There’s been a lot of commentary on the web regarding FightDemBack!’s call for Google/Blogger to remove racist websites from their blogspot.com facilities. The story has gone international, with translations into Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and many more languages worldwide.
While most people (except racists) are strongly in favour of Google bit-bucketing these sites, a few commenters canvas some misguided notions that ‘FDB want to curtail freedom of speech.’
First of all, let’s get clear on our terms.
‘Censorship’ is something a government does. If the US or Australian government went in and changed or deleted content on a newspaper or privately owned/operated website, that’d be ‘censorship.’ If the government stopped you from soapboxing on a streetcorner, that’d be ‘censorship’ too. The government ‘owns’ the streetcorner and IS responsible for protecting your rights to speak freely in public venues.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald, Washington Post, FDB, mgk and Google are not ‘public venues’ and hopefully are not being controlled by the government. They are private venues with private operators. None may be compelled to submit to government content control (with the exception of the SMH, which can be ordered to supress content on the whim of publicly unverifiable ‘national security’ concerns under recent draconian anti-terror legislation in Australia) and none are responsible for protecting anyone’s free speech rights. That’s the government’s turf.
If publishers were required to protect free speech rights, the OpEd section of any daily paper would require delivery with a forklift. When FDB, the SMH & Google or I edit our own content, it’s called ‘editorial control/discretion’… and we’re fully entitled to do it. Google even spells that out in their Terms of Service agreement.
Neither FDB nor I are suggesting that anyone’s ‘free speech’ be curtailed. FDB are not seeking government intervention against Google nor even are considering any sort of legal action against nazi/white supremacist blogspot.com sites. FDB are not suggesting censorship.
‘Hate speech,’ that designed to inflict real damage i.e. nazi ‘hitlist’ blogs which publish names, addresses and phone numbers of anti-racism activists for the convenience of any passing violent neo-nazi who wants to silence them, pose a clear and present danger to the community. Hate speech should not enjoy ‘free speech’ protections.
Even in the USA, in spite of the hallowed 1st Amendment, free speech is not an absolute right. There is also intrinsic responsibility borne in its exercise. The proverbial ‘false warnings of fire in a crowded theatre’ is a case where free speech is necessarily limited to ensure public safety. ‘Hitlist’ websites should be treated similarly.
Furthermore, Google/Blogger’s Terms Of Service (TOS) agreement specifies the following:
12. MEMBER CONDUCT Member is solely responsible for the contents of his or her transmissions through the Service. Member’s use of the Service is subject to all applicable local, state, national and international laws and regulations.
Member agrees: (1) to comply with US law regarding the transmission of technical data exported from the United States through the Service; (2) not to use the Service for illegal purposes; (3) not to interfere or disrupt networks connected to the Service; and (4) to comply with all regulations, policies and procedures of networks connected to the Service.
Member agrees not to transmit through the Service any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, or harmful material of any kind or nature. Member further agrees not to transmit any material that encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any applicable local, state, national or international law or regulation. Attempts to gain unauthorized access to other computer systems are prohibited.
Pyra may, at its sole discretion, immediately terminate Service should Member’s conduct fail to conform with these terms and conditions of the BTS.
Google’s TOS specifically prohibits content like that FDB have complained about, but they flatly refuse to remove the content, against their own TOS specs, unless ordered to do so by a court. Google’s refusal to address harmful content means that they don’t actually have to police blogspot.com content themselves, a reasonably expensive exercise in an operation their size.
Google are shifting the responsibility- and costs- for their nazi users’ content onto the ‘hitlist’ sites’ victims, the communities such content affects and the courts. That Google can earn money by publishing (and advertising) to these communities is as unjust as an irresponsible pub owner’s patrons trashing the amenity of a neighbourhood all while earning a living from that community.
FDB are only asking for Google to enforce their own rules. Google are not required to publish any material and do specifically retain the right to edit content as noted in their Blogger TOS provisions.
These ‘hitlist’ sites are directly implicated in attempted murder of anti-racism activists. ‘Hitlists’ publish information on anti-racism activists in a direct attempt to intimidate them into silence. Remember- the anti-racism activists’ ‘great crime,’ for which the racist ‘hitlists’ wish to punish them, is the activists’ shining a bright light on the racists, effectively adding to the public exposure racists so obviously desire. And this is the thanks we get..!
Reasonable people wouldn’t tolerate this this sort of bullying on a public streetcorner nor even amongst children on a playground- in cases involving adults, this would be criminal behaviour- yet Google are quite happy to support the same in content directly under their control.
However, someone who puts their own racist website online is fully entitled to do so. The racists themselves can then be forced to take personal responsibility for the garbage they publish… and are fully able to be tracked down by ‘alphabet soup’ law enforcement agencies, instead of the racists fobbing off the responsibility for their hate speech to a big webhosting service.
Non-Americans who think their speech is protected by the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment merely because their tripe is on a US based webhost quite simply don’t know their US law very well. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights pertain to all people on US soil regardless of citizenship (remember, the preamble to the US Constitution reads ‘We the People‘ not ‘We the Citizens‘) and also to expatriate US citizens (like me) when they are dealing with US law, despite the US citizen’s physical person being located outside of US borders.
Australian and NZ white supremacists/neo-nazis, absent US citizenship or physical location on US soil, are NOT protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution simply because the website they are abusing is located in the USA… and their protestations to the contrary are endlessly amusing to me.
Let’s get off our misguided ‘free speech’ high horses and put this racist rubbish into the context and obscurity it deserves.
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