Friday, February 6, 2015

France would stop free speech in order to save it? The future of user-generated-content in Europe?

France, judging from comments from Prime Minister Manuel Walls and earlier in 2012 by Sarkozy, is serious about putting a lot of pressure on service providers to take responsibility for hate speech or terror threats or recruiting that gets put on their platforms.   Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York has an article, leading back to pervious pieces, “Unpacking France’s Chilling Proposal to Hold Companies Accountable for Speech”, link here. The tone of France’s remarks seems to be that big companies profit from amateur content that is reckless and useless otherwise, and ought to pay for it.
Very likely, were these proposals to come true, companies like Google and Wordpress could no longer operate blogging platforms in France or other countries that followed suit, because of downstream liability.  True “social networking”, because there is some whitelisting, might survive more readily. There’s sort of a “free rider” moral issue here that would itself make a separate discussion.  In the U,S., Section 230 largely protects service providers, although many parties (especially state governments) want to weaken it. 
One obvious irony is that France would destroy free speech in order to save it, if the comments are interpreted in light of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and earlier the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy in Denmark, as well as the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands and the threats against Salman Rushdie in Britain, and the hiding of Molly Norris in the US.  The book “The Tyranny of Silence”, by Flemming Rose (from Jyllands-Posten) is also relevant (reviewed on Books Feb. 3).
Some people want to throttle speech because they believe it incites others who are underprivileged and vulnerable to become violent, and want to make that the moral responsibility of the speaker.  Others want to throttle it “just for authority”.   

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