Free Speech And Hate Speech: Another Reckoning For Social Media Companies : 1A – NPR

Founder and CEO of US online social media and social networking service Facebook Mark Zuckerberg reacts upon his arrival for a meeting with European Commission vice-president in charge for Values and Transparency, in Brussels. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Founder and CEO of US online social media and social networking service Facebook Mark Zuckerberg reacts upon his arrival for a meeting with European Commission vice-president in charge for Values and Transparency, in Brussels.

Coca Cola, Target and other major companies have recently limited or stopped advertising on Facebook. Those boycotts are part of a campaign designed to pressure the social media company into cracking down on hate speech on its platform.

YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, and others have all taken action in recent weeks to block white supremacist groups and restrict hate speech. But who defines what is hate speech? Do these restrictions run contrary to our constitutional right to freedom of speech?

Does the First Amendment also guarantee freedom of reach to have our voice amplified by technology and algorithms? Do some social media platforms not only allow hate speech, but incentivize it?

We tackled these important questions with Daphne Keller, platform regulation director at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, Louise Matsakis, staff writer at Wired and John Matze, CEO of Parler.

Like what you hear? Find more of our programs online.

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Free Speech And Hate Speech: Another Reckoning For Social Media Companies : 1A - NPR

Trump on Confederate flag: ‘It’s freedom of speech’ | TheHill – The Hill

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE on Tuesday describeddisplayingthe Confederate flag as "freedom of speech" while saying it was "up to" NASCAR to make the decision on whether to allow the symbol at races.

The comments came a day after he chastised the racing circuiton Twitter for banning the flag from its properties andtargetedBubba Wallace, one of the sport's top Black stars.

"My stance is very simple: Its freedom of speech," Trump said in an interview with a Nexstar television reporter at the White House when asked his personalstance on the flag in society.

"You do what you do. Its freedom of speech,"the president continued. "NASCAR can do whatever they want, and theyve chosen to go a certain way, other people choose to go a different route."

Trump addedthat he didn't think his tweets taking a stronger stance against NASCAR's decision were "critical" of the organization.

"I was just talking about the fact that NASCAR chose to go a certain way and thats going to be up to them. That is up to them," he said, adding that he's friendly with representatives and drivers from the racing league. "But I view it as freedom of speech."

Trump previously suggested while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015 that the Confederate flag should be formally retired, saying at the time that the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina Statehouse should be put in "a museum."

Hislatestremarks come as hecontinues to speak out over what he's called a "left-wing cultural revolution that aims to tear downstatues and monuments commemorating U.S. heritage.

Trump used speeches over the Fourth of July weekend to tout the country's monuments anddenounce protesterswho have toppled some ofthe statues. The presidenthas also threatened to veto a defense policy bill over the inclusion of an amendmentcalling formilitary bases named after Confederate leaders to change their names.

The positioning has come amid a renewed push for the removal of symbols of the Confederacy in wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

On Monday, Trump targeted NASCAR in a tweet while accusing Wallace, the racingcircuit's only full-time Black driver, of carrying out a "hoax" involving a noose found in his garage stall.

"Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?" Trump tweeted. "That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"

Officials from NASCAR reportedin lateJune that a noose was found in Wallace's garage stall at an Alabama raceway.Days later,federal authorities determined that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that the noose had been there since at least October. The circuitlaterreleased a photo of the noose, which authorities said was used as a garage-door pull.

NASCAR has defended how it handled the matter, with PresidentSteve Phelps emphasizing the "noose was real."

The president'stweet targeting NASCAR came after it announcedJune 10 that it would no longer allow Confederate flags on its properties or at its events, saying that its presence "runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment."

The circuit made the decision asprotests swept across the nation following thepolice killing of Floyd and after Wallace pushed the racing league to take the step.

Following the president's tweet on Monday, Wallace responded with a note intended for "the next generation."

"Love over hate every day," Wallace said. "Love should come naturally to as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it's hate from the POTUS.. Love wins."

Several people within NASCAR also voiced support for Wallace following the president's attacks.

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Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' | TheHill - The Hill

Removing Signs is a Violation of Free Speech and the First Amendment – TAPinto.net

Dear Editor,

1st amendment and Chatham New Jersey dont work Perfect together Tom Kean Sr.

I found this very disturbing. Today Monday July 6th while driving up Main Street in Chatham Boro I witnessed and took pictures of a Chatham DPW worker removing Rosemary Becchi Political signs off of Main Street in said Borough. The sign behind Rosemarys was a Mikki Sherrills sign and that sign was left along as where all others on main street for Mikki and other candidates. I also called and spoke to the Chatham Business Administrator Steve Williams prior to keying up this email. I urged them to put the signs back where they were as this is a First Amendment right of the candidate. Mr. Williams told me that they have an ordinance in place about the size of the signs in their town. I reminded him that just up the street from these so called wrong sized signs there are all sorts of signs for Front line workers and apartments newly renovated for rent signs etc. I by the way have nothing against the signs up the street especially the signs thanking our front line workers who are amazing and should have the recognition . Chatham has struggled with the constitutionality of signs all the way back to 2011. In an article below the council over road the Veto of then Mayor Vaughan on this vary controversial subject. I find the use of DPW workers on Tax Payers time part of the issue and second that this is clearly a violation of Freedom of Speech and the first amendment. Irrespective to the size and or scope the signs they should have remained where they were given that tomorrow is election day.

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Council Unanimously Overrides Borough's First Veto

Mayor concerned some limitations of the sign ordinance violate the Constitution.

By Laura Silvius, Patch Staff

Oct 25, 2011 1:58 am ET|Updated Oct 25, 2011 1:48 pm ET

The Chatham Borough Council voted unanimously Monday night to override Mayor Nelson Vaughan's veto of the amendments to the sign ordinance.

The amendments to the sign ordinance passed unanimously on second reading at the Oct. 11 meeting. It includes several restrictions to political signs that were part of the original ordinance, including a limiting size to no more than 4-feet squared and can be displayed for no more than 30 days. It also prohibits billboards in the borough.

At the Sept. 26 meeting, borough resident Ed DiFiglia told the council the ordinance could be construed as limiting political speech. He said the ordinance could be challenged and overturned in court.

Vaughan exercised his right of veto, the first mayoral veto in the borough's history, due to these issues. He said the limitations were unconstitutional and left the borough open to a potential lawsuit.

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Removing Signs is a Violation of Free Speech and the First Amendment - TAPinto.net

Letters: Freedom of speech cant be limited to saying things that are inoffensive – Telegraph.co.uk

SIR Our Polish carpenter wanted touse his space at home in Poland to make some kitchen units for us. He was quarantined for two weeks on arrival in Poland, and a policeman came to his house every day to check.

He came back to England two weeks ago and was quarantined for a fortnight here but nobody rang or checked up on him in any way.

We do things differently here.

Diccon SwanLondon SW2

SIR It is suggested that commuters should move to using carnet ticket books instead of whole-year season tickets, given that we are all looking for more flexibility in the new normal (report, July 3).

The railway through the Transport Secretarys own constituency, run by Great Northern, has a carnet option, which is already popular. A customer can buy a book of five or 10 return tickets at a discount price. However, the system involves queuing at the ticket office, then writing the date on apaper ticket each day. The tickets rarely work on the automated barriers.

For a long time, I have been asking Great Northern to move this to its digital key (Oyster equivalent) system. Great Northern has informed me thatthis is coming in September. Maybe the Transport Secretary can expedite this system as a pilot for the whole country.

James DunmoreWelwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

SIR The Government is way behind the curve in introducing legislation to cover the use of e-scooters (Letters, July 4).

Surely these vehicles should be licensed and made to carry a minimum of third-party insurance.

Jill MorrisLondon W4

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Letters: Freedom of speech cant be limited to saying things that are inoffensive - Telegraph.co.uk

The spectre of censorship and intolerance stalks todays left – The Guardian

The task that appears most urgent today is the destruction of the authoritarian right. Not because the authoritarian right is more malicious than the authoritarian left, but because it holds power across the west. Liberal-minded people making an informed calculation must surely decide to avoid distractions and concentrate their fire on the enemy that matters. Or so a seductive argument goes.

If you are an American voter, your sole priority should be the removal of Donald Trump. If you are British, you must concentrate on building a viable opposition to a Conservative party whose neglect and stupidity have wrecked the economy and killed tens of thousands. The slogan no enemies to the left is never more appealing than when it can be dressed in language that appeals to those who pose as tough-minded.

But it wont wash, and not just because the motives of those who scour the web to find evidence of the sins of others are those of the inquisitor and stool pigeon. In the world of practical politics, refusing to confront leftish authoritarianism leaves you with two options. You will either lose and deserve to lose, for you should have known that every time the far left has taken on the authoritarian right in the west it has lost. Or, and this may be worse, you will win and repent your failure to check that your new bosses were worthy of your trust.

According to the supposedly tough-minded view, signing a letter to Harpers protesting at the stifling of debate can only weaken our side. A defence of the signatories should begin by noting that they were telling the truth when they complained that writers, artists, and journalists fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement. Note the precision. The signatories were not saying it is wrong for people to lay into others: freedom of speech is the freedom to criticise or it is nothing. Their point was that many live in fear of campaigns to destroy them if they dont mouth the right opinions.

Im surprised such a statement of the obvious could be controversial. No honest observer can deny that the dominant factions in the modern progressive movement reject freedom of speech. They punish opinions they disagree with when they have power; and the more power they have, the more they will punish. You may think the censorship justified, but to deny its existence is absurd. Tellingly, few bother to deny it now. Occasionally, you can see them raise the exhausted excuse from the grave that only the state can censor. On this reading, Islamists killing cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, or CEOs firing whistleblowers, are not censoring because they are not civil servants. More popular in the past week has been the claim that writers with the reach of Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, JK Rowling and Salman Rushdie cannot take a moral stand because no one can suppress their thought even though their critics give every impression of wanting to do just that.

Panic at the fear of denunciation and bad faith posing as rectitude can be found across the west

Leave aside their belief that ad hominem and ad feminam attacks can refute an argument, and consider that the worst of the old elite directed its attention to silencing the marginalised because it knew that their voice was often the only weapon the latter possessed. Then look around. Now as then, people without access to lawyers and influential friends suffer the most.

To take an example of that encapsulates the cowardice of our times: the Washington Post, a newspaper I admire and have written for, went to enormous lengths to destroy the life of one Sue Schafer, a middle-aged woman who made a mistake. She turned up to a Halloween party at the home of one of its cartoonists in blackface. She did not mean to insult African Americans but had come dressed as a ghoul in the guise of a conservative morning show host who had defended whites blacking up. The joke didnt work, as several guests forcefully told her. Because the words Washington Post and blackface could be said in the same sentence, and because several guests looked as if they might go public two years later, the paper gave 3,000 words to the story the amount of space normally reserved for a terrorist attack or declaration of war. Her employer, a government contractor, fired her. Everyones back was covered except Schafers and, frankly, she was a woman of no importance.

Panic at the fear of denunciation and bad faith posing as rectitude can be found across the west. A comparison with the right shows how deep the decay has reached. Conservatives know there are thoughts they cannot whisper Brexit is a mistake comparable to Munich and Suez, anti-black and anti-Muslim racism are tangible evils, poverty makes a nonsense of equality of opportunity. Likewise on the liberal left, the canny careerist takes care to avoid being caught on the wrong side of arguments about trans and womens rights, leftwing antisemitism, and bigotry in ethnic minorities. The canniest decide the best course is to say nothing at all.

The British ought to know the dangers of thinking there are no enemies to the left. Because Labour members failed to confront the crankery and racism of the Corbyn movement, they drove millions into Boris Johnsons clammy embrace. I doubt the same will happen in the US. Joe Biden has his faults, but he is no ones idea of a commissar. That is not to say there wont be a heavy price to pay. The nationalist right is determined to police opinion. In Hungary and Poland, the media are becoming its propaganda organs. Trump incites hatred of reporters who tell the truth about his administration. Johnson threatens the independence of the BBC and Channel 4. Yet they can pose as the champions of free expression because the loudest strain in progressivism has embraced censorship. The practical danger in giving up on freedom of speech is that the day will come when you find you are lost for words just when you need them most.

Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist

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The spectre of censorship and intolerance stalks todays left - The Guardian

Democrats Declare War on Conservatives at University of North Texas – Texas Scorecard

UPDATE 7/9/20 2:19 PM:Jayne Howell, chairwoman of the Denton County Republican Party, gave the following statement to Texas Scorecard:

Banning people and groups from anywhere due to their political orientation is a fundamental violation to the U.S. Constitution. This is cancel culture and discrimination at its best. Campuses are to be an area where free speech flourishes, despite ones political leanings.

Members of a conservative student organization at the University of North Texas (UNT) are under siege from threats of violence, hexes, and a petition drive for the taxpayer-funded university to ban themall led by a coalition of extreme-left Democrat organizations. The situation has drawn the attention of Republican and Democrat county parties, a state representative, and UNT President Neal Smatresk, who says he is looking into allegations made by the extreme-left coalition.

The UNT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT at UNT)a nonpartisan conservative youth organizationhas been a target of the extreme-left for some time. Last year, the chapters chairman, Kelly Neidert, described resistance her organization has faced from employees of taxpayer-funded UNT.

The situation caught the attention of State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (RArlington), who called for taxpayer-funded institutions, like UNT, that violate freedom of speech to be held accountable and punished.

Now, UNT College Democrats, allied with UNT GLAD(a student LGBTQorganization) and MUEVE (a Spanish acronym translated to mean Eternal Life United Student Movement), has started a petition to ban YCT at UNT.

Student organizations such as UNT GLAD and MUEVE advance extreme-left policies through race and sexual identity politics.

This extreme-left coalition accuses YCT at UNT of showing a pattern of racism, transphobia, and homophobia throughout the 2019 through 2020 school year.

They include as part of their evidence a post from YCT at UNTs Twitter account, which said, Pronouns in your [T]witter bio isnt a personality trait. This is in reference to the push from academic leftists for individuals to reject their gender identity and define themselves by how they feel, using pronouns such as they, them, or ze.

UNT GLAD responded with, Being white and Christian isnt a personality trait, to which the YCT at UNT account replied, Neither is having HIV but you guys based your club off of that.

Regarding that reply, Chairman Neidert told Texas Scorecard that the person who tweeted that was removed from the organization, but our account did send it.

We owned up to it and apologized to GLAD in person and removed the person who sent it, she added. They offered UNT GLAD a written Peace Treaty, apologizing for how the HIV tweet was interpreted.

They added, YCT is not here to appease your demands, but the group did offer a compromise of deleting their replies to UNT GLAD if they would do the same. YCT at UNT refused to delete their initial tweet.

The petition cites another Twitter post, in which YCT at UNT encouraged conservatives on campus to come out on National Coming Out Day and held a bake sale where whites were apparently charged higher prices for baked goods than others.

The extreme-left coalition claims this as evidence YCTs presencehas created a particularly unwelcoming environment for students of color.

Neidert argues they were trying to show the results of affirmative action. We chose different prices for minorities to show how affirmative action reflects races differently, she said. Its supposed to show an over-simplification of AA for people who might have never really understood exactly what it is.

The coalition is also holding YCT at UNT responsible for a controversial social media post by Will Crawford, who asked if one needs to have HIV in order to join UNT GLAD and if the organizations president has Super HIV. Neidert says she had not previously heard of Crawford.

The coalition is also holding YCT at UNT responsible for a controversial act by a previous iteration of the UNT chapter, which allegedly offered candy to students who captured people posing as illegal immigrants. That chapter was banned in 2005.

The petition also alleges YCT at UNT violates the universitys definition of equity.

In addition to this petition, YCT at UNT and Neidert have had threats of violence leveled against them, and they claim their account was recently hacked.

Neidert has been the target of doxxing (attempts to publish her private and identifying information on the internet) by a member of antifa, as well as hexes.

Originally posted here:

Democrats Declare War on Conservatives at University of North Texas - Texas Scorecard

Assault on rights to free speech, dissent: 99 ex-IAS, IPS, IFS officers say in open letter – ThePrint

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New Delhi:A group of former civil servants, including prominent former IAS officers such as Aruna Roy and Wajahat Habibullah, have penned an open letter expressing concern over the growing assault on the Rule of Law in India and on its citizens rights to free speech and dissent.

In a letter titled Assault on the Rule of Law and Article 19 of the Constitution of India, 99 civil servants lamented the erosion of the rule of law in the country and urged all Indians to unite in defence of the rule of law and Article 19 the Right to Freedom of Speech, which they said are basic elements of any democracy.

The collective known as the Constitutional Conduct Group, is known for voicing concerns regarding socio-political developments in the country and includes several prominent ex-IAS, IPS and IFS officers.

Prominent IAS officers who are part of the group include Aruna Roy, P.S.S. Thomas, Vijaya Latha Reddy, Meena Gupta and Wajahat Habibullah.

Some of the well-known Indian Foreign Services officers in the group include Shivshankar Menon, Madhu Bhaduri, Deb Mukharji and Shiv Shankar Mukherjee. A.S. Dulat, Amitabh Mathur, Aloke B. Lal are some of the Indian Police Services officers who are signatories to the letter.

Also read: Indian citizens and media have been terrorised enough with sedition. SC must end it now

The letter talked about the blatant use of the sedition law and how the rule of law militates against the actualization of the freedom of speech.

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It cited the arrest of 11 activists, including Kafeel Khan, Safoora Zargar, Akhil Gogoi, Sharjeel Imam, and the murder of Karnataka-based journalist Gauri Lankesh to highlight the corrosion of Article 19 under the government.

The letter added that the government cannot use the current pandemic as an excuse to curb media freedom across the country.

According to the letter, the law of sedition, which it terms a colonial relic, has seen a sharp increase in use. The letter alleges that any criticism of the government is considered anti-national and invites punitive wrath.

The former civil servants also blamed the government for attempting to clamp down on the media and note Indias fall in the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.

India ranked 142nd out of 180 countries covered in 2020. In 2019, it was ranked 140.

The letter alleged that the government has used the pandemic as a means to silence the media, giving examples of 55 journalists who were singled out for writing about mishandling of the crisis, and the criminal case against Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of TheWire, for writing against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Also read: After SC, how Tripura High Court added muscle to freedom of speech & expression

The signatories of the letter also argued that the gulf between the rhetoric and reality in the rule of law is widening.

They mention the government-imposed curfew in Kashmir and the use of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against people who participated in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

The letter further alleged that the police establishment has become a proxy at the hands of the political party in power.

According to the letter, the arrest of activists such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde under the UAPA is choking their freedom of expression.

Commenting on the Northeast Delhi riots, the letter noted, The investigations into the riots in north-east Delhi have betrayed an institutional bias against the minority community.

This was in reference to Dr M.A. Anwar, the proprietor of Hind Hospital, being mentioned in a chargesheet by the Delhi Police.

Dr Anwar had reportedly provided crucial medical services to the victims of the Delhi riots.

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Assault on rights to free speech, dissent: 99 ex-IAS, IPS, IFS officers say in open letter - ThePrint

Salman Rushdie survived an actual fatwa. Yet he still thinks the Twitter crowd has gone too far – Sydney Morning Herald

Of all the names that signed the open letter published this week in Harpers magazine, warning against a growing illiberalism of debate, Rushdies was the most interesting.

Other high-profile signatories included Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood, John Banville, JK Rowling and Gloria Steinem.

Illustration: Reg LynchCredit:

The letter expressed anxiety that the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted and that while we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also speaking more widely in our culture.

This was expressed through an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty, they said.

The reaction to the letter which was really an affirmation of liberalism, free speech and tolerance was swift.

Much of it reiterated, without irony, the points about censoriousness its authors were trying to make.

Some people made the valid point that one persons cancel culture is another persons critique; that the vigorous criticism, including ridicule, of a persons ideas or art, does not amount to a crushing of free speech. That freedom of speech is truly threatened when states silence dissent with force, not when peoples feelings get hurt on the internet.

Look at Hong Kong right now, not Sydney or New York or the boundless plains of Twitter, if you want to see what real threats to free speech look like.

Which brings us back to Rushdie.

He has experienced state censorship and death threats. He risked his life for his artistic freedom.


Yet he still thinks the social media-enabled phenomenon of public shamings and cancellations is pernicious and suffocating to artists like himself.

And that its consequences will result in risk aversion among artists, which equals the death of any real creative questing.

Journalists, writers and artists may not fear for their lives, but they might fear for their livelihoods and reputations. They may fear their work will be labelled problematic before its artistic worth is even considered.

Rushdies support for the letter suggests that while there are obvious differences between a state-sponsored fatwa which inspires terrorist murders, and, to take one recent example, the vicious internet trolling of a food writer who tweeted something snobby about a popular celebrity it is possible to condemn both things. To admit, even, some relationship between the two.

What happens on the internet is not what happens in society, and the pace of social change as expressed by Twitter and other platforms has not been matched by real change in the institutions which most affect peoples lives.

Does it matter, really, if an artist takes a reputational hit for producing an incorrect work, when our societys most powerful institutions parliament, the judiciary, and the boardroom are still so unrepresentative, and so resistant to change?

It does matter, just as it is a mistake to set those two causes up in competition with each other. Actually, they are in deep and intense conversation with each other.

The Harpers letter represents the moment the forces for moderate liberalism realise they have been outflanked.

To their left, at the extreme, is a set of principles and orthodoxies that they could try to play along with, and may have some sympathy for, but which, they fear, they will eventually fall foul of themselves.

To the right is the kind of entrenched structural power and inequality they oppose in principle.

The result is the increasing alienation of a large chunk of the middle.

They may not fear death, like Rushdie did.

But they will fear ostracisation by their professional peers, public shame, social media intimidation, and real-world consequences like the loss of reputation, the inability to land an employment contract, or disinvitation from cultural festivals.

That is even leaving aside the question of personal vulnerability - some people can shake off an internet shaming or a newspaper campaign against them.

For others, it will send them into a spiral of anxiety they find difficult to recover from. You know who those people mostly are? Women. Another large chunk of them will be from the vulnerable groups whose voices social media has worked so beautifully to raise up.

Do we want to foster a society where it's only possible to be artistically or intellectually brave if you have wealth or privilege to fall back on?

And so this perverse obsession with calling out problematic individuals reaches its end point - a schoolyard game where the popular kids make the playground such a nasty place to play, that the more sensitive kids pack up and go home.

Others are turned off by the silliness of it all. Still more fail to engage in the first place, because they see nothing there that appeals to them.

Jacqueline Maley is a senior journalist, columnist and former Canberra press gallery sketch writer for The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2017 she won the Peter Ruehl Award for Outstanding Columnist at the Kennedy Awards

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Salman Rushdie survived an actual fatwa. Yet he still thinks the Twitter crowd has gone too far - Sydney Morning Herald

Freedom of Speech – HISTORY


Freedom of speechthe right to express opinions without government restraintis a democratic ideal that dates back to ancient Greece. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, though the United States, like all modern democracies, places limits on this freedom. In a series of landmark cases, the U.S. Supreme Court over the years has helped to define what types of speech areand arentprotected under U.S. law.

The ancient Greeks pioneered free speech as a democratic principle. The ancient Greek word parrhesia means free speech, or to speak candidly. The term first appeared in Greek literature around the end of the fifth century B.C.

During the classical period, parrhesia became a fundamental part of the democracy of Athens. Leaders, philosophers, playwrights and everyday Athenians were free to openly discuss politics and religion and to criticize the government in some settings.

In the United States, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech.

The First Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rightsthe first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The Bill of Rights provides constitutional protection for certain individual liberties, including freedoms of speech, assembly and worship.

The First Amendment doesnt specify what exactly is meant by freedom of speech. Defining what types of speech should and shouldnt be protected by law has fallen largely to the courts.

In general, the First Amendment guarantees the right to express ideas and information. On a basic level, it means that people can express an opinion (even an unpopular or unsavory one) without fear of government censorship.

It protects all forms of communication, from speeches to art and other media.

While freedom of speech pertains mostly to the spoken or written word, it also protects some forms of symbolic speech. Symbolic speech is an action that expresses an idea.

Flag burning is an example of symbolic speech that is protected under the First Amendment. Gregory Lee Johnson, a youth communist, burned a flag during the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas to protest the Reagan administration.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1990, reversed a Texas courts conviction that Johnson broke the law by desecrating the flag. Texas v. Johnson invalidated statutes in Texas and 47 other states prohibiting flag burning.

Not all speech is protected under the First Amendment.

Forms of speech that arent protected include:

Speech inciting illegal actions or soliciting others to commit crimes arent protected under the First Amendment, either.

The Supreme Court decided a series of cases in 1919 that helped to define the limitations of free speech. Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, shortly after the United States entered into World War I. The law prohibited interference in military operations or recruitment.

Socialist Party activist Charles Schenck was arrested under the Espionage Act after he distributed fliers urging young men to dodge the draft. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction by creating the clear and present danger standard, explaining when the government is allowed to limit free speech. In this case, they viewed draft resistant as dangerous to national security.

American labor leader and Socialist Party activist Eugene Debs also was arrested under the Espionage Act after giving a speech in 1918 encouraging others not to join the military. Debs argued that he was exercising his right to free speech and that the Espionage Act of 1917 was unconstitutional. In Debs v. United States the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Espionage Act.

The Supreme Court has interpreted artistic freedom broadly as a form of free speech.

In most cases, freedom of expression may be restricted only if it will cause direct and imminent harm. Shouting fire! in a crowded theater and causing a stampede would be an example of direct and imminent harm.

In deciding cases involving artistic freedom of expression the Supreme Court leans on a principle called content neutrality. Content neutrality means the government cant censor or restrict expression just because some segment of the population finds the content offensive.

In 1965, students at a public high school in Des Moines, Iowa, organized a silent protest against the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to protest the fighting. The students were suspended from school. The principal argued that the armbands were a distraction and could possibly lead to danger for the students.

The Supreme Court didnt bitethey ruled in favor of the students right to wear the armbands as a form of free speech in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District. The case set the standard for free speech in schools. However, First Amendment rights typically dont apply in private schools.

What does free speech mean?; United States Courts.Tinker v. Des Moines; United States Courts.Freedom of expression in the arts and entertainment; ACLU.

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Freedom of Speech - HISTORY

Online Speech Has Harmful Effects on Both Individuals and Society, According to Mary Anne Franks – BroadbandBreakfast.com

July 10, 2020 A letter signed by over 150 prominent intellectuals and artists was published by Harpers Magazine on Tuesday, warning against an intolerant culture engulfing American values.

As writers, we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes, the letter read.

The letter immediately drew criticism, with many arguing that mistakes causing measurable harm to minority populations deserve to result in consequences.

In a Thursday virtual conversation with Sam Knight, senior vice president and chief program officer of the Knight Foundation, Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami law professor and president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, shared her insights as one of the leading thinkers on the harmful effects of certain online speech.

In her recent book, The Cult of the Constitution, Franks attempted to unpack how the First Amendment is understood in America, finding that many interpret the text to advance their personal political views.

People understand when this happens in the religious context, Franks said, adding that people can comprehend when an individuals attachment to their own self-interest affects the interpretation of a text.

Its important to ask who is speaking all the time, Franks said. It is politicians, capitalists and the same people running a monolithic culture of the freedom of speech.

Primarily white wealthy mens views are there, she continued. Theres no way to ignore the presidents speech on Twitter.

Yet these prominent voices often belong to the same individuals saying that their speech is being stifled or not fully heard.

Do we actually think women and minorities have the same freedom of speech that everyone else has? Is their speech really free? Franks asked.

Women and minorities are the primary targets of death threats and doxing online, things that no individual deserves, she pointed out.

Franks honored contributors to the #MeToo movement, an ongoing online movement against sexual harassment and sexual abuse where people publicize their allegations online, saying all of these individuals were putting themselves at risk.

Women and minorities often choose to be anonymous online to protect themselves, while white males are often anonymous online in order to harass others without consequences, she claimed.

Franks suggested individuals should ask themselves, Does your speech impose risk? If so, who is experiencing the burden of the risk of your speech?

It doesnt matter how much you feel, it matters how much measurable harm your speech is causing, she said.

Franks pointed to crucial lessons she learned from Michelle Vocaulx, who distinguished between fearless speech and reckless speech.

Fearless speech has to involve taking a risk to ones self, she said. Reckless speech is the provocative.

Franks argued that the internet has fundamentally altered speech, increasing the amount of reckless speech.

It makes us all impulsive and makes us judgmental of other peoples impulses, she said.

To draw out this point, she compared the speech norms of the internet to the speech norms of the university.

When in conversation in the university, you cant just send the student away your job is to continue to have a conversation, Franks said. We dont have to make a judgement about that person. We can make a judgement about society.

Yet the norms of the internet encourage bad faith speech that is less generous, less compassionate, less interesting, less informative and less thoughtful, she said.

Franks also questioned whether the plethora of online reckless speech is really speech at all.

The First Amendment has real contested boundaries between speech and conduct, she said. If I punch you in the face, thats conduct, not speech.

One of the problems of the internet, which is contributed to by Section 230 but also the tech industry, is that it promotes the idea that everything online is speech, when its really not, Franks argued.

You buy things online, you socialize online the Internet has become intertwined with all of our daily activities, she continued.

Categorizing all of these digital interactions as speech, especially when they would not be considered speech in the offline world, is wrong, Franks said.

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Online Speech Has Harmful Effects on Both Individuals and Society, According to Mary Anne Franks - BroadbandBreakfast.com

Malaysia: Stop Treating Criticism as a Crime – Human Rights Watch

(Bangkok) Malaysian authorities are increasingly responding to criticism of the government by initiating criminal investigations, Human Rights Watch said today. Journalists, civil society activists, and ordinary people have all recently faced police questioning for peaceful speech underbroadly worded laws that violate the right to freedom of expression.

Malaysias Perikatan Nasional government is increasingly responding to public criticism by carrying out abusive investigations on specious charges, saidPhil Robertson, deputy Asia director. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin should recognize that everyone has a right to criticize their government without fear of investigation or prosecution.

The most recent target of the governments ire is Al Jazeera, which produced a video segment discussing Malaysias treatment of migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. After denouncing the documentary as deceptive and unethical, Defense Minister Ismail Saabri said that Al Jazeera should apologize to all Malaysians. The police subsequently announced that they were investigating Al Jazeera for sedition, defamation, and violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).

In an apparent case of retaliation, the Immigration Department announced that it was looking for one of the migrants interviewed in the report, and the departments director general warned that foreigners who make inaccurate statements aimed at sullying the country would face potential revocation of their visas or work passes. In the documentary, Al Jazeera reported that it had reached out to the government and sought interviews with senior officials, but those interview requests had been denied.

On June 6, 2020, Boo Su-Lyn, editor of the health news portal CodeBlue, announced that she was being investigated under the Official Secrets Act and the penal code for a series of articles about the findings of an independent investigation into an October 2016 hospital fire that killed six patients. Boo Su-Lyn stated that the findings on which she based her articles had been declassified.

In another case targeting the media, the attorney-general filed contempt proceedings against the online news portal Malaysiakini and its editor, Steven Gan, based on comments posted by the outlets readers. On July 3, the Federal Court rejected an application to set aside the decision permitting the attorney general to initiate contempt proceedings, holding that the government had made a prima facie case that Malaysiakini had published the comments and that the comments impugned the judiciary. The court will hear arguments in the case on July 13. The defense argued that media should not be held responsible for comments made by readers, noting that Malaysiakini had removed the comments as soon as it was alerted about them. The Committee for Independent Journalism and the Malaysian Bar Council are among those who have expressed concern about the implications of the case for media freedom.

Activists and ordinary people are also facing criminal investigation for speech critical of the government. On July 7, the police questioned the director of the nongovernmental organization Refuge for the Refugees about a social media post alleging mistreatment of refugees at immigration detention centers. The activist, Heidy Quah, is being investigated for defamation and violation of section 233 of the CMA and was required to surrender her phone to the police.

On July 3, a retiree was fined RM2,000 (US$470) for posting insulting comments about the health minister on social media, even though the court noted that the criticism was not overboard or malicious in nature. He will have to serve a month in jail if he fails to pay the fine.

Other recent investigations include:

While none of those investigations have yet resulted in criminal charges, others have been prosecuted for peaceful speech, including:

All ofthe laws cited in these investigations areoverly broad and subject to abuse, and have been used by prior administrations against critical voices.Under international human rights standards, governments may only impose restrictions on freedom of expression if they are provided by law and are necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security, public order, public health, or morals.Restrictions must be narrowly drawn to limit speech as little as possible, and sufficiently precise that an individual can understand what is made unlawful.None of the laws at issue meet these standards.

Since the new government took office, freedom of speech and the press have faced renewed threats in Malaysia, Robertson said.The government needs to stop treating criticism as a crime and take immediate steps to amend or repeal the abusive laws being used against critical speech.

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Malaysia: Stop Treating Criticism as a Crime - Human Rights Watch

Trump Executive Order Misreads Key Law Promoting Free Expression Online and Violates the First Amendment – EFF

This post based its initial analysis on a draft Executive Order. It has been updated to reflect the final order, available here.

President Trumps Executive Order targeting social media companies is an assault on free expression online and a transparent attempt to retaliate against Twitter for its decision to curate (well, really just to fact-check) his posts and deter everyone else from taking similar steps. The good news is that, assuming the final order looks like the draft we reviewed on Wednesday, it wont survive judicial scrutiny. To see why, lets take a deeper look at its incorrect reading of Section 230 (47 U.S.C. 230) and how the order violates the First Amendment.

The main thrust of the order is to attack Section 230, the law that underlies the structure of our modern Internet and allows online services to host diverse forums for users speech. These platforms are currently the primary way that the majority of people express themselves online. To ensure that companies remain able to let other people express themselves online, Section 230 grants online intermediaries broad immunity from liability arising from publishing anothers speech. It contains two separate and independent protections.

Subsection (c)(1) shields from liability all traditional publication decisions related to content created by others, including editing, and decisions to publish or not publish. It protects online platforms from liability for hosting user-generated content that others claim is unlawful. For example, if Alice has a blog on WordPress, and Bob accuses Clyde of having said something terrible in the blogs comments, Section 230(c)(1) ensures that neither Alice nor WordPress are liable for Bobs statements about Clyde. The subsection also would also protect Alice and WordPress from claims from Bob for Clyde's comment even if Alice removed Bob's comment.

Subsection (c)(2) is an additional and independent protection from legal challenges brought by users when platforms decide to edit or to not publish material they deem to be obscene or otherwise objectionable. Unlike (c)(1), (c)(2) requires that the decision be in good faith. In the context of the above example, (c)(2) would protect Alice and WordPress when Alice decides to remove a term within the comment from Clyde that she considers to be offensive. Clyde cannot successfully sue Alice for that editorial action as long as Alice acted in good faith.

The legal protections in subsections (c)(1) and (c)(2) are completely independent of one another. There is no basis in the language of Section 230 to qualify (c)(1)s immunity on platforms obtaining immunity under (c)(2). And courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, have correctly interpreted the provisions as distinct and independent liability shields:

Subsection (c)(1), by itself, shields from liability all publication decisions, whether to edit, to remove, or to post, with respect to content generated entirely by third parties. Subsection (c)(2), for its part, provides an additional shield from liability, but only for any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider ... considers to be obscene ... or otherwise objectionable.

Even though neither the statute nor court opinions that interpret it mush these two Section 230 provisions together, the order asks the Federal Communications Commission to start a rulemaking and consider linking the two provision's liability shields. The order asks the FCC to consider whether a finding that a platform failed to act in "good faith" under subsection (c)(2) also disqualifies the platform from claiming immunity under section (c)(1).

In short, the order tasks government agencies with defining good faith and eventually deciding whether any platforms decision to edit, remove, or otherwise moderate user-generated content meets it, upon pain of losing access to all of Section 230's protections.

Should the order result in FCC rules interpreting 230 that way, a platform's single act of editing user content that the government doesnt like could result in losing both kinds of protections under 230. This essentially will work as a trigger to remove Section 230s protections entirely from a host of anything that someone disagrees with. But the impact of that trigger would be much broader than simply being liable for the moderation activities purportedly done in bad faith: Once a platform was deemed not in good faith, it could lose (c)(1) immunity for all user-generated content, not just the triggering content. This could result in platforms being subjected to a torrent of private litigation for thousands of completely unrelated publication decisions.

Taking a step back, the order purports to give the Executive Branch and federal agencies powerful leverage to force platforms to publish what the government wants them to publish, on pain of losing Section 230s protections. But even if section 230 permitted this, and it doesnt, the First Amendment bars such intrusions on editorial and curatorial freedom.

The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the right of publishers to make these types of editorial decisions. While the order faults social media platforms for not being purely passive conduits of user speech, the Court derived the First Amendment right from that very feature.

In its 1974 decision in Miami Herald Co v. Tornillo, the Court explained:

A newspaper is more than a passive receptacle or conduit for news, comment, and advertising. The choice of material to go into a newspaper, and the decisions made as to limitations on the size and content of the paper, and treatment of public issues and public officials -- whether fair or unfair -- constitute the exercise of editorial control and judgment. It has yet to be demonstrated how governmental regulation of this crucial process can be exercised consistent with First Amendment guarantees of a free press as they have evolved to this time.

Courts have consistently applied this rule to social media platforms, including the 9th Circuits recent decision in Prager U v. Google and a decision yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a case brought by Freedom Watch and Laura Loomer against Google. In another case, a court ruled that when online platforms "select and arrange others materials, and add the all-important ordering that causes some materials to be displayed first and others last, they are engaging in fully protected First Amendment expressionthe presentation of an edited compilation of speech generated by other persons."

And just last term in Manhattan Community Access v. Halleck, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that hosting the speech of others negated these editorial freedoms. The court wrote, In short, merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.

It went on to note that Benjamin Franklin did not have to operate his newspaper as a stagecoach, with seats for everyone, and that The Constitution does not disable private property owners and private lessees from exercising editorial discretion over speech and speakers on their property."

The Supreme Court also affirmed that these principles applied "Regardless of whether something 'is a forum more in a metaphysical than in a spatial or geographic sense.

EFF filed amicus briefs in Prager U and Manhattan Community Access, urging that very result. These cases thus foreclose the Presidents ability to intrude on platforms editorial decisions and to transform them into public forums akin to parks and sidewalks.

But even if the First Amendment were not implicated, the President cannot use an order to rewrite an act of Congress. In passing 230, Congress did not grant the Executive the ability to make rules for how the law should be interpreted or implemented. The order cannot abrogate power to the President that Congress has not given.

We should see this order in light of what prompted it: the Presidents personal disagreement with Twitters decisions to curate his own tweets. Thus despite the orders lofty praise for free and open debate on the Internet, this order is in no way based on a broader concern for freedom of speech and the press.

Indeed, this Administration has shown little regard, and much contempt, for freedom of speech and the press. Were skeptical that the order will actually advance the ideals of freedom of speech or be justly implemented.

There are legitimate concerns about the current state of online expression, including how a handful of powerful platforms have centralized user speech to the detriment of competition in the market for online services and users privacy and free expression. But the order announced today doesn't actually address those legitimate concerns and it isn't the vehicle to fix those problems. Instead, it represents a heavy-handed attempt by the President to retaliate against an American company for not doing his bidding. It must be stopped.

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Trump Executive Order Misreads Key Law Promoting Free Expression Online and Violates the First Amendment - EFF

SHARON RANDALL: The Fifth Freedom – Scottsbluff Star Herald

If Norman Rockwell couldve painted this day, he mightve called it: An Average American Family in the Age of Covid-19 in Desperate Need of Haircuts.

Instead, my husband snapped it with his iPhone: My younger son, his wife and their three little ones (Randy, 9, Wiley, 7, and Eleanor, 5, in her tiara) sitting in our driveway on the back of their SUV, beaming brighter than the sun.

I wish you couldve seen them.

Rockwell mightve included my husband and me perched on folding chairs six feet away. His work captured moments in the everyday lives of Americans for almost half a century in his paintings and illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post.

My personal favorite is The Problem We All Live With. It depicts a day in 1960, when a 6-year-old African-American girl, dressed like my Eleanor in her Sunday best, was escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals to an all-white public school.

Another of Rockwells best-loved works is Freedom from Want, in which an elderly couple present a roasted turkey to their family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving.

Its part of a series Rockwell based on a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which FDR cited four basic freedoms: Freedom of speech and expression; freedom to worship as we choose; freedom from want; and freedom from fear.

Those freedoms belong to everyone, everywhere, FDR said, and were not a distant vision, but were attainable in our own time and generation.

This morning, reading about protests and riots around the country, I realized a heart-wrenching irony: Nearly 80 years after FDRs Four Freedoms speech -- and 2,000 years after Christ commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves -- were still fighting to ensure basic human freedoms for everyone, everywhere.

Even as we fight a pandemic.

Visiting with my kids in the driveway today seemed almost normal, except for keeping our distance. Weve had several distant visits with family lately, including one from my husbands son, who drove for hours to talk six feet apart.

Any of those visits couldve been a Rockwell painting, along with our FaceTime calls when my husband reads to his granddaughter, Charlotte, or when I watch 1-year-old Jonah dance and snap his fingers.

But I doubt even Rockwell could have captured the pride in Randys face when he showed us a picture he drew for Papa Mark. Or the sadness in Wileys eyes when he realized he couldnt hug me. Or the sound of Eleanors voice when she yelled as they were leaving, How much do you love us?

Thats a question Ive been asking my grandkids since they were born. Elle knew the answer and grinned, waiting to hear it.

All! I shouted back. Because thats the most anyone can love.

Like my grandmother, I tell my kids and grandkids that they are all my favorite. Is it possible to have more than one favorite?

My son explained it best, saying this about his children: They are each The Chosen One for different reasons. Its a miracle to realize that we can love each one of them more than anything in the Universe.

It would also be a miracle to realize -- for ourselves and our children and all children -- a world in which everyone, everywhere, is free to love and to be loved and to enjoy the same basic Four Freedoms.

Theres a fifth freedom that is equally miraculous: We need to feel free to hold our loved ones close -- in times of grief and joy -- not just in our hearts, but in our arms.

I believe in miracles. Do you?


(Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950, or on her website: http://www.sharonrandall.com.)

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SHARON RANDALL: The Fifth Freedom - Scottsbluff Star Herald

EFF Files Amicus Brief with Top French Court to Bring Down Controversial Avia Bill – EFF

Legislative efforts to regulate online platforms are underway in many countries. Unfortunately, instead of reflecting about how to put users back in control of their online experiences and how to foster innovation, many governments are opting to make online platforms into the new speech police.

The French Avia Bill is an example of such privatized enforcement: it forces social media platforms to take down content which could qualify as illegal hate speech within 24 hours, or as quickly as within an hour of its reporting, depending on the type of speech involved. The new legal act against hate speech will have a profound impact on freedom of speech of users, and may inspire the EUs ongoing work to reform the rules governing online platforms through the so-called Digital Services Act.

On May 18, 60 French senators filed a challenge with the French Supreme Court against the Avia Bill before its promulgation, and after it passed in the National Assembly on May 13, 2020. The Court has to issue a decision by June 18, 2020. EFF teamed-up with the French American Bar Association (FABA) and Nadine Strossen, the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, Emerita at New York Law School, to file an amicus brief [PDF, in French] with the French Supreme Court.

We argue that this bill is unconstitutional because the take down timing requirements will cause over-censorship of perfectly legal speech. The bill imposes an unconstitutional prior restraint regime over speech, and leads to a privatization of police power. The bill also conflicts with the European Unions Directive on Electronic Commerce, which was already brought up against the French government by the European Commission prior to the Bills adoption.

The authors of the amicus brief warn the Courts justices that the Avia Bill represents the continuation of a failed public and criminal censorship policy which has been unable to remedy the so-called social harms that hate speech has been claimed to generate.

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EFF Files Amicus Brief with Top French Court to Bring Down Controversial Avia Bill - EFF

After Reality Stars Death, Japan Vows to Rip the Mask Off Online Hate – The New York Times

TOKYO During the last weeks of Hana Kimuras life, a steady stream of hate washed over her social media accounts. On Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, anonymous posters attacked her appearance, her outspoken behavior and especially her role on Terrace House, a popular Japanese reality show where some viewers saw her as a villain.

Her apparent suicide late last month at age 22 has provoked a national call for action against online bullying, thrusting Japan into a global debate over how much responsibility online platforms should have for moderating the content they host.

The Japanese authorities pledged to move quickly to rein in internet trolls, who hide behind a cloak of anonymity to share malicious posts that are sometimes misogynistic or racist. But free-speech advocates fear that measures making it harder for people to hide their identities could chill the countrys rising online activism, which has become an increasingly powerful check on government power.

There are conflicts with freedom of speech and rights and privacy that are extremely thorny, said Ayaka Shiomura, a former TV personality and current member of the upper house of Japans Parliament who has herself been the target of cyberbullying.

We have to think about the victims, like Ms. Kimura, first, she said, but its possible for her situation to be exploited.

The discussion in Japan echoes a fierce debate in the United States over how far social media companies should go to intervene in users posts. Last week, Twitter added labels to two of President Trumps tweets, directing users to fact-checking materials, and it hid another of his tweets behind a warning, saying it glorified violence.

An incensed Mr. Trump, who has used social media to assail everyone from the world famous to the totally unknown, signed an executive order that could increase the liability of companies like Twitter and Facebook for content posted by users.

In Japan, the authorities have been wrestling for decades with how to police online speech. The countrys anonymous message boards, created in the internets early years, became breeding grounds for some of the worst aspects of modern online culture, as users found a thrill in publicly expressing their darkest views with no fear of repercussion.

The Japanese Parliament passed a law nearly 20 years ago that sought to protect victims of online abuse, though lawyers say it has had little effect. Now, since Ms. Kimura died, officials are vowing to put more teeth behind the protections.

The minister of communications, Sanae Takaichi, told reporters that she would move with speed to add measures that would make it easier for victims of online abuse to unmask the people behind anonymous posts.

Celebrities, politicians and legal experts have called for even stricter moves, demanding that social media companies be forced to take a more active role in reviewing and removing hate speech.

A coalition that includes Facebook, Twitter and the popular Japanese chat app Line put out a statement shortly after Ms. Kimuras death saying that they would move swiftly to reduce personal attacks on their platforms. Among the steps could be blanket bans on users who intentionally demean others.

While the move by Twitter in the United States to more actively moderate content has added fuel to claims on the right that the platform is trying to squelch conservative views, in Japan the issue of intervening in online speech has posed a dilemma for the left, as well.

Suspicion of government censorship has deep ties to historical memories of the authorities ruthless suppression of free speech before World War II. People on the political left point to the power of unfettered speech to hold the government accountable in a country with a weak political opposition, and say that government regulations could be used to destabilize this growing force.

In May, an overwhelming wave of online criticism led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to abandon an attempt to extend term limits for the countrys top prosecutors, a move widely seen as an attempt to shore up his political power.

But those on the left also abhor the kind of harassment that may have contributed to Ms. Kimuras death.

For many viewers, the gentle rhythms of Terrace House, a show that throws six strangers together in a beautiful home and gently prods them to couple up, seemed like a refuge from the sometimes sordid drama of other reality dating shows.

Where other shows seemed intent on bringing out the ugliest aspects of their contestants personalities, Terrace House focused on quotidian pleasures. One of the biggest narrative arcs of the last season centered on one cast members struggles to make broccoli pasta.

When the show, which is produced by Fuji TV, was picked up by Netflix, it became a surprise international hit, with reviewers praising its often endearingly awkward content.

But online, some Japanese viewers spewed a constant flow of invective against the shows cast members, ruthlessly picking apart their every misstep and perceived personality flaw.

Ms. Kimura, a professional wrestler, was subjected to especially harsh attacks. When commenters filled her social media mentions with posts calling her a gorilla and asking her to please disappear, she responded with a meek apology, asking, If I do, will people love me?

In an episode that aired in March, she was shown upbraiding a roommate for shrinking one of her expensive wrestling costumes in the dryer. The trolls piled on, telling her to die and criticizing her for her supposed lack of femininity, her muscular build, her outspokenness and the dark skin she inherited from her Indonesian father.

When the show went on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fuji TV re-aired the episode and uploaded additional behind-the-scenes footage to YouTube and the shows official website, drawing a second barrage of attacks.

On May 23, Ms. Kimura wrote on Twitter that she was receiving as many as 100 frank opinions each day. The post was accompanied by photos of multiple cuts on her wrists and arms.

Hours later, Ms. Kimura was found dead in the Tokyo apartment where she lived by herself.

In the ensuing controversy, Fuji TV quickly removed content about the season in which Ms. Kimura appeared from the shows website and suspended its broadcast. In a statement, the networks president apologized for not paying closer attention to Ms. Kimuras mental state, writing that the networks awareness of how to help the cast was insufficient.

As with bullying the world over, in Japan people who are different from everyone else are often the targets, said Ikuko Aoyama, an expert on cyberbullying at Tsuru University. People use social media to knock down people who stand out.

But the damage that comes from veering from social norms is maybe more serious for Japanese people than those in Europe or the U.S., she said.

The burden of standing out seems to have weighed heavily on Ms. Kimura. In one of her first appearances on Terrace House, she told a castmate that she was worried that people hated her outgoing personality.

While her infectious enthusiasm and bubbly warmth made her a favorite with some fans, those traits also attracted scorn from others who came to see her as the shows heel, a wrestling term used to describe a villainous foil for a heroic opponent.

It was the role she played in the ring and was most likely also the one she was expected to play on the show, said Hiromichi Shizume, a producer for Abema TV who has worked on reality shows. Producers often seek to reinforce those casting choices by coaching cast members and by selectively editing the hundreds of hours of footage they shoot.

They also regularly play up conflict on social media, hoping to drive more viewers to the show, Mr. Shizume said.

In Ms. Kimuras case, the promotional videos for the shows were edited to show her saying some nasty lines, he said, adding that negative posts online really boosted social media interest.

Producers religiously monitor the social media response to their shows, said Tamaki Tsuda, who works on the high school dating show Who Is the Wolf?

The trash talk drove interest in the show, she said. They understood that and used it, and I expect they were aware of what was happening with Hanas social media.

While Ms. Kimuras death has prompted self-reflection about online hate and the nature of reality shows, some in Japan seem impervious to those lessons.

Twitter mobs used her apparent suicide as an excuse to unleash a torrent of invective on other members of the Terrace House cast, including the celebrities who appeared on the show to provide color commentary.

One of those targets has been Ryota Yamasato, a popular comedian who often ridiculed the shows cast. Since Ms. Kimuras death, commenters have lashed out at him online, filling his mentions with angry demands that he take responsibility.

Others have pushed back. Its easy to focus on negative comments, one anonymous Twitter user wrote. Please dont think that thats all there is, OK?

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. In Japan, call TELL Lifeline at 03-5774-0992 or go to telljp.com/lifeline/.

Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.

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After Reality Stars Death, Japan Vows to Rip the Mask Off Online Hate - The New York Times

The US Supreme Court vs the First Amendment – The Independent

The United States Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly into a weapon of the rich and powerful. The new interpretation has thwarted legislative efforts to address the increasing political and economic inequality that afflicts our society. The long-term consequence is a weakening of American democracy.

Free speech is a cause traditionally advanced by outsiders, people espousing dissident ideas or supporting social or economic changes. In the 19th century, the principal proponents of free speech were abolitionists who sought to criticise the southern slaveholders attempt to build a pro-slavery antidemocratic state. In his Plea for Free Speech, Frederick Douglass proclaimed that slavery cannot tolerate free speech, and when the anti-lynching advocate Ida Wells founded a newspaper in Memphis, she named it Free Speech, thus maintaining the tradition of making free speech a central part of the struggle for racial justice.

This pattern continued into the 20th century. During those years, the principal litigants in First Amendment cases in the US Supreme Court were outsiders such as civil-rights organisations representing minority groups. People and organisations who had very little economic, political, or social power typified free-speech litigants, and their challenges sought to alter the status quo.

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The US Supreme Court vs the First Amendment - The Independent

Article 19: The freedom of Speech and expression – India Today

The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression gives its citizens the right to express his views. Read through the better explanation of the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 as given by the Indian Constitution to understand what rights it confers upon us.

All the fundamental rights are enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India.

Let us better understand Article 19

The Right of freedom of Speech and Expression implies that every citizen has the rights to express his views, opinions, belief, and convictions freely by mouth, writing, printing or through any other methods.

The supreme court held the freedom of Speech and Expression includes the protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc.

to freedom of speech and expression;

to assemble peaceably and without arms;

to form associations or unions;

to move freely throughout the territory of India;

to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and omitted

to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

Article 19 in the Indian constitution gives us the freedom of speech and expression with some reasonable restrictions under as follows:

It should not affect the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense.

Nothing in sub-clause of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to it.

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Article 19: The freedom of Speech and expression - India Today

Two Universities React as Antisemitism Steps Out of the Shadows – Lubavitch.com

Viva, viva intifada! The chant filled the atrium and echoed back through bullhorns outside. Waving Palestinian flags and wearing black and white keffiyah scarves, 600 students had converged on the building to vent their hostility toward Israel and its citizens. The second Palestinian terror campaign may have ended in 2005, but at Torontos York University, it is alive and well.

In a half-full lecture hall deeper inside Vari Hall, five former Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were giving a presentation. The group, Reservists on Duty, speaks at college campuses around North America to combat antisemitism and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The protest lasted three hours, says fourth-year student Lauren Isaacs, who organized the soldiers event for Herut Canada, a Zionist student club. They were banging on the walls.

Despite several interruptions from protestors in the room, the event continued. Afterwards, the soldiers, Isaacs, and the attendees were escorted by police out the back door. There had been violence, later attributed to outside groups. One person was injured.

The protest, which took place on November 20, made international news and elicited tweets of outrage from government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford. The York administration released statement after statement, asserting zero tolerance for hate, establishing freedom of speech working groups, and initiating an internal investigation. But the situation only seemed to get worse.

A week later, on November 28, the York Federation of Students passed a motion entitled Fighting Imperialist Propaganda on Our Campuses. It promised to prevent representatives of the Israeli State from speaking at the school, using its multi-million dollar apparatus to organize resistance. Since all York student groups operate under the federation, the motion effectively barred any Israeli from speaking on campus.

A History of Incidents

Yorks 3,500 Jewish students braced for another wave of controversy and media attention. The group that organized the protest, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), has been suspended by the administration twice before: in 2013, for staging a protest that disrupted classes, and in 2009, for effectively barricading Jewish students in the Hillel building while chanting anti-Israel and antisemitic slogans. But SAIA, one of the most active student groups on campus, was always reinstated.

SAIA is notorious for making Jewish students uncomfortable, saysRachel, a second-year student who asked to remain anonymous. I dont feel like Im being protected by the administration. There have been all of these incidents. And the university has done nothing about it.

Rachel, who is involved in Israel advocacy through Hillel, recalled a meeting with York president Rhonda Lenton: It seemed like she herself wasnt sure what to do. But if youre the head of the university and you cant do something, theres a problem.

When Free Speech Is Hate Speech

On December 11, in the midst of Yorks troubles, PresidentTrump signed an executive order intended to address what has become an epidemic of antisemitic incidents on campuses across the country. (A 2017 report by Tel Aviv University called American campuses hotbeds of antisemitism). The order, which classifies antisemitism as a civil rights violation, brought new attention to the churning debate at universities where administrators are struggling to protect both freedom of expression, and their students.

Joanne Vogel is Deputy Vice President of Student Services at Arizona State University, where a rash of antisemitic incidents, including a protest eerily similar to the one at York, shook the Jewish community last year. Hate speech is protected speech and makes balancing individual rights with the effects on the community very challenging, she shared with Lubavitch International. Nevertheless, more dialogue is the only effective way forward.

But to Jewish students, there is a terrifying gap between dialogue and safety. At York, ASU, and many other schools, Chabad representatives stepped in to help fill the void, building relationships, working with administrators, and empowering Jewish students to make their voices heard.

A Light on Campus

York students have always been politically active, Rabbi Vidal Bekerman told me, perhaps a residual effect of the schools early years as a liberal arts college. However, Israel was not a hot issue in the late 90s, when Rabbi Bekerman himself was an education student at York. A year on exchange at Hebrew University sparked his interest in Judaism, and, after a brief stint in law school, he found his way to a Chabad yeshivah in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 2006, he and his wife, Chana Leah, also a York alumna, returned to the campus to open the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Centre. Chana Leah says that the couple's ability to relate to the experience of present-day students has become an invaluable asset: Their growth, their process, their journey. We were there.

It also gives them a granular understanding of how the university functions. Ive seen it over a twenty-five-year period, Rabbi Bekerman says. I get the student population. I get the culture. And he understands why its so hard for the administration to change the environment of hostility toward Israel on campus. The York Federation of Students is separately incorporated, essentially independent of the administration, he told me, with, indeed, its own multi-million dollar budget. Theyve adopted all kinds of anti-Israel resolutions. BDS is part of their platform.

In general, the Bekermans have elected to remain apolitical. Our rock is the Torah. Our rock is the Rebbe, Chana Leah says. And the Rebbes position is to be a light on campus.

In that capacity, the couple takes every opportunity to educate the student body about Jews and Judaism. ProfessorRandal Schnoor, who teaches Jewish studies, including a course on antisemitism and islamophobia in Canada, has invited them to speak to his students several times. The Bekermans are doing outstanding work for Jewish students on campus, he wrote in an email. They have the ability to connect very well with Jewish students from all backgrounds (as well as non-Jewish students). We are lucky to have them at York to share their passion for Jewish life.

The couple also makes their presence felt by tabling regularly on the main campus thoroughfare, sometimes with a picture of the Kotel, the Western Wall, behind them. The prop is not intended as a political statement, just a reminder to Yorks Jews of their rich history and heritage. The Chabad table will be appearing more often in the spring semester, Chana Leah says. The goal is simply to be present. We feel the students need it more than ever.

Not infrequently, members of pro-Palestinian groups stop to ask questions. The conversations are always civil, but sitting at the table can be an uncomfortable experience. Im a little nervous every time, says a third-year student active in the Chabad student club. Gedaliah, as she asked to be called, is about to complete her degree in Human Rights. After graduation, she wants to get a job fighting antisemitism on campus, a decision she made while at York. I want Jewish students to feel safe.

The Bekermans have created a haven for students like her to express themselves Jewishly, she says. The first time I went, I thought, this is not my place. And then the attack in Pittsburgh happens. And I just started going more. I go for the community. The Bekermans are my family.

Love Not Hate

At ASU, it started with the posters. In early November, a flyer mysteriously appeared on Arizona State Universitys Tempe campus bearing the words Love Not Hate. The o of love was replaced with a swastika, the a of hate with a Jewish star.

That was a turning point, recalls RabbiShmuel Tiechtel, a Chabad representative at ASU for sixteen years. I never saw anything like it. The laid-back atmosphere at Americas largest university had always been hospitable to Jewish students. In fact, the administration had recently started a kosher meal plan, at considerable expense. The rabbi quotes ASUs charter: a university measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes.

But in the fall of 2019, things seemed to be changing, senior David Magat told me. Soon after the posters, there was a letter to the editor in the State Press [ASUs student paper], calling for BDS and a boycott of every Israel club. Magat, who runs the student group affiliated with AIPAC, says the effect was instantaneous. Jewish students felt scared.

Then came the protest. On November 13, Rabbi Tiechtel had arranged for two Israeli soldiers, who were wounded in action, to speak on campus through Lev Echad, an Israeli Chabad center in New York City. When he arrived at the event with the soldiers, however, they found that a pro-Palestinian group had staged a sit-in, complete with Viva intifada signs. The soldiers moved to a different room, but the protestors followed, banging on the door.

Seeing those signs promoting the intifada, that really hit home for me, says Neta Galili, who immigrated to the U.S. from Israel with her family when she was fourteen. I wanted to go up to them and say, I dont know if you know what the intifada is, but my sister served in the military during the intifada.

Galili, who graduated in December with a degree in finance and accounting, recalled her first semester on campus. Feeling lonely and overwhelmed, she accompanied a friend to a sukkah party at Chabad. As soon as I came in, a guy came up to me and started speaking to me in Hebrew with a big smile. That was Rabbi Shmuel. I was introduced to more people, and today I call them my brothers and my sisters.

Four years later, when ASUs student senate debated passing a BDS resolution, Galiliby then a leader in the Chabad student groupwas among the many Jewish students who turned out to oppose it. Afterward, she strode to the front of the room to confront the motions sponsor. I explained to him my familys history, she says. As an Israeli student, BDS is a boycott of me.

A Different Response

While the incidents at ASU followed a similar pattern to those at other schools, the response of the administration was markedly different. As soon as the posters appeared, Rabbi Tiechtel reached out to the administration. They got back to him immediately, promising to take the posters down and asking him to keep in touch, he says. They gave me their cell phone numbers.

After the protest, the dean of students announced that she would meet with anyone in the university community who wanted to express their concerns about the situation. The invitation was accepted by many Jewish students, several of whom asked the rabbi to accompany them. Deputy Vice President Vogel was present in those meetings as well. Rabbi Tiechtel amplified the voice of Jewish students and stood in solidarity with them, she wrote in an email.

Thanks to lobbying by Magats group and others, the BDS motion did not pass. Instead, on December 3, sophomore student senator Megan Hall put forward a Resolution to stand with Jewish students at ASU. It was passed by acclamation (unanimously). Afterwards, Hall and the dean of students attended a Shabbat dinner at Chabad.

When classes resumed in January, York was still grappling with the events of the previous semester. After first suspending and then reinstating both SAIA and Herut, the administration has arranged for an external investigation into the events of November 20 and the universitys policies governing freedom of speech.

The Bekermans are not waiting for the results. On January 24, they organized a grand Jewnity Shabbat cosponsored by Aish Toronto, Hillel, and Ohr Sameach. Over 200 people attended the event, held in Torontos Sephardic Kehila Centre, Gedaliah told me. There was a lot of unity and love. It showed that no matter what happens, no matter what our ideologies are, were all one.

Friday evening services were held in the Centres beautiful sanctuary: Everyone was singing Lecha Dodi, and I had never heard that tune before, she says. The women began dancing in a circle first, then the men. In that one instant, we all forgot our problems. And we were just there, present.

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Two Universities React as Antisemitism Steps Out of the Shadows - Lubavitch.com

After FIRs for Hate Speech, Arnab Goswami Will Be Back in the Studio With SC Protection – Qrius

While the rest of the world grapples with thepandemic, India has a variety of other problems that include communal divides, poverty, and Arnab Goswami. All at the same time.

A lot has happened in the life of Arnab Goswami over the last few days. Besides dramatically but unexpectedly announcing that he wasquittingthe Editors Guild of India during a live broadcast on Republic TV a body he didnt really participate in Goswami went on to claim that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was likely happy about the barbaric Palghar mob lynching.

What followed was an even more dramatic video where Goswami claimed that he had been attacked by two men on a bike, and showed his car splashed with ink or black paint as evidence. He also claimed that the attackers had confessed to his security men that they were Youth Congress workers. Even as two men were apprehended in connection with the case, that didnt deter Youth Congress members all across the country from filing FIRs against Goswami. A bunch of them are in Maharashtra alone, besides others in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, New Delhi, UP, and Jharkhand. Most of these FIRs were filed for deliberately making inflammatory statements against Sonia Gandhi.

The Supreme Court began its hearing of the petition today.

SC bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah has gone on to direct the Commissioner of Mumbai Police to give protection to the Republic TV Office and the petitioner, who must cooperate with the investigation. The Bench has also declared that no coercive actions to be taken against him [Arnab Goswami] for two weeks as they grant him three weeks protection.

Court intends to protect the the petitioner for a period of three weeks from today & permit him to move anticipatory bail application before the trial court or high court. For a period of two weeks, the petitioner shall be protected against any coercive steps in relation to the FIRs arising out of the telecast that took place on April 21.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the state of Maharashtra, has stated that the claims made by Goswami during the live broadcast were provocative and has needlessly communalised thePalghar mob lynching. His comments against Congress President Sonia Gandhi were also vicious and was an attempt to tarnish her image. Sibal also termed that the the petition was based on fake freedom of speech. You are creating communal violence by citing such statements, he further argued.


Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Maharashtra says You are creating communal violence by citing such statements, if FIRs have been registered, how can you quash it at this stage? Let the people be investigated, what is wrong in it? https://twitter.com/ANI/status/1253558266090549248ANI@ANITwo-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Dr D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justice M R Shah starts hearing the petition filed by Arnab Goswami, challenging the FIRs registered against him in various parts of the country.78311:32 AM Apr 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy219 people are talking about this

Championing the same thought, Advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for the state of Chhattisgarh, sought for a restraining order on Goswami for his statements. However, Justice Chandrachud opinionated, Speaking for myself I believe there should be no restraint on the media. I am averse to imposing any restrictions on media.

Arnab Goswami issued a video message expressing his gratitude towards the Supreme Court for giving him protection and for upholding [his] Constitutional rights to report and broadcast and for defending [his] freedom of expression as a journalist.


#BREAKING | Arnab Goswami issues video message as Supreme Court upholds his right to report; Watch https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/general-news/arnab-goswami-issues-video-message-as-supreme-court-upholds-his-right.html

1,1931:19 PM Apr 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy343 people are talking about this

Arnab also states that the Congress party has threatened him and his channel for their Palghar reports, and that the party orchestrated an attack on him and his wife. While members of his own security staff claimed that the attackers were from the Youth Congress, further investigation led to their arrest for the incident, but no political affiliations were revealed.

However, the Press Council of India has condemned the assault against Goswami and issued a statement that violence was not the answer even against bad journalism.

Shoma Chaudhury@ShomaChaudhury

#ArnabGoswami is not a free speech issue. Free speech is right to have an opinion. Even distasteful ones. But fake facts & inciting violence is not free speech. Muslims were not the lynchers. Sonia Gandhi did not support Sadhus murders. Goswami is an assault on every media norm.4,2029:58 PM Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,493 people are talking about this

The Supreme Court decision has outraged those who dont agree withGoswamis brand of journalism.

Journalist Shoma Choudhary points out that free speech is right to have an opinion. Even distasteful ones. But fake facts & inciting violence is not free speech.

Shoma Chaudhury@ShomaChaudhury

#ArnabGoswami is not a free speech issue. Free speech is right to have an opinion. Even distasteful ones. But fake facts & inciting violence is not free speech. Muslims were not the lynchers. Sonia Gandhi did not support Sadhus murders. Goswami is an assault on every media norm.4,2029:58 PM Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,493 people are talking about this

Manu Sebastian, Managing Editor of Live Law, is shocked by the lies on the affidavit.

Manu Sebastian@manuvichar

#ArnabGoswami states in his plea in SC that he has always used his platform to foster communal harmony and has been strongly opposed to any communalization.The audacity of stating such a blatant lie on affidavit before the apex court is quite shocking.#ArnabLiar

The Supreme Courts decision in determining the urgency of cases by listing Goswamis petition as a priority has reasonably been unsettling.

Live Law@LiveLawIndia

An Advocate has written to the Secretary General of SC highlighting his grievance against working of the Top Courts registry & has alleged its discrimination in terms of listing/ urgency of cases.He exemplifies it by pointing to immediate listing of #ArnabGoswamis petition.2,3951:59 PM Apr 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,121 people are talking about this

Tarique Anwer@tanwer_m

SC while hearing Delhi Riots plea: Let this stop first.

SC while hearing migrant crisis: If they are being provided meals, then why do they need money for meals?

SC to hear cases of only urgent nature due to lockdown

SC while #ArnabGoswami filed a plea: Hold my beer.72612:13 AM Apr 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy338 people are talking about this

Nikhil Inamdar, India Business Correspondent for BBC World, highlights the number of cases likely pending in the Indian court.

Nikhil Inamdar@Nik_Inamdar

#ArnabGoswami has moved the Supreme Court to fight the various FIRs against him. The court will expediently hear him at 10:30AM tomorrow.

Thats great, esp in a pandemic!

But note this there are about 45 lakh cases pending in Indias courts. Many languishing for decades!1,40111:06 PM Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy562 people are talking about this

The outrage is legit. But for Arnab, it will be business as usual with protection, of course.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect Qrius Editorial Policy.

This article was first published in Arre

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After FIRs for Hate Speech, Arnab Goswami Will Be Back in the Studio With SC Protection - Qrius

Halting disinformation in a time of pandemic: the need to tread very carefully – The Hill Times

OTTAWAA newish term we have all begun to see much more often these days is that of disinformation (a.k.a. misinformation). We all read about attempts by the Russians and other nefarious actors to influence the democratic process in the U.S. and France by flooding the internet with made-up stuff. At one point, this was headline news and even raised in conjunction with a possible impeachment of a U.S. president.

It is probable that the word means different things to different people, but, in essence, it is the attempt to gain influence through the creation, distribution and promotion of lies. Sometimes these falsehoods are the work of states and at others that of individuals (or groups). They become dangerous, and hence of interest to governments, when they begin to have an impact on issues relating to public safety and/or national security.

One such instance of disinformation that has reached this level of effect is unfolding as I write. I am referring, of course, to the current COVID-19/novel coronavirus which is sweeping the world. The health consequences are dire enoughacute illness and deathas are those on our economy and national well-being.

As a result, states have a vested interest in trying to ensure that their citizens have the best (real or true) information at their disposal to make the best possible decisions, all aimed at lessening the damage wrought by the disease, which will lead to a return to normalcy, or the best proximity to life before COVID-19.

The types of lies that are rampant on social media and other platforms include things such as the contention that there is no health crisis requiring social/physical isolation; quack medical remedies; claims that the virus is a bioweapon designed by any or all of the CIA, China or Bill Gates; or the belief that this was all a plan by the deep state to take away our freedoms, and so on.

In this light, the state has both the duty and the right to take action to minimize, or better yet eliminate, these lies. It cannot allow coronavirus deniers to propagate their views as this will undermine the steps taken to flatten the curve. It has an obligation to shut down fake cures that could cause unnecessary death or injury. It has a need to tell citizens that there is no grand plan (i.e., a conspiracy theory) to take over the world. All these are indeed both public safety and national security issues.

So, how far should or can a government go to achieve all these goals? Can it mandate the destruction of disinformation? Can it force social media outlets to monitor, identify and erase misinformation placed on their platforms? Can it ask citizens to snitch on those behind the flummery?

These are all very good questions that we need to ask if we want to maintain our liberal democratic societies. What, then, about legislation to give these measures the power of the law? That is what the Trudeau government appears to be considering.

According to Privy Council President Dominic LeBlanc, the federal government is considering introducing legislation to make it an offence to knowingly spread misinformation that could harm people. And it is eliciting opposing views from MPs.

This is not a question of freedom of speech. This is a question of people who are actually actively working to spread disinformation, whether its through troll bot farms, whether [its] state operators or whether its really conspiracy theorist cranks who seem to get their kicks out of creating havoc. NDP MP Charlie Angus

Expressing a different view, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stated that, Were concerned when this government starts talking about free-speech issues. Theyve got a terrible history over the past few years of proposing ideas that would infringe upon free speech. Any time this government starts talking about regulating what people can say and not say, we start off the conversation with a great deal of healthy skepticism.

What then to do?

This is indeed a tricky issue. What constitutes disinformation when it comes to COVID-19? Who decides? Who implements the removal of information? Does the law apply only to coronavirus fakery? What are the penalties for companies that do not act fast enough or at all? Social media platforms have taken unprecedented steps to fight misinformation onlinebut some critics in Canada saythey could still do more.

Perhaps the most fundamental question is whether Canadians want their government to act as a nanny state or a gatekeeper who decides what we can and cannot consume in terms of information. Are any of us okay with that?

Would a better solution not be to counter disinformation with better information? I see these efforts as a colossal game of whack-a-mole whereby the government and private sector are continuously taking down sites and posts only to see more proliferate. Hercules had an easier time with the Hydra!

I think we all agree that the crap out there on coronaviruses is not helpful. Less garbage is clearly better than more. But what is the best way to get to that goal?

Phil Gurski is the director of the security, economics, and technology program at the University of Ottawa and a former strategic analyst at CSIS.

The Hill Times


Halting disinformation in a time of pandemic: the need to tread very carefully - The Hill Times