Sometimes Protecting Free Speech Means Protecting Speech You Don't Like
from the even-repugnant-speech dept
I’m a big fan of Vivek Wadhwa, who I think has done some excellent research showing the importance of skilled immigration and how it helps the US economy and helps expand jobs, rather than take them away. I’ve also been an outspoken supporter of encouraging greater skilled worker immigration into the US, as I believe it’s much better to have those individuals working in the US, for US companies, rather than working at home against US companies. I’ve been regularly yelled at and attacked for these views, often by a group of folks who all are on a particular mailing list of anti-immigration supporters that often runs into extremely racist territory. The people on that list seem to be under the belief that the world owes them high paying jobs, and they do not need to keep up on new technologies nor compete in the global marketplace. Some of those folks have set up a series of rather horrific websites that are blatantly racist, economically illiterate and at times disturbing, in their attacks on skilled immigration, specifically from India.
However, last month, when some of those sites were taken down by a court order, we were among the first to suggest this was a major overstep by the court. The lawsuit was about these sites posting a work agreement from a company that employs many H-1B visa recipients, suggesting that the company abuses the visa system. I’m all for exposing abuses of the system, because I believe that a skilled immigration program works better without such abuses. Oddly, the company, Apex, accused the sites of both libel and copyright infringement over the posting of the documents. If it were libel, it would mean the postings were not accurate. If it were copyright infringement, then that means Apex is admitting the contents were covered by copyright (meaning, they were accurate).
But rather than just demand the takedown of the specific content in question, the judge ordered the sites taken down completely, and even a Facebook group closed. That’s way over the line and goes well beyond what the lawsuit was about. It was great to see the EFF take up the case, but it’s a shame to see others miss the bigger picture.Esahc writes in to point out that Vivek Wadhwa has penned a column for TechCrunch blasting the EFF for defending these sites. I can understand why Wadhwa is upset about the sites. The sites are undoubtedly racist and despicable. They are also ignorant and economically illiterate. Some of the posts are, clearly, hate speech, and inciting violence against certain individuals.
If the lawsuit filed by Apex was about that, then he might have a point. But it was not. The lawsuit targeted a specific piece of information on three sites, and because of that, the court shut down all three sites, and related Facebook pages. It’s an overreach. Yes, the sites are dreadful, but the EFF is absolutely right to try to prevent such a judicial overreach. One of the reasons so many immigrants want to come to the US and want to work here is because of our respect for free speech principles and not condoning overly broad censorship, even of speech that we find repugnant. In the past, I’ve stepped forward and supported the free speech rights of even those who have attacked me the most on certain topics, when they were also attacked. I think that Wadhwa is going too far in attacking the EFF in this case. I certainly don’t agree with the EFF on everything it does — but in this case, it has made the right decision. The anti-immigration websites are disgusting, vile, racist and ridiculous — but that doesn’t mean we should allow a court to shut them down completely over a single complaint over some specific information.