Free speech will be a casualty of the social media war against hate speech

Have you ever heard a person say “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” In America there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever they are ) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.

One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or socialism or democrats or republicans.


Social Media however have banded together to create an Orwellian world where free speech that is disapproved of is labeled hate speech and is replaced with European Union sanctioned speech ie propaganda ( counter-narrative. )

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have “signed up” to a new European Union (EU) “Code of Conduct”, pledging to help censor and “criminalise” perceived “illegal online hate speech” and “promot[e] independent counter-narratives” that the EU favors.

I fear that these “counter-narratives ” will be about ideas rather than people. As the below graphic illustrates, people have rights not ideas.


It should not be labelled ” hate speech ” if it is open and free discussion about ideas. The new code appears to support this definition.

The IT Companies and the European Commission also stress the need to defend the right to freedom of expression, which, as the European Court of Human Rights has stated, “is applicable not only to “information” or “ideas” that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”.

In reality however the practical application is not as clear cut as you would expect given the above definition. The other day I wrote about a facebook page being shut down for “hate speech. ” The page which was about Islamic genital mutilation for both men and women was clearly a page that discussed Religious/Cultural ideas.

So what exactly is the code meant to be targeting?

Illegal hate speech, as defined by the Framework Decision …means all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.

The facebook page on Islamic genital mutilation did not incite violence or hatred. It did promote genital mutilation for Muslims which many would see as a violent or hateful act, but nowhere did it say that this should be forced on unwilling participants. If the code had been applied correctly it would not have been shut down but it was.

Now that I have established that the code is not being correctly applied let’s look at the “counter narrative.”

Broader society and in particular civil society organisations (CSOs) also have a crucial role to play in the field of preventing the rise of hatred online, by developing counter-narratives promoting non-discrimination, tolerance and respect, including through awareness-raising

The IT Companies support the European Commission and EU Member States in the effort to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally.

If it walks like censorship and talks like censorship then it probably is censorship. If they are talking about suppressing viral items then they are censoring the internet. If ideas like the promotion of FCM on the FGM facebook page are going to be labelled ” hate speech” then ideas are going to be censored.

The spread of illegal hate speech online not only negatively affects the groups or individuals that it targets, it also negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms.

The Joint Statement issued by the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council of 24 March 2016 on the terrorist attacks in Brussels underlines that “the Commission will intensify work with IT companies, notably in the EU Internet Forum, to counter terrorist propaganda and to develop by June 2016 a code of conduct against hate speech online”.

It is interesting that they talk about countering terrorist propaganda when in reality this code is about countering all speech that they label as hate speech not just terrorism related posts.Who decides what the ” counter-narrative ” is going to be? Who decides what speech is approved for public consumption? Apparently the European Union decides.

…The IT Companies, taking the lead on countering the spread of illegal hate speech online, have agreed with the European Commission on a code of conduct setting the following public

The IT Companies to have in place clear and effective processes to review notifications regarding illegal hate speech on their services so they can remove or disable access

…The IT Companies to encourage the provision of notices and flagging of content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct at scale by experts…

What does hateful conduct mean exactly? If I like or share an image or an idea or a post on Social Media that is later labelled hate speech, is that going to be considered hateful conduct or do I have to be the person who originally posted it? Already we have seen people lose their jobs in Western countries because they liked something on social media that was then used to force them to resign. By criminalising speech, little old ladies who share or like a post on facebook could unwittingly become criminals because they do not share the thought police’s European Union’s view on something.

… They also agree to further discuss how to promote transparency and encourage counter and alternative narratives. To this end, regular meetings will take place and a preliminary assessment will be reported to the High Level Group on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and all forms of intolerance by the end of 2016.

All forms of intolerance huh? That is a very broad brush. There are always going to be at least two different points of view about an idea. Depending on which side of the idea you are standing on, the other side can easily be described as intolerant of your point of view.

It is inevitable that free speech is going to be a civilian casualty in the social media war against so called ” hate speech.” The European Union will be deciding which side of every idea is the correct side. If you find yourself on the wrong side of an idea you will be shut down and a “counter-narrative” will be spun by them. It was already happening long before this code was created. Many of the facebook sites I follow that discuss Islam for example have been shut down repeatedly for holding a point of view unacceptable to the Social Media barons who control the internet.Now they will also have the backing of the EU. The censorship of the internet is only going to get worse.


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