Asking ISPs To Block Hate Speech Is The Wrong Solution

from the not-an-easy-issue dept

There’s a story coming out of Canada where someone has filed a request with government regulators to ask some ISPs to block some hate speech blogs written by a white supremacist. This is a controversial topic and certainly an emotional one (which I expect the comments will reflect). However, it’s important not to just respond to the vile, disgusting and hateful things the guy says on his site, but to look at the bigger picture of whether or not this is the right way to respond to such things. The telecom consultant who filed the request with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission explains his reasoning on his own blog, which is worth reading. However, I would argue that his solution is the wrong way to go about it. Inserting both the telco regulators and ISPs into the issue is involving third parties who should have no part in this debate directly. The content is vile, absolutely, but if it is illegal, it should be taken care of by law enforcement, who should go after the individual responsible for the content. Google, who hosted the controversial blogs, apparently has already taken one of them down. If the content violates their terms of service, it absolutely makes sense to put pressure on them to take it down — not rely on the ISPs to block the content. The focus needs to be on the parties actually involved: those who created the content and those who host the content. Not the pipes over which the content is delivered.

However, just as important is the question of how effective this type of effort will be. Just the very effort of trying to get this ban in place has driven an awful lot of attention to the content. Much more than would have been seen if it had been left alone. It’s always tempting to ban or block content that we don’t like — but that doesn’t change the way people feel about it. While the content in question was awful, is blocking it really going to protect anyone? Those who believe such awful things aren’t suddenly going to change their mind just because the content is blocked. If anything, it strengthens their resolve, as they believe there’s a conspiracy of people out to get them. Those who know better aren’t going to be convinced by the content anyway — and will recognize it for what it’s worth: vile filth from an ignorant individual. While some of the content (calling for the death of someone) sounds illegal and should be dealt with directly, most people who come across this type of content are not going to be swayed one way or the other by it. The people who believe that kind of stuff already do so. Having it on the web or off the web isn’t going to change that. But, inserting the government and ISPs into blocking the content has only served to get the content more attention while giving the individual more reasons to feel persecuted by those he believes are out to get him. He may be a sick individual — but the way to deal with him is directly with him, not by having ISPs block what he has to say.

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Comments on “Asking ISPs To Block Hate Speech Is The Wrong Solution”

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dorpus says:

American faith

Americans have an underlying belief that open debate can resolve disputes. It is rooted in the immigrant culture where people are not overly attached to their ancestral cultures. In countries where people have stronger attachments to their ancestors, open debate does not necessarily resolve disputes — it may worsen them.

David says:

Re: Re: American faith

But it has no bearing on this story. This is the classic case of “blaming the messenger”. The messenger just does exactly as he’s told. If you have a problem with the message, take it up with the person who wrote it. Don’t try to keep the messenger from doing his job, because all it’ll do is screw up your communications in the end

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: American faith

You know, Dorpus, I was waiting for the unfounded attack on Americans. I just didn’t think it would be quite so completely off-topic. Where did you even get your start on this being a matter of open debate? And where did you even get that this was an American issue? Did you read the first sentence? “…coming out of Canada…”

And what are you talking about with the cultural roots? What does that have to do with debate?

1) there are many cultures that used debate to solve problems… no more or less successfully than those cultures that used other methods.

2) Where do you get the idea that Americans lack strong cultural roots? That’s an unnecessary generalization on your part. I can go anywhere within 5 miles of my house and get you at least a couple of example of “proud ethnics” from a wide array of different cultures.

Seriously… way way non sequitur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: American faith

That was the American faith when I was growing up. The news out of New York today on the DrudgeReport is that the US just arrested somone for airing Hezbollah TV programming during the cable company’s local access time that was granted to subscribers.

At least they didn’t arrest the owner of the pipes…. but the American Faith you mention lives on in old Hollywood movies.

Andrew N. says:

One thing I'm afraid of...

is this line of reasoning going further and further. I am what most people would call a conservative Christian (though I wouldn’t call myself a “religious right” because I disagree with several of their positions, including war), and I believe that homosexuality (namely homosexual marriage) is wrong. Now before you all flame me for that belief, let me stick to the topic.

I’m afraid of the outcome of this slippery slope where I’m not allowed to publicly disapprove of something I believe is wrong. I am not condoning in any way what this man is saying; he is promoting violence. There are some out there who say they are Christians and are against homosexuality to the point where they call for violence. Obviously, that’s illegal.

My point is that just because I believe it’s wrong I shouldn’t be penalized for sharing that opinion in a considerate way (which is possible).

Network Elf says:

Re: One thing I'm afraid of...

is this line of reasoning going further and further. I am what most people would call a conservative Christian (though I wouldn’t call myself a “religious right” because I disagree with several of their positions, including war), and I believe that homosexuality (namely homosexual marriage) is wrong. Now before you all flame me for that belief, let me stick to the topic.

You should have been more concerned about sticking to the topic before you decided to air you non-related, racist beliefs. How very much like the “Christian right” you really are.

ulle53 says:

when a person or a group feels they have the right to ban something they don’t like, wether it be a book or a film or a news article or even a blog then we as a society are in serious trouble. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion and even freedom of thought are the very foundation of a free society and allowing a few to take this away from us is a very serious thing.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: (pedophelia comment)

“I don’t like pedophilia. Is it OK with you if we continue to ban it?”

-Anonymous Coward

Actually, yes it’s fine to keep banning it. Not just because it’s bad, but because it’s illegal. It is not illegal to express hate.

Also, hate speech doesn’t harm anyone… well, aside from making them feel uncomfortable. Pedophilia is damaging to the child and is an example of one person’s actions directly inflicting harm on another, who is incapable of defending themselves.

So, yeah, let’s keep banning that.

Alfredo Gutierrez (user link) says:

Liked your post

Dear Mike ,

I read your blog posts and enjoyed what you had to say. I’m currently searching for financial bloggers for a new financial portal and investor community. Your point of view and knowledge would fit in great into the portal. This would be a great opportunity to broaden your online exposure and market tools. If this is something that might interest you?

DeadlyOats says:

Freedom of Speech vs blocking hate speech

I believe, that as long as the blogger is not advocating violence, nor inciting to riot, nor recruiting for terrorism, etc, etc that blogger should be able to say what they wish.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not agree with his hateful views in anyway. However, creating laws ban these kinds of behavior has a funny way of being misused to ban other kinds of behavior. In this case the behavior is politically and socially unpopular views, or hate speech – for short.

Hate speech is in the ear of the listener. And depending on how poorly the law is written, it may ensnare all kinds of controversial discussions, because somehow they fell under the definition of “hate speech” as defined by what ever law defines it.

For example, a school kid wrote a short story about a school kid that had a “Columbine moment.” He turned it in as his class assignment. Instead of getting a grade, he was arrested, and expelled from the school.

After much investigation, the police found no evidence that this kid was going to pull a school massacre. That was over a year ago. So, what are we teaching our kids? Don’t express yourself. Don’t create fiction on certain subjects. You don’t have as much freedom to speak as you thought you had. Etc.

If his ISP wants to stop doing business with this White Supremacist guy, then that’s their business. They have the right to refuse service to whomever they wish, but to make law in this matter would be an error.

At least that’s what I think.

Alec Saunders (user link) says:

Laws vary

The issue has an added complexity to it, which is Canadian law vs US law. Canada has laws which make hate speech a crime. The US doesn’t. In particular, our laws make it a crime to incite hatred, violence, or genocide against various minorities. This particular individual, resident in the United States, is inciting hatred against a Canadian citizen. In fact, he has advocated the extermination of all Canadian jews, and has opined that if someone were to kill the individual in question, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Clearly he has violated my country’s laws, but because his pulpit is physically located in the US, law enforcement is an ineffective solution. If he was Canadian, we’d just send the cops around and be done with it. Last time I checked, though, the RCMP didn’t have a mandate to do any policing in Roanoke VA.

I don’t know what the right solution is, but the proposal being made is at least bringing light to the problem.

DeadlyOats says:

Re: Laws vary

Alec Saunders wrote:

“Canada has laws which make hate speech a crime. The US doesn’t. In particular, our laws make it a crime to incite hatred, violence, or genocide against various minorities.”

“Clearly he has violated my country’s laws, but because his pulpit is physically located in the US, law enforcement is an ineffective solution. If he was Canadian, we’d just send the cops around and be done with it. Last time I checked, though, the RCMP didn’t have a mandate to do any policing in Roanoke VA.”

Actually, although speech is protected in the U.S., it is a crime to incite acts of violence, or to solicit the murdering of persons because of race, religion, creed, etc. In fact, in the U.S., those are listed as hate crimes. I’m sure he’s probably violated a law or two in the U.S.

So, while his personal opinions about a group of people is protected speech, inciting to riot, soliciting to commit murder, etc are crimes – at least that’s what I’ve always thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why is it that whenever something like this comes up the story has a million subtle comments like “The content is vile, yes” “He is a sick person”.

As true as that may or may not be, you don’t need to insert those comments into the damn article. The only reason they’re there is because 90% of people who see someone defending a racist’s right to free speech think that they are as racist as the person who wrote the content in the first place.

Seriously, we know that you don’t agree with whatever some racist says, there’s no need to tell us a million times in the article.

And to those people who will respond to this post saying “you’re a racist” need to go kill themselves right now. For the record, I don’t agree with this person’s comments either, but he still has a right to say them as much as me/you/whoever may not like it.

Chris says:

Anyone else care to join this bandwagon?

Aparently it seems that anytime someone has a problem with something the clear and logical course of action is to have taxpayers spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to get someone to scribble on paper legislation that further impeeds our right to freedom of choice and expression. Time and time again I see stupid people subjecting themselves to “offensive” content and then trying to get some law put in place to ensure whatever party is resposible gets banished from existance.

If your own stupid ass walks into a wall, and are displeased because it gave you the sensation of pain, you don’t go to your city manager and demand that it be torn down. Why? Because it’s your own fault you were subjected to something you found to be discomferting. So why is it, that when someone stumbles across a racist’s blog(walk into a wall) they then go about trying to enact some kind of legal ramification. It your own fault you willingly decided to use your rational sentient brain to digest the content before you that resulted in your very state of aggitation. Take responsiblity for your own actions, and quit trying to get others to do it for you.

Charon says:

He has the right no matter how stupid it is...

There has been a lot of debate about wether or not hate speech is protected by the Constitution. The fact of the matter is that we are guaranteed the right to believe in whatever we want and to be able to express those beliefs regardless of what the government or anyone else thinks. While I agree that this man is vile and the lowest of the low I dont agree that his content should be blocked. He has a right to believe what he does regardless of how stupid it is to do so. If we start violating rights on one subject it opens the door to more violations. Lets hope majority opnion does not turn against something we believe in and people start calling for the alienation of our first amendment rights.

Matt Bennett says:

Hate speech, Hate crimes.

I do not believe in the concept of hate speech, or even hate crimes in general.

If the speech involves amounts to colusion to commit a crime, i.e. assanination, terrorism of some form. That is one thing. It is illegal, and should persued as the crime of consiracy and incitement it is. But I believe people have the right to hateful speech. If they want to be natzis, or state “all white people are stupid” that’s their business. Specifically, if it doesn’t incite any crimes against anyone, it’s not [i]my[/i] business. You can be assured I’m not going to associate with such people, but that [b]is[/b] my business.

This is closely related to concept of hate crimes. I think it’s safe to say that if I throw a rock at someone, there is a high probability that I hate that person. It is not more wrong for me to throw a rock at a black person because I am white, than it is for me to throw that rock if I was also black. Even were I in the KKK, it would not be more wrong. My reason for doing so should not be part of judgement upon me, beyond limited things like self-defense and less so, crimes of passion (and really crimes of passion are not about the emotional state of the subject, but an acknowledgment that the victim had done something that to most people somewhat justifies the attack) Judging whether the crime was racially motivated is far too close to thought-police for my taste, and I really think should be unconstitutional.

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