Thursday, August 08, 2019

European limits on free speech and campus attitudes affecting social media companies big time

Melissa Eddy and Aurelien Breeden have a thoughtful article on p. A12 of the New York Times on Wednesday, Aug. 8, “Studying Europe’s Laws After Manifestos Revive the Free Speech Debate”, or, online, “The El Paso Shooting Revived the Free Speech Debate; Europe Has Limits”, link

“Free speech” is supposed to be a human right in Germany and France but the constitutions allow more explicit limitations on speech. European law tends to ban speech intended to provoke hatred for members of specific groups.  Marine Le Pen, who was a candidate for prime minister, is now being prosecuted for disseminating hateful messages available to a minor (like the former US COPA law) when she posted images of ISIS violence on Twitter.

But members of groups comprising people who feel they are marginalized and unable to compete as individuals because of group prejudice, want to shut down exposure to speech that they see as hurtful.  This is sometimes particularly true with gender and sexuality related issues.  We’ve gotten familiar with the problems of “speech codes” and “microaggressions” from woke universities, and these are affecting the perception of what should be acceptable speech in social media or even constitutionally protected in some countries.  These in turn affect what speech social media companies and advertisers see as acceptable in the US, because content is seen abroad.
Groups even see some legitimate topics, like population demographics or low birth rates in some countries, as motivated by racism, at least indirectly.   Such views could inhibit necessary discussion of what is behind anti-gay laws or beliefs in countries like Poland and Russia, where there a low birthrate issues and “replacement” fears in some right-wing groups.

Update: later Aug 8

Ben Collins of NBCNews reports that the White House will meet with tech executives on online extremism Friday Aug 9, link

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