While many consumers are undoubtedly upset at the censorship exercised against conservatives by tech behemoths such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the solution of getting government involved to force them to remain neutral to differing points of view is neither practical nor ideal. As the response to the New Zealand mosque shootings has shown, governments are looking to exploit consumer discontent with social media to engage in even more censorship of their own.
Australia’s Prime Minister is one of those leading the push, hoping for the G20 nations to enact global restrictions on social media companies in the aftermath of the mosque shootings. According to Prime Minister Morrison, “It is imperative that the global community works together to ensure that technology firms meet their moral obligation to protect the communities which they serve and from which they profit.”
His views are similar to those taken by New Zealand telecommunications providers, who not only have banned sites such as Zerohedge from being viewed within the country, but who are clamoring to the government for even more censorship, once again under the guise of “protecting consumers.” And the New Zealand government, of course, is prosecuting an 18-year-old who is accused of distributing the video of the shooting to others. What exactly is the government afraid of?
If people want to watch these videos, they’ll watch them. If they don’t, they won’t. What the government really means by “protection” is not protecting innocent eyes from violent or graphic content but keeping alternative points of view away from people it has propagandized through its school system.
The beauty of the internet was its openness. For the first time anyone anywhere had access to the entire sum of all human knowledge, right there at his fingertips. But that allowed people to realize that what they learned in school wasn’t really true. It allowed them to realize that their governments often lied to them, and led to movements for more government transparency. And it allowed people whose eyes had been opened to spread their views to others and to network to multiply the effect of their work.
Can bad and wrong ideas spread online? Sure, just like they’ve been able to spread offline. But the response isn’t to engage in repression and censorship, it’s for those who know the truth to be more active proselytizers. If we allow governments to use crises such as the mosque shootings to stifle basic rights such as free speech then we will end up returning to the bad old days in which government propaganda went unchecked. Most importantly, by denying us those freedoms the terrorists whom the government is claiming to “protect” us from will have won.