Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

24Oct/170

Free Speech As We Know It Is Dead

In the recent fallout after Gab.ai was banned from both the Apple App Store *and* Google's Play Store, things have gotten interesting, and dangerous. At the same time, a well-known, notoriously antisemitic Neo-Nazi website was effectively erased from the internet without due process. During this whole debacle it was revealed that the entirety of the internet is controlled by only a few companies who can essentially censor the internet with impunity. And no one can stop them. (I'll probably post more on this soon.)

Fast forward a few weeks: the "internet refugee" who was essentially erased from posting anything on the internet ends up on Gab.ai, which bills itself as a "Free Speech" platform. But when you look closer, you discover that the Gab.ai Terms of Service exclude posting content that is illegal, as subject to different jurisdictions. "But muh Freeze Peach!" you can hear the trolls crying. Sorry, but if you post something straight-up illegal, Gab.ai cannot protect you. And of course, everybody who could think more than a few steps ahead knew this was going to be tested (and proven) at some point. We're not that surprised.

Now, this recent incident with the Neo-Nazis and Gab (and an unnamed Sci-Fi author) has sparked flames of indignation with the trolls: "How dare we get sued for posting whatever we want about anybody we want! Isn't this a Free Speech site?" To which the answer is, There is no such thing as completely 100% free speech without consequences.

It means Free Speech, as they *thought* it was defined, does not exist. And the interesting part is, it really never did.

So what does that mean for people like me and you, who don't necessarily espouse the ideals of radicals on either side, but still want the freedom to speak our mind?

It boils down to whether or not you think any speech should be subject to legal scrutiny. If you think it shouldn't, then you have no recourse against people who can openly lie about you, or incite violence against you. And trust me, they're out there. They are anarchists, plain and simple. They have no scruples, no morality, and no authority.

If you're of the persuasion that some speech should be subject to legal action, then you're with the majority of the population. The next logical question is "If some speech should be controlled, where do we draw the line?" And therein lies the problem.

I think current current laws on defamation, libel, inciting violence, and treason are (for the most part) mostly effective. They're not perfect, and we know (thanks to men like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange) that sometimes what the government defines and censors as "treason" is not really in the best interest of We The people to keep hidden. Without checks and balances, the government has abused its power, no question.

There are plenty of trolls who want to cross that line of legality. And as the Liberal Left likes to remind us, "There's no such thing as freedom from consequences." But what affects the majority of us is censorship of ideas, not prosecution for illegal activities.

The biggest things I see happening on Gab.ai:
Confusing "Free Speech" with "Speak without consequences"
Extremists trying to claim to be "Alt-Right" to gain legitimacy
Said Extremists then attacking anyone they deem is not extreme enough
Claiming victim status when they intentionally cross the line of legality
Accusing anyone who disagrees with them of "opposing free speech"

Many people are calling out a certain well-known author for hypocrisy (not that he cares). Maybe he is being hypocritical in some senses. But what I see happening with the Alt-Right and the "Alt-Reich" extremists looks a lot like what SJW's do: attempting to converge an existing structure from the inside. The extremists by definition are in the vast minority, but are using their (largely self-imposed) victim status to garner sympathy from normal right-wingers. And of course, pointing this out is like kicking a hornet's nest: they turn nasty really quickly. Which only reenforces the point that they're not interested in reasoning. Not with you, not with anyone. And I don't trust anyone I can't reason with.

I made what I thought very clear from the beginning: I'm against them being censored without due process, which is what happened. But I in no way agree with their ideologies, practices, or general opinions on much of anything. I don't think speech laws should govern "hate speech" because hate cannot be regulated, but at the same time, there are some things that are too damaging to be said without consequence.

In other words, being wronged in one area doesn't automatically make you an innocent in all the others. And no, this isn't victim blaming- I'm being specific about each area. Being wronged by ICANN, Hosts, and DNS providors does not give you automatic protection from consequences of illegal activities. I don't have any sympathy for them beyond where they were specifically wronged. They don't get a free pass.

If you want to challenge what "illegal activies" includes, then focus your attention on reforming current laws on defamation, libel, inviciting violence, and so on. This is reasonable, and doable. But if your entire M.O. is trying to cross that line without repercussion, don't get mad that someone called you on it. You get no sympathy from me.

And my advice to Gab.ai's CEO, Andrew Torba: you need to rebrand the site's motto. Gab can't be about completely "free speech," for legal reasons. People's perceived definition of the term does not line up with reality. In reality, Gab is "As-free-as-legally-possible Speech." I suggest instead calling it the "no censorship" social media site. Pulling down illegal content isn't censorship. You need to make that distinction, or people will continue to try to take advantage of that, as has already been demonstrated.

ADDENDUM: Since I wrote this, I've been attacked on Gab for even suggesting that there are some things that are illegal to post online. At least one person has tried to Dox me and even threatened to SWAT me, but failed miserably because he's an idiot.

Unless Gab can figure out how to deal with the trolls who only care about burning everything to the ground, they're going to do exactly that.

Andrew Torba, if you're reading this: We don't need another 4-Chan.

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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