As with so many things that are happening at the moment, the attack on free speech is happening in multiple countries at the same time.
Firstly in the UK.
A draft Online Safety Bill was first presented to Parliament in May 2021 but has been strengthened in the last few weeks. Originally the draft Bill focussed on large web companies but the government has recently announced that more changes would be made and new criminal offences added.
One of these new offences would be spreading COVID-19 disinformation under the crime of sending false communication. This offence would be committed if a person sends a communication they know to be false with the intention to cause non-trivial emotional, psychological or physical harm. The maximum sentence is 51 weeks.
The average person might think it is reasonable to imprison somebody for communicating something they know to be false with the intention to cause harm. However, what is “false” and what is “harm”? The last few years have shown us that these are now very subjective topics. Information that was true in 2019 became false in 2020 and is starting to be true again in 2022. A truth that is communicated to somebody who believes it to be false may cause them emotional or psychological harm.
Intention is necessary for the crime to take place but if something is deemed to be false and deemed to cause harm then it could be argued that if the person who communicated the information and knew the information was on the “harmful list”, then the intention was there.
And who is deciding what information is false? The government? That almost sounds like a punchline to a joke. We’ll just end up with news articles such as the one below – Sponsored by the UK Government (see the text in blue)
The Bill was already censorial enough, making online companies remove content that was deemed to be harmful but not illegal. And as we have seen in recent times, corporations’ misinformation policies have been arbitrary, which will only worsen with governments deciding what is true and what is false.
Now, in one step removed from thought-crime, these companies will be made to proactively “prevent people being exposed in the first place”.
The government press release on the strengthening of this bill says:
“To proactively tackle the priority offences, firms will need to make sure the features, functionalities and algorithms of their services are designed to prevent their users encountering them and minimise the length of time this content is available. This could be achieved by automated or human content moderation, banning illegal search terms, spotting suspicious users and having effective systems in place to prevent banned users opening new accounts.”
In almost Orwellian double-speak the press release says the Bill “will better protect people’s right to free expression online”. What this means is, it will better protect people’s free expression of government-approved material. It continues by saying:
“It will have to be proven in court that a defendant sent a communication without any reasonable excuse and did so intending to cause serious distress or worse, with exemptions for communication which contributes to a matter of public interest.”
So the government says something is a matter of public interest (e.g. vaccines) and suddenly intention doesn’t have to be proven.
Please sign this online petition to remove requirements that specifically target lawful speech from the Bill.
Next to the US.
At almost the same time, the US sent out a bulletin “Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland”.
“The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence.”
Key factors contributing to the current heightened threat environment include:
“Widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19.”
“As COVID-19 restrictions continue to decrease nationwide, increased access to commercial and government facilities and the rising number of mass gatherings could provide increased opportunities for individuals looking to commit acts of violence to do so, often with little or no warning. Meanwhile, COVID-19 mitigation measures—particularly COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates—have been used by domestic violent extremists to justify violence since 2020 and could continue to inspire these extremists to target government, healthcare, and academic institutions that they associate with those measures.”
So in a step up from the UK’s response, the US is labelling individuals who produce any (MDM) as terrorists. Obviously, any language that incites violence is unacceptable but to confuse people encouraging unrest with those discussing whether Ivermectin could help save lives is completely unacceptable.
And finally in Canada.
Again, as if in lockstep, Justin Trudeau is trying to revive his controversial Internet legislation bill. Once known as Bill C-10, to fool those unintelligent COVID deniers, it has been changed to Bill C-11.
There are concerns that the legislation could be used to censor social media. The government have denied this but experts hold the opposite view. Who to believe, hmmm? The Toronto Sun reports that Trudeau is using the current national tensions as a smokescreen to let them slip in unpopular pieces of legislation. Never let a good crisis go to waste!
When we remove freedom of speech and censorship of controversial topics become commonplace, we turn into a dangerous society. Not only can authors be imprisoned for airing their views but, just as importantly, debate becomes restricted resulting in truths being hidden and novel and radical ideas suppressed.
But if they can’t censor you, maybe they’ll just give you a morality pill so you don’t produce the stuff in the first place!Please consider supporting by sharing or making a donation.
Donate Bitcoin to this address
Scan the QR code or copy the address below into your wallet to send some Bitcoin
Donate Ethereum to this address
Scan the QR code or copy the address below into your wallet to send some Ethereum