The attack on free speech is gaining speed. Indeed, we shouldn’t expect the Internet to be a realm of free expression for much longer. Consider, for instance, an initiative named Stop Hate for Profit, which is calling on Facebook to “find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism” and to adopt “common-sense changes to their policies that will help stem radicalization and hate on the platform”; an allied group named Change the Terms has helpfully provided definitions of these so-called common-sense changes and says they should apply to Internet platforms for social media, video sharing, public or private group communication, message boards, online payments, ticket purchasing, marketing, advertising, blogging, website hosting, and domain name registration.
In the revolutionary environment we find ourselves in, where definitions change almost weekly and purity spirals are the order of the day, this is chilling. Consider, for instance, white supremacy, which theorists like Robin DiAngelo have transformed from something like “a violently fascistic ideology based on the purported natural superiority of lighter-skinned people” into something like “the global, modern society that emerged in mostly Christian Europe and North America based on reason, science, objectivity, individual autonomy, free thought, and free markets.”
Let’s put two and two together, shall we? (Yes, I realize mathematics is racist too, but so be it.) If expressing any fact or opinion that doesn’t conform to the ever more rigid ideology of anti-racism can subject you to effective removal from the Internet, then free speech is dead.
Way back in 1996 at the dawn of the Internet Age, John Perry Barlow penned A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which among other things proclaimed “We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”