Tag Archives: eff

Blocking free speech is more dangerous than suffering it

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Last week, Google and GoDaddy used the power that comes with being at the center of the domain name system to block a white supremacist website. They weren’t alone in their revulsion with the ideas expressed or in taking effective action against them.

But using control over the Internet’s plumbing to censor speech – even speech as vile and disgusting as this – is a wrong and dangerous path to follow. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains in a blog post that gets it exactly right, a weapon that’s used in a good cause can just as easily be used for evil…

All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today’s protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP’s voice was the one attacked…

If the entities that run the domain name system started choosing who could access or add to them based on political considerations, we might well face a world where every government and powerful body would see itself as an equal or more legitimate invoker of that power…

These are parts of the Net that are most sensitive to pervasive censorship: they are free speech’s weakest links. It’s the reason why millions of net neutrality advocates are concerned about ISPs censoring their feeds…

Companies that manage domain names, including GoDaddy and Google, should draw a hard line: they should not suspend or impair domain names based on the expressive content of websites or services.

By saying there are circumstances when it’s okay to use technical control of the Internet to censor speech, Google and GoDaddy have put themselves in a bad position.

From now on, every group with a grievance against another group can demand the same action. Governments with a less than absolute commitment to free speech can require it, particularly the sort of regimes that hate-filled extremists aspire to emulate. They do not deserve and cannot be allowed this perverse victory.