21st Century Free Speech: Uncharted Waters
Corporate Editorial Control of the Public Square
Like most twenty first century victims of corporate editors, I have written things that have been removed by websites on which I published them, negatively affecting my reputation*. If I had any sort of real reputation—God forbid I ever do—this may also have been negatively affected. But, should I not be able to remove any spam from Game Under comments; and should Phil not be able to remove anything nice written about me, and anything bad written about him? Also, if I believe in free speech on principle, I have the responsibility to support the vilification of people like myself by others who deem me worthy of vilifying. Besides, there’s no fun in being a provocateur if no one can be provoked!
Still, is there justification in the angst being experienced by people who have been banned from trolling on social media? Sure. Social media is the public forum of the twenty first century. But all that our current conception of free speech can do is to actually protect the right of social media corporations to remove any content they do not wish to publish. A new way of understanding and arbitrating public discourse and publishing may be wanted. Even so, some old solutions have been rebranded in an attempt to solve new problems: as offensive as internet free speech activists find trigger warnings, they’ll probably get used to them at some point; just as free speech activists of the past got used to the ESRB and other classification boards. Media classification, counter-intuitively, can protect speech equally as well as it can censor, by allowing the squeamish to deliberately avoid media they might otherwise want banned.
In the interest of democratic free speech, I humbly propose a new chart to follow: abolish any rights of free speech that publishers previously enjoyed in such a way that the incestuous algorithmic indexing of their databases is impossible, while simultaneously allowing anyone to post anything they please. Indeed, in a digital world without algorithms, filter bubbles will literally cease to exist unless a user actively creates one for itself—and if it does, it will be under no illusions that filter bubbles do not exist.** This would not only protect the users from corporate editors (one of the most irritating forms of political correctness), but also make it as difficult for propagandists to take advantage of the sensationalist marketing funnels created by algorithms as it is in “legacy media”, without limiting their speech in any way.
If you didn’t want to completely revolutionise the archaic publishing industry so that it is consistent with the capabilities of modern technology (it is high time the vast majority of intellectual property laws were also abolished), you could limit this amendment to social media corporations. That is, if you are a cowardly Leninist who wishes to demolish the state only after you’ve used it to kill millions and imprison slightly more people than even modern America has managed (in terms of a cricket test, it’s really more like a draw).
Free Speech in Australia
Free speech is implicitly, not explicitly protected in Australia, and multiple laws actively suppress it. There is mainstream activism (that is, activism anyone is likely to have heard of) in the realm of journalism to reform defamation laws to protect the sensational airing of dirty laundry, and hate speech laws to protect fear-mongering demagoguery about immigration, Islam and aborigines.
In the realm of art there once was activism for an R-Rating for games to stop them from being banned, but now that there is an R-Rating and games are still banned, no one really seems to care anymore. Whenever a film featuring unsimulated sex wasn’t shown in cinemas, there used to be protests by Margaret and David, but I don’t recall too much happening when A Serbian Film was banned outright. There was also once activism against child pornography laws to protect everyone from teenage sexters, parents, artists, and manga enthusiasts, to Bill Henson. But with the conviction of a former “journalist” from A Current Affair, now even the realm of the imagination can constitute child pornography, so I dare say the fight on this front has also been well and truly lost.
Urinating on film is also outlawed. As is all hardcore pornography in Victoria. But just as the internet has liberated us from protectionist laws like copyright, revealed intellectual property laws to be patently unjust, so too has it liberated us from many forms of censorship. Like most silly laws, neither of these are policed (which is why we perceive them as being silly); nor, I assume, are gamine ladies engaging in sexual acts on film prosecuted for producing child pornography due to the [pre-]pubescent dimensions of their breasts.
Also, an Australian nerd was recently arrested (managing to perform a pretty gnarly plank on the way to the paddy wagon) technically for skipping bail in the UK, but probably because awhile ago he revealed to the naïve that America’s international police force is just as enthusiastic in summarily executing unarmed suspects as their local police force is. Just to drive the point home, here in Australia we regularly raid the offices and homes of any journalist who dares to publish unflattering leaked information, but if the leaks are part of political in-fighting, then publishing them is encouraged.
But that’s nothing compared to what might happen to you if you dob in the tax office: whistleblowers face imprisonment for up to 161 years for any acts of civic duty that might lead to public good (which, according to politicians, is the purpose of taxes in the first place). And we must wait to see what “Witness K” will face for exposing Australia’s own petit-colonial activities, other than the indignity of his name being censored.
Oh, and I almost forgot about the dangers of Huawei, the technological rabbit hole to the CPC—which is a security risk in no way similar to the legal mandate that all Australian-produced IT must include backdoors for local party officials to pop round for a quickie once they’ve identified from the data already automatically recorded by Australian ISPs which citizens share their kinks. The good news is that living in a free society like Australia, the local government probably has a lot less power over our lives than the totalitarian Chinese one located thousands of kilometres and several oceans away does.
And in the most brazen act of censorship, Australians are considered by default to be such criminals that they can’t be trusted to visit sites associated with peer-to-peer sharing without pirating something. Given the nation’s convict origins, maybe they can’t; but it’s nice to know that, by default, the Australian government assumes its citizens are criminals.
Incidentally, if you were molested as a child in Tasmania, you’re not allowed to talk about it in public.
Similarly, if you’re a journalist, nurse or comedian working in or visiting any of Australia’s off-shore concentration camps and tell anyone about your experience there, you face deportation or, if convicted of dobbing, a minimum of two years in gaol. On the bright side, at least you’ll be moving up in the world.
Conversely, it’s almost as hard for people trying to break down herd immunity to viruses of the body or the mind to enter the country as it is for refugees. Them and some rappers.
Oh, I almost forgot! Last, but not least, realistic satire may be illegal. Which is a problem, given that the Australian parliament currently runs the comedic gamut from edgelord memery to toilet humour, so any joke about an Australian politician, no matter how ridiculous, would be indistinguishable from anything that actually occurred in parliament, discouraging even journalistic reporting of state affairs.
Free Speech in the United States of America
Phil, the reason you can no longer find your favourite dominatrix on Craig’s List, or your favourite trans-furry porn on Tumblr (originally known for its politically correct sexual content, now known for having deleted all its politically correct sexual content), is because SESTA and FOSTA explicitly limit free speech by design.
I also wouldn’t recommend boycotting Israeli-produced products in the wrong state. But at least you won’t be sent to a black site prison if you do; as you are if you break any sanctions the American government itself is enacting. Sending fresh grain instead of tax write-offs for rancid unsellable stock, usable medical supplies instead of heroin—really, anything other than CIA agents who are laced with crack cocaine and LSD to render them inedible to the cannibal savages undergoing the process of democratisation—to any country the free world is presently starving to freedom (something to do with New Age dietitians’ obsession with fasting?), is treason.
To any American president, please actually get around to banning flag desecration some day. I can’t think of a more beautiful desecration of the American flag than that!
*Lol, of course not! Like any other internet inter;lectual I milked the udder of both real and imagined censorial persecution for profit until the milk ran red with blood. Unfortunately GameSpot wasn’t monetisable, so all I got were more followers and comments. And this awful t-shirt slogan, a decade or so before inter;lectuals could make a living selling sweat shop t-shirts with awful slogans.
**Or at least this illusion will be self-inflicted. If I am to think under the influence of a spell, at least let it be of my own incantation.