Monday 6 August 2018

Don't fall for extreme-right "freedom of speech" victimhood narratives

The extreme-right are once again programming their followers to wallow in victimhood narratives over the wild conspiracy-monger Alex Jones getting his InfoWars channel thrown off multiple free-to-use online media platforms for breaching their conditions of use.

Before InfoWars they were wailing persecution about the extreme-right gay-paedophilia advocate Milo getting thrown off Twitter for his abusive behaviour.

Before that they cried victimhood over the vile terrorism-promoting money-scamming Britain First hate chamber eventually getting chucked off Facebook for hosting an absolute festival of hate that made a total mockery of their community standards.

The extreme-right wail and cry as if being pushed off free-to-use online platforms is the modern equivalent of Nazi book burning, which it obviously isn't.

Back in the days before the Internet you couldn't just go around demanding that people print your book for free, and that they continue printing your books indefinitely, no matter how horrific the things you write in them.

Back in the days before the Internet you couldn't go around demanding that your local newspaper print every single crackpot hate-mongering letter you sent them about your ridiculous conspiracy theories either.

Of course nobody could stop you from writing your own book and submitting it to publishers, or sending batshit letters to your local paper, but when they rejected your manuscript or refused to print your letters, they weren't denying you free speech, they were protecting their own right to publish what they saw fit to.

That misattributed Voltaire quote says "I wholly disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

It doesn't say "I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to demand other people continue publishing your views forever, free of charge".

Nobody is saying that Alex Jones, and Milo, and the Britain First hate mob can't continue spewing their venom elsewhere, they're just saying they can't take advantage of their free-to-use services to do it.

It's simply laughable to imagine that online media companies have some "free speech" obligation to provide a free platform to anyone, to say whatever they like, no matter how extreme, how defamatory, how dishonest, how dangerous, or how threatening to the very financial viability of the online media company itself.

Nobody reads the terms and conditions when they sign up as users of online media sites. Nobody carefully reads their "important updates" either. But if you actually do, you'll find that you've entered into a contract with them, and that they reserve the right to deny you access to their free services if they feel they are being misused.

Interestingly the traditional right-wing narratives have been completely reversed in regard to contracts to acommodate these "free speech" victimhood narratives.

It used to be that the political right would defend the sanctity of contractual agreements above absolutely anything else, including fundamental human welfare. But now we've got right-wingers bitterly railing against the contracts they voluntarily signed up to because they don't like the conditions!

Some might argue that Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, and Apple hoofing Alex Jones' conspiracy rambling off their free platforms is the thin edge of the wedge, and while I'm naturally sympathetic to this argument (as someone who relies heavily on social media to spread awareness of my work) it's simply incorrect.

I have absolutely no intention of ever posting malicious and defamatory diatribes, incitements to violence, grotesque conspiracy theories about the parents of murdered school children being 'fake crisis actors', calls for ethnic genocide, or hateful abuse - so I'm fairly confident they won't be coming after me with an outright ban.

What I'm afraid of is much more subtle: Tweaks to the algorithms (possibly as a result of government pressure) to dramatically curtail the reach of independent media sites.

One hopes that they wouldn't bend to such pressure, but knowledge of social media companies' history of collusion with spy agencies (as revealed by the Snowden leaks), and the staggering sums of money pumped into targeted ad campaigns by political parties that have never been keen on having their malice, corruption and incompetence uncovered by renegade independent journalists, it would be foolish to rule out the possibility entirely.

The real threat to freedom of speech isn't the upfront high-profile de-platforming of depraved extreme-right conspiracy-mongers for their outright contempt towards the terms of service contracts they all willingly signed up to.

The real threat is that independent sources of information are simply tuned out by the algorithms, with few people ever even noticing that independent non-conformist anti-establishment pages are disappearing from their social media feeds.

If they wanted to crack down on the true rebels (those who use facts, evidence and logic to build their cases rather than rhetoric, conspiracies, and abuse) then why would they use a sledgehammer, when they've got much simpler and subtler means at their disposal to crack nuts?

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.



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