Sunday, 4 June 2017
Off-Topic: Internet Censorship
Last night there was a terrible terror attack in London, in which seven people were killed and 48 were hospitalised. That's the total so far. It might be more by the end of today.
I don't want to talk about the attack itself, because I'm sure that any sane person of any religion would condemn it. What I want to do is talk about Theresa May's reaction to the attacks. In her full speech, which I won't quote here, she says that terrorism is based on an evil ideology that the Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. She them goes on to say:
"We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the Internet, and the big companies that provide Internet-based services provide. We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online".
I am totally opposed to this way of dealing with the problem. The Internet is a forum of free speech, and people should be allowed to say whatever they like, even things that I personally find despicable. Usually statements should be within the law of the country where he lives, but if a person genuinely believes that the laws of his country are wrong he should be allowed to express his views as a subject for debate. Someone in England might want to say, "I believe that homosexuality is wrong". Someone in Saudi Arabia might want to say, "I believe that Allah doesn't exist". Both are valid opinions which can be used to start a discussion.
What Theresa May obviously doesn't want is people saying things online like, "The people of London are unbelievers, so we ought to kill them". The way to deal with this isn't censorship. There isn't a clear line between what is right and wrong. There's a grey zone in the middle, and an arbitrary decision by an international agreement can easily ban too much. If changes are needed, they should be to prevent anonymity. Anyone who has something to say should be expected to say who he is. I am outspoken, and I stand behind my word. The Internet shouldn't be a place where people can hide. Nobody should be allowed to use the Internet unless he reveals his name, address and contact details to the Internet service providers. If necessary, government agencies can request these details.
If you're afraid of the consequences of what you have to say, don't say it. But if you aren't afraid, you should be allowed to say whatever you want.