Election 2020

Kamala Harris Wants to Be Your Online Censor-in-Chief

Resist when politicians declare that speech (even radical speech) is a “threat to our democracy.”

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Sen. Kamala Harris is making the potential punishment of social media platforms that don't censor what she sees as hateful speech a focal point of her presidential campaign.

In a speech in Detroit before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Harris discussed the growth of domestic terrorism in the United States (and elsewhere), and how those attackers used or embraced radically violent ideas on social media.

Harris wants social media to do more to stop such ideas from being expressed and spread online. It's not clear what she thinks the companies should specifically do, but she's definitely laying the blame on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube for the existence and proliferation of angry people online. Here's the full quote from her speech:

We will hold social media platforms responsible for the hate infiltrating their platforms, because they have a responsibility to help fight against this threat to our democracy. And if you profit off of hate—if you act as a megaphone for misinformation or cyberwarfare, if you don't police your platforms—we are going to hold you accountable as a community.

It's meaningless anger that feels deliberately substance-free because, really, what she wants with her prosecutor background is to force compliance with whatever rules she puts into place and use the threat of punishment to shut down resistance.

But we know from the horrifying Christchurch, New Zealand, mass murder that these social media platforms were trying as hard as they could to remove videos the shooter was livestreaming and to take down copies as soon as they were posted.

By blaming social media platforms, Harris is confusing the symptom (online expression of violent ideas) with the actual problem (the cultural expansion of more overt desires to punish and hurt the "other"). But the thing about social media platforms is that they are the creations of tangible companies. Harris' mindset is that the threat of punishment is a tool to force compliance to whatever goals she sees as serving "the community," as she defines it. Just ask California parents who were threatened with jail time because of her support for criminal truancy laws when she was a district attorney in San Francisco, and then again later when she was attorney general. She didn't want to send parents to jail, mind you. But she was willing to use the law to allow that to happen in order to achieve the goal she wanted.

And we know that Harris already has a record of trying to punish online companies for speech she doesn't approve of. She attempted to bring pimping charges against the publishers of Backpage to try to punish them for sex-trafficking advertisements that appeared on the site.

In this case, her goal is logistically unrealistic. Online communication platforms aren't like newspapers or television shows or radio programs. It's not feasible to expect that social media platforms will be able to accomplish what Harris wants. Instead, her agenda would result in a massive regime of censorship with unpredictable behavior that inspires outrage from those who get targeted. Government-mandated censorship does not lead to peaceful, democratic societies. It leads to anger and rebellion.

We should all be horrified that a candidate for president of the United States believes that unfettered speech is a threat to democracy. But there is some good news: namely, a distinct lack of reaction from the audience. This was a friendly crowd. Her speech was seeded with applause lines, and the listeners typically obliged. But after the above quote (about two-thirds of the way through the speech) there was mostly silence from what I could hear. One person sounded like they shouted words of support. You can listen to yourself here (it's about 12:30 minutes in).

I wouldn't necessarily make too much of the lack of response, but it's perhaps a good indicator that while the desire to control or punish social media platforms may be in the front of politicians' minds, it is not necessarily something that animates the public. Of course, politicians would be the first to benefit from the power to control what messages are allowed on social media—all in the name of protecting "democracy."

Bonus link: Over in Europe, online privacy censorship demands (and the technological challenges of trying to comply with them) are being used as a tool by government officials to extract money from rich tech companies. Andrea O'Sullivan explains how. As California's attorney general, Harris' office did attempt to go after airlines and extract money from them because their apps weren't in compliance with California's privacy policy labeling laws. She failed in that effort, but she knows full well that complex online platform regulations are a way to generate revenue.

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  1. Comrade KamalaToe, Comrade Stalin endorses you !!

    1. As a prosecutor, Harris knows exactly how dangerous “speech” can be not only to “democracy” (ha-ha-ha) but, far more importantly, to public safety. In particular, certain forms of criminally deadpan mockery are so disruptive, especially when they’re perpetrated against distinguished members of the academic community, that in the absence of aggressive police measures to suppress them, social cohesion would risk collapsing altogether. See, in this regard, the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

      https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. Kamala is a piece of shit. Kamala believes everything can be solved with handcuffs and guns. Kamala and her cultists’ followers think nothing of chaining parents for truancy not caring about the poverty the health the fear of school some students live with, without CARING about the family.

      STOP ELECTING PROSECUTORS.

      Kamala is a criminal who needs to be indicted and investigated for trampling on due process and for obstructing justice in mass.

  2. https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/442278-james-comey-is-in-trouble-and-he-knows-it

    The Hill, about as mainstream media as it gets, is finally admitting that Comey might be in trouble. The phrase that shows how much trouble he is in is “his actions are not indictative of the real FBI” whatever that is. It is pretty clear that whatever is going to come out from the IG and Barr’s investigations is going to be too bad and undeniable to ignore and they plan to use Comey as the fall guy.

    Well, nuts to that. Comey is the FBI. The whole organization is a blight on the Republic. Sorry but “we had one bad director” shouldn’t cut it.

    1. James Comey’s planet is getting noticeably warmer. Attorney General William Barr’s emissions are the suspected cause.

      That is an bad metaphor. Lead-ins are hard, but they could do better.

      1. That is some very bad prose. But Comey is not indictive of the “Real FBI”. He is just an aberation. Kind of like how Richard Jewell was an aberration. Whitey Bulger was an aberration. Vicki Weaver was an aberration. Cliven Bundy was an aberration. Failure to stop he Tsarnevs was an aberration. Failure to stop 911 was an aberration. Failure to stop Tim McVeigh was an aberration. Robert Hanson was an aberration. Hoover collecting blackmail material on most of official Washington was an aberration.

        It is aberrations all the way around.

        1. Yeah, I posted a slightly longer take that wasn’t just a random dig below.

    2. That article has two major take aways for me. First, they are upset that the Mueller investigation didn’t lead to more. This combined with the possible appearance of overstepping their bounds is combining here.

      I do not wish this upon Comey, or at least Comey alone. This does completely read as a way, to quote the author, “excise the cancerous tumor.” They are setting up Comey as a point of failure, rather than allow questions arise about the systemic issues in the FBI.

      They also make an interesting stab at the CIA in there, which is great. That the FBI’s possible malfeasance is due to “a CIA political operation more than an FBI counterintelligence case.”

      This is some ugly politics here, and I do not have much faith of this ending with anything good.

      1. I loath both organizations. But if it could work out where they destroy each other or at the very least one takes out the other, I would take that as a positive result, though not ideal.

        Yeah, I think Comey is a complete dirtbag. But, no way in hell should the country allow the deep state to set him up as a tar baby to avoid accountability.

        1. Nothing is going to happen with any of this. Just like nothing happened when the Admin tapped the communications between the Senate Intelligence Committee and at least Israel. Best case this was all done by the Obama admin for political purposes and wasn’t just used by career bureaucrats as political leverage for future promotions or funding.

          1. I would like to argue with you about that but I can’t say you are wrong. I can only say that it hasn’t all played out and it is at least possible some of these bastards will get theirs. I think Comey might get his as a sacrificial lamb.

            To me the thing that shows how pervasive the corruption is was how unconcerned Storzak and Page seemed to be about spying on Trump. You would think spying on a major party nominee would be a kind of a big deal and a rubicon that would at least give them pause. It didn’t. Spying on Trump and the “insurance policy” an act which represents a bigger abuse of power than Watergate was something utterly unremarkable to them. The only way such a thing can be unremarkable is if they had done it and God knows what else before then.

            1. Why would they be concerned? These orgs hold more power than any politician. They believe they are above the law, and for the most part, they are.

            2. When they say “insurance policy” I think they are referring to a standard Insurance trick that they keep up their sleeves for when they need it and not a one time use because of Trump. How else do you put so many people, willingly, into play so quickly unless its a standard ploy.

          2. Yeah since James Clapper is still free after perjuring himself in Senate testimony, I won’t hold out much hope for major reforms let alone someone answering for their crimes. Its not like they are going to get rid of the DHS and go back to having the foreign and domestic agencies separate again. It’d be interesting to have that conversation again now that 9/11 is less raw for the country and seeing how badly the intelligence community fucked with the election.

            1. I doubt they will get rid of DHS. DHS isn’t the problem. They were not the ones spying on Trump. FBI and the IC are the problem. If anything, DHS might come out of all of this looking good.

      2. Definitely needs more swamp draining.

    3. The buck stops there.
      https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/07/wray-fbi-spying-trump-campaign-1308520

      FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday he wouldn’t use the word “spying” to describe the bureau’s investigative work, breaking from Attorney General William Barr’s use of the term in reference to the probe of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

      “Well, it’s not the term I would use. Lots of people have different colloquial phrases,” Wray said during testimony on the FBI’s budget for 2020. “I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance.”

      1. If Trump were half the President he should be, Wray would have gotten his walking papers as soon as he left the hearing room. These people are just scum. Trump needs to fire Wray and appoint someone to head the FBI who has no association with it and loaths the organization, which shouldn’t be hard to find since every law enforcement organization in the country hates the FBI.

        1. I don’t see how anyone could see Comey presenting the dossier to Trump in an intelligence meeting as anything other than a blackmail attempt. Especially with that being the prerequisite confirmation needed for the media to start running with the salacious details literally the minute that meeting concluded. The whole thing is absolutely insane, I’m trying to steel man any innocent explanation for the entire probe can’t really come up with one that makes more sense than what the biggest tinfoil hat wearers have been saying from the beginning. On the best case side I think the whole thing was just a basic nosy intelligence briefing that the Obama admin was running on everyone because they could, which would still be the biggest political scandal since Nixon and Vietnam. The scariest scenario be the one where no politician authorized any of this.

          1. *Johnson tapped Nixon on sabotaging N. Vietnam peace talks

          2. The scariest scenario be the one where no politician authorized any of this.

            I would be very surprised if they ever directly told Obama about this or got any explicit authorization. I say that not because I think Obama is blameless. I say it because Obama is too smart not to have plausible deniability. They absolutely did all of it with his understood blessing.

            1. A political appointee did the unmasking that’s not something that can be done by just anyone has to be signed off by the DOJ. So it at least got to the upper rung of that org. Someone looked at the intelligence reports, FBI agents just didn’t independently gather this info for years with no reports or paper trails to show for it.

              1. True enough. And the existence of that paper trail is why they are all panicking and willing to throw Comey out as a sacrifice.

      2. “”he wouldn’t use the word “spying” to describe the bureau’s investigative work””

        The word spying isn’t used by them when they are engaged in domestic spying either.

  3. All these Democrat Dipshits running for President are fighting over the 8% of voters who are left wing extremists.

    Trump could walk onto the stage at the Presidential debates, fart, then walk off, and still win big time.

  4. Also isn’t Harris’ formal title “Willie Brown’s former mistress”?

    1. Depends on what she’s wearing and if any safe words are involved.

  5. By blaming social media platforms, Harris is confusing the symptom (online expression of violent ideas) with the actual problem (the cultural expansion of more overt desires to punish and hurt the “other”).

    Bull. She doesn’t give a damn about the expression of violent ideas. She wants to control the expression of contrary ideas.

    1. Bingo. No way in hell would she ever want violent leftists banned.

    2. Prosecutors are gonna prosecute.

  6. Harris is a very strong contender for worst Democratic presidential candidate. Almost all the others have at least one or two redeeming qualities. The only other one I’d put on her level of awfulness is Elizabeth Warren.

    1. How many innocent people ahs Warren thrown in jail? As bad as Warren is, and she is awful, Harris is in another league of horrible. That bitch would be a first class monster if she ever had the power and opportunity.

      1. True. Harris has actually destroyed lives. Warren is just an aspiring busybody.

        1. I wouldn’t give Warren too much of a pass. Prosecutors are the enforcement arm of lawmakers.

    2. Liz Warren is the kind of person who would set up show trials then complain when she got rounded up. Harris is the kind of person who would attend the executions, and ask if she could pop a few.

      1. Warren is one of the old Bolshaviks who ended up shot. Harris is Yezhov. I wouldn’t even call her Beria. Beria was a monster but quite intelligent. Harris is just a vicious brute angry at the world with a lot in common with the depraved dwarf Yezhov

    3. There is not one single redeemable quality in any of them with the possible exception of Tulsi who at least served and is anti-war.
      It is unbelievable that some of the bias media have actually labelled her as a Putin puppet because she dares to have an anti war stance.

  7. “””because they have a responsibility to help fight against this threat to our democracy””

    If that’s true, they would greatly oppose Harris’s idea.

    Free speech doesn’t destroy democracy. Selective speech controlled by the government does. She probably thinks 1984 is the year Orwell was born.

  8. Every libertarian needs to read Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky’s excellent piece Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for regulating hate speech in America.

    Consider this alarming statistic. Reason has 233K Twitter followers. Not bad, you say? Well, dangerous right-wing extremist Lauren Southern has 420K. It is simply unacceptable that a hatemonger has that much online influence. Twitter should, at the very least, revoke her blue checkmark. Maybe even ban her. Otherwise the government should get involved.

    #LibertariansForHarris
    #BringBackBerlatsky

  9. “We should all be horrified that a candidate for president of the United States believes that unfettered speech is a threat to democracy. ”

    In a same society, we would just point and laugh at Kamala Harris. But unfortunately the berry companies she’s “criticizing” are all too happy to comply.

  10. How does censoring some peoples’ writing “threaten democracy”?
    You’d think that the ones censoring some people would be the ones threatening democracy.

  11. I agree that this woman is by far the most vile candidate this cycle. The only thing you can say for her is that she’s totally open in her evilness, as opposed to Clinton, who tried to hide it (mostly).

    Harris can go fuck herself.

  12. I completely agree with her, except for one minor point.
    I get to be ‘the one who decides’.
    What will her position be when the dems lose again, and Trump says what is hate speech, and what is not?
    Will advocating the execution of infants be violent hate speech?

  13. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to your death your right to say it once.” -Every Prog Ever.

  14. Hate speech isn’t a threat to democracy, it is democracy. Which is why our Founding Fathers abhorred democracy and put checks and balances in our Constitution to prevent the sort of mob rule democracy tends to devolve into – the exact sort of checks and balances Kamala Harris and the rest of the Left want to get rid of and the exact sort of mob rule they favor. They just don’t appreciate that two can play the mob rule game.

  15. “The cultural expansion of more overt desires to punish the other” is a torturous way to say “murder.”

    I am not for any kind of censorship, but NewSpeak like this deserves
    to be mocked wherever it occurs.

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