The Internet is Becoming a Safe Space

Twitter, CNN, and Reuters don't want to read your opinions about race, immigration, or Islam.

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Internet trolls, be gone! Popular publications and social media sites are stepping up their censorship of interactive spaces, shielding the delicate eyes of the common commenter from every kind of digital taboo, from spam to hate speech.

Twitter's transition from free speech service to safe space began last March with a ban on revenge porn. A month later, tweets deemed to incite terrorism joined the ban-wagon. Then came any comment that could provoke violence "on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability."

The Guardian has followed suit, forbidding "toxic commentary" on a wide variety of subjects, from race and immigration, to Islam. Reuters, CNN, and the Chicago Sun-Times have either ditched their comments sections or have restricted them into near oblivion.

These are potentially expensive, unfair, and ineffective tactics for coping with online vitriol. Establishing clear definitions for "hate speech" can be a semantic mine field of subjective and contradictory interpretations. The humorless algorithms guiding software censor-bots can unthinkingly delete constructive criticism. These measures are likely to discourage the very audience participation and smart commentary that makes the web an exciting and democratic place to be.

But it's not illegal. The censorship of private organizations is limited by the will of their owners, subject to the immediate accountability of a fickle and fiercely competitive online marketplace of news and social media. By contrast, governments are limited in their ability to curtail free speech, though where the state draws the lines is always a tricky endeavor.

When does free speech become a legitimate threat of violence? The state of Montana was recently put to just such a test. An angry loner in the picturesque mountain town of Whitefish was sentenced to five months in prison for anti-Semitic tweets. Did police avert a mass shooting? Or is this the kind of law enforcement overreach that the First amendment was designed to stop?

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  1. The first big threat that I know of came in the for of Net Neutrality which was even supported by the ACLU despite clearly violating the concept of freedom of communication. I suspect that social liberty violations will occur through this somehow.

  2. I’d like to see President Trump launch a full-scale reform of the federal civil service. Claw back their pensions to pay for construction of the gallowses.

    1. It would take legislation o do that. Or are you longing for King Trump?

      1. I have been reading about the tyrants of Sicily (think ancient Greek city states), and the author of the book explains that when a city’s citizens want to take over from an oligarchy, they end up having to support a general to do that, and then the general becomes tyrant.

        It makes sense that this becomes a human pattern over the ages. Its also a bit frightening.

        1. “They replace the priest by a king, the king by an oligarchy, the oligarchy by a despot, the despot by an aristocracy, the aristocrats by a majority, the majority by a tyrant, the tyrant by oligarchs, the oligarchs by aristocrats, the aristocrats by a king, the king by a parliament, the parliament by a dictator, the dictator by a king, the king by?. there’s six thousand years of it, in every language.”

    2. Not gallows, Woodchippers!

  3. “The censorship of private organizations is limited by the will of their owners, subject to the immediate accountability of a fickle and fiercely competitive online marketplace of news and social media.” (

    1. Missing: Ostensibly, not so much under EU-antidiscrimination law, which extends to worldview/Weltanschauung. Of course these are mostly empty words.

      What’s the code for quoting?

      1. (Less than sign)blockquote(greater than sign)

  4. You can add the Communist Broadcasting Corporation in Canada to the list, they no longer allow any comments on stories dealing with aboriginal issues.

  5. You know who else thought [redacted] ought to be [redacted]? The [redacted], that’s who!

    1. Your [redacted] mother?…

      1. My mother? Let me [redacted] my mother.

  6. I’ve said for a while that the internet is a very interesting place to study human character. It’s one big social experiment where people get to build their own communities on subjects that interest them. And amazingly, when they do so, they end up instituting a whole bunch of restrictions on types of speech. They very often try to organize and pigeonhole everything. They put the most petty little sacks of shit in charge of moderating and censorship their users. Most enforce the rules they crafted themselves in a completely selective and blatantly hypocritical manner. It is, in short, a great representation of why libertarianism is dead in the water. When given a choice and a chance to organize on their own, people reveal a lot about themselves.

    Props to Reason for keeping its peanut gallery unrestricted despite the occasional federal subpoena.

    1. They put the most petty little sacks of shit in charge of moderating and censorship their users. Most enforce the rules they crafted themselves in a completely selective and blatantly hypocritical manner.

      This ought to be the standard disclaimer:

      “All rules are final and will be enforced randomly and sporadically by a loser who uses random sanctions based on whims and personal biases in a meaningless and anonymous internet forum to reinforce their sense of personal entitlement, false self-esteem and unwarranted self-importance”

      1. it’s a good thing our government, at least, is made up of mature adults who dont engage in that type of behavior.

      2. I’ve moderated all sorts of bulletin boards and internet channels of various kinds (not for the past twelve years, though), and I almost never had to exercise any censoring or banishment powers. Yet it seems like every single other person I’ve seen acting as a moderator of some sort feels compelled to exercise his powers at a more or less steady rate, regardless what’s going on,, and pretexts will be seized as necessary to keep the rate from slacking off. It’s like having the authority somehow creates a need to exercise it, even if the purpose for which it was legitimised is lacking.

        1. I’ve acted as moderator before. The only bannable offenses were a) spam, b) unprovoked personal attacks at other users (preceded by several warnings), and c) blatant racial, homophobic, gender slurs. Never banned because of content or tone except in those circumstances. Other moderators I watched would pull the trigger on opinions that were merely unpopular.

        2. I was banned from Boing Boing for saying that while Pinochet was no sweetheart, Chile would have been much worse off under communists.

          Eventually they dumped Disqus as their comment system, probably because too many people were showing up to disagree.

    2. I was banned for life by both Pando-online and RawStory….

      for *one* comment each.
      that involved no cursing or even personal remarks.

      I take pride in this.

      1. Try getting banned from Panda-online.

        1. Is that like a Furry porn site?

          1. Hell if I know. But getting banned from a panda site seems… something. Of course you get banned; irreverence in the face of futility.

        2. Dees Bears is Maseggeinated!!.

      2. The last few times I have commented in moderated forums, it’s been that way. I’ve only very occasionally done so in the past dozen years, and in every case I ended up getting banished very quickly, the last two times after making a single comment with none of the objectional language or sentiment that characterises my normal speech. The last one did advocate legalising drugs, which is apparently a horrifying statement that should never be thought in some societies. In the old days, I used to get in a dozen or more comments, usually, and speaking quite liberally, before I got banished. People are certainly getting more afraid of bad thoughts on the internet than they used to be.

    3. Also why I put little stock in anarchism as a mode of libertarianism.

      Why would I be thrilled with efficient private-sector enforcement of the very things my neighbors support in every other area where they self-organize?

      At least government does the same thing ineffectively, and there’s a chance that system-builder types like the Founding Fathers can stem the tide of our worst impulses for a little longer than would usually be the case.

      1. Freedom of association. You reconciled that?

      2. I think most minarchists views government as necessary evil that should be limited. They identify the inconsistency, but think there is no other workable option.

        1. than what’s the difference between “anarchist” and “libertarian”? (I thought it was acknowledging that government is the least bad option)

          1. oh minarchists. my bad.

          2. the terms speak to two different dimensions. An anarchist opposes the state. The libertarian espouses the primacy of freedom. So, depending on one’s reasoning, the libertarian may also be an anarchist, but there are libertarians who do not see the state as inherently incompatible with freedom and so are not anarchists. Similarly, one may be an anarchist for other reasons, such as adherence to eschatological Marxism, wherein the obliteration of the state is seen as an inevitable step in the remaking of the earth and a new golden age of man. Or, you can be an anarchist because of Christian beliefs that no one is competent enough to serve as the vessel of collective force.

            1. thanks that’s a good explanation

  7. Or is this the kind of law enforcement overreach that the First amendment was designed to stop?

    I don’t remember reading anywhere in the text of the Bill of Rights that mentions twittering or instergrams or any of that socio-media mumbo jumbo.

    1. *bitterly clings to my flintlock and Aitken Bible*

      1. Is your Aiken bible made of Clay?

        1. *narrows gaze*

    2. Or automatic assault weapons with the thing that goes up and the clips!!1!

  8. Internet trolls, be gone! Popular publications and social media sites are stepping up their censorship of interactive spaces, shielding the delicate eyes of the common commenter from every kind of digital taboo, from spam to hate speech.

    They can all fuck off and die in a fire!

    1. But if that fire is in a theatre, watch out!

      1. I which case, I’m morally bound to silence.

  9. “Then came any comment that could provoke violence “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability.””

    They forgot to mention ‘on the basis of grapefruit’.

    1. Are you still running for president?

      1. I was working as campaign manager for Almanian before his untimely poisoning by hillary’s assassins.

        1. Do you know anything more about Almanian’s circumstances/condition? Sounded awfully grim.

          1. No. I hope he’s ok.

          2. Out of the hospital and at home, where he’s doing boring shit like changing light bulbs.

            1. Out of the hospital and at home

              Good to hear, thanks.

  10. that makes the web an exciting and democratic place to be

    Uh, no. It is not “democratic”. Thank Jeebus it isn’t democratic. “Democratic” is mob rule. Though there are certainly plenty of people who would love to make the web more “democratic”.

    1. I propose to expel Episiarch from Hit & Run for repeated violation of our dignity and sensibilities. ALL IN FAVOR?

      1. Whats a dingity?

        1. I tried looking it up and i still dont get it

            1. (goes to walmart in search of diggity bags)

              1. they really dont make boy bands like they used to

      2. (hands out other people’s money to commenters to buy votes)

        “Democracy” in action, bitches!

        1. We must ban the influence of money in this voting process! How else can Episiarch be made to leave?

          I guess I never really thought about it: what does Episiarch (the name) mean?

            1. Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln! Now I’ll never get the nerd stench out of here!

              Yet still awesome.

              So. How much ($) for each vote? And is this like standard Democratic Party rules, where multiple votes and votes by dead people are allowed?

              1. Rules? What rules? Here, have some more cash.

            2. Cool. Now tell me what my name means.

              1. It means that I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.

                  1. is that woman playing a bicycle rim?

                    1. is that woman playing a bicycle rim?

                      Yes, Herbert.

                    2. Ah yes, the space hippies episode.

          1. Episiarch is from ancient Greek. It means “I banged your mom”.

          2. It’s Egyptian for “sofa”.

          3. It means over the rainbow. Yes, rainbow as in gay. But don’t fool yourself into thinking over means top. In this case, it just means flaming.

            1. Well, I am the gayest monster since gay came to Gaytown.

  11. “The Guardian has followed suit, forbidding “toxic commentary””

    If you took the retard out of guardian comments, there would be nothing there.

    I posted an example of their “Report an offending-comment”-form a long while back (perhaps last summer). It is was a riot of 27B stroke 6 proportions. (it has since changed from a “tick the box of our offendedness menu” to an open “explain why you are reporting”)

  12. The way to deal with online vitriol is to confront it, not to suppress it. The basic fallacy here is that speech can ‘incite to violence’. Quite the opposite: suppressing speech or religion is often used as an excuse and justification for violence (which is what our founding fathers understood very well). Twitter and facebook are going completely the wrong way on this one – the same direction as Europe and it’s a witch hunt and will end about as well as can be expected for such things.

    1. Well she’s certainly adorable.

    2. I would bump fire her.

    1. I made it halfway through and nobody is banging yet.

  13. Old refugee man with candy
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..onths.html

    He told police that he knew such an act was ‘forbidden in any country of the world’, and he was not ‘always sick’, as he has a wife and a daughter in Iraq.

    First thought: “asshole, leaving his family in Iraq”
    Second thought: “they probably don’t mind”

      1. I’m going to pretend that the girl holding that sign just doesn’t know how to read English.

        1. for the record, the sign was photoshopped, but the image was distributed by people who actually preferred the ‘fake sentiment’ more.

          which is scarier? you decide.

          1. I’m gonna need a derp flow chart on that one

            1. Or possibly a Venn Diagram

    1. No indigenous psychotic pedophiles, I guess?

    2. So by his logic I just be justified putting a bullet through his skull due to built up anger.

      1. Or perhaps by any reasonable person logic.

  14. By contrast, governments are limited in their ability to curtail free speech, though where the state draws the lines is always a tricky endeavor.

    “Governments“, plural? Let’s never make the error of assuming that the liberties putatively enjoyed by Americans are somehow the default globally. It is not mere American exceptionalism to note that the rights citizens have when dealing with the police, say, are not recognized by any other 1st World Western country, much less anywhere else.

    1. I think this point is especially true re: the first amendment.

      people who think its somehow “old” and that the US should become more like the rest of their world in Speech Policing are a special combination of ‘dangerously ignorant & insane’.

      1. Viewpoint neutrality is unique. I wonder how long it’ll last.

  15. provoke violence “on the basis of …….

    Thankfully, it’s a short list, so there’s still plenty of reasons you can provoke violence for.

    1. Like going slow in the left lane?

  16. “These are potentially expensive, unfair, and ineffective tactics for coping with online vitriol”

    No mention of lawyers? At what point is someone going to start sueing online companies for NOT censoring such speech. I’m not saying that’s their main reason for their petty bullshit but for some companies it may be. I’m thinking Paladin Press and Hit Man. Not saying anyone should be contrite in such matters but dealing with scum lawyers (or AGs) is not their business model. All it takes is one dickweed doing something fucked and claiming it’s because of some website they live on.

    1. “At what point is someone going to start sueing online companies for NOT censoring such speech.”

      I’m pretty sure Ken White has pointed out instances of this in the past.

  17. “When does free speech become a legitimate threat of violence?”

    Apparently, when that speech is critical of da j00z.

  18. So has Brooklyn chosen to ignore the latest SCOTUS ruling on school segregation?

    “On Thursday, June 28, 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the school systems in Seattle, WA and in Louisville, KY had violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by their use of a student’s race in deciding whom to admit to particular public schools.”

    The 2007 ruling went away from Brown vs Board racial and ethnic group gropes to establish that individuals must be the primary consideration when enforcing the 14th amendment. Pushing school district boundaries around to obtain more group balance is a no-no.

  19. “Internet trollsNon-Progressives, be gone!”

    Fundamentally, Progressivism gets it power from it’s control of discourse – indoctrinating students from pre school to grad school, and running the media.

    To allow the peasants to speak their minds inevitably upsets the apple cart. The peasants don’t agree with them. And when the peasants *see* that other peasants don’t agree, then the jig is up. So, gotta ban comments.

    But it’s a conundrum on the internet. By limiting comments, they necessarily limit *engagement*, thereby interest and ultimately eyeballs.

    I expect individual content providers to swirl the drain if they limit engagement.

    The question is whether the big platform players like youtube, twitter and facebook can all be coopted to be their intellectual enforcers, and whether open competitors can spring up to take their business.

    But I see some hope.

    1. More like its obliteration of discourse.

  20. Somehow I suspect that conservatism and Christianity won’t afforded any such protection.

  21. If you ever lived in an area serviced by Ohio American Utilities Water Co., you would understand that private utilities can be just as crappy as the worst government ones. You still have no recourse, while paying higher rates, getting crappier water, and paying a CEO’s salary and dividends to Wall Street as a bonus. In the Columbus area, Columbus city water wins hands down.

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