wreak still-ongoing havoc on the American political system. The episode showed how easily a foreign adversary could exploit the United States’ deep reliance on relatively unregulated digital networks. It also highlighted how legal limitations grounded in the First Amendment (freedom of speech and press) and the Fourth Amendment (privacy) make it hard for the U.S. government to identify, prevent, and respond to malicious cyber operations from abroad."
They stated that the inevitable censorship of the last ten years has happened in reaction to cyber bullying, harassment, child sexual exploitation and disinformation campaigns.
"Ten years ago, speech on the American Internet was a free-for-all. There was relatively little monitoring and censorship—public or private—of what people posted, said, or did on Facebook, YouTube, and other sites. In part, this was due to the legal immunity that platforms enjoyed under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. And in part it was because the socially disruptive effects of digital networks—various forms of weaponized speech and misinformation—had not yet emerged. As the networks became filled with bullying, harassment, child sexual exploitation, revenge porn, disinformation campaigns, digitally manipulated videos, and other forms of harmful content, private platforms faced growing pressure from governments and users to fix the problems."
They go on to discuss how various tech platforms have reacted to protect their users against harmful content. And how this response now relates to the misinformation being spread during the Covid-19 pandemic. The article also states there will probably be no "normal" to return to once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
"What is different about speech regulation related to COVID-19 is the context: The problem is huge and the stakes are very high. But when the crisis is gone, there is no unregulated “normal” to return to. We live—and for several years, we have been living—in a world of serious and growing harms resulting from digital speech. Governments will not stop worrying about these harms. And private platforms will continue to expand their definition of offensive content, and will use algorithms to regulate it ever more closely. The general trend toward more speech control will not abate."
In summary, the article makes arguments that the government should get more involved in the potential censorship of public speech on the internet in order to protect citizens from harm.
RESPONSE TO THE ATLANTIC ARTICLE
Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley has pointed out the irony of the Atlantic praising China's approach. "It is an ironic moment to herald China’s censorship of the media when the evidence mounts that China concealed and censored information on the virus outbreak in January."
You can read more of his argument in the linked article.
YOUTUBE REMOVES VIDEOS QUESTIONING CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE
Recently YouTube has removed videos of two California doctors who were questioning the response to the coronavirus.
We're not saying that we agree with these two men on their views. We're simply raising the matter as a freedom of speech issue.
Atlantic Article Praising China Style Censorship
Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal (The Atlantic, 4-25-20)
Response to the Atlantic's Article
“China Was Right”: Academics and Democratic Leaders Call For Censorship Of Social Media and The Internet (Jonathan Turley, 5-4-20)
The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here (Matt Taibi, 4-30-20)
Examples of Censorship Amidst Pandemic
Free speech advocates call YouTube’s removal of coronavirus-related video ‘egregious censorship effort’ (Fox News, 4-29-20)
GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS TO PAY ATTENTION TO
Groups Protecting the Freedom of Speech
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Individuals Questioning Censorship
Jonathan Turley - Website Twitter
Matt Taibbi - Website Twitter