Free Speech

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
free speech, hate speech, pakistan, takedowns

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Pakistan Demands Google Take Down Petition For Academic Freedom... Saying It Represents Hate Speech

from the hate-speech-used-for-censorship dept

While it's understandable (these days especially) that some are concerned about what they refer to as "hate speech," it's worth reminding people (as we've done for years) that laws against hate speech are almost universally used by governments to punish people they don't like, rather than to protect those who most people normally consider the targets of hate speech.

Take this latest example, highlighted by FIRE, concerning an attempt by Pakistan to censor an online petition for academic freedom, claiming that it was hate speech.

The request came from the Pakistan Telecom Authority, which cited Section 11 and Section 37 — which lay out restrictions on “hate speech” and “unlawful online content” — of Pakistan’s 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act

11. Hate speech—Whoever prepares or disseminates information, through any information system or device that advances or is likely to advance interfaith, sectarian or racial hatred shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or with fine or with both.

[ . . . ]

  1. Unlawful on-line content—l) The Authority shall have the power to remove or block or issue directions for removal or blocking of access to an information through any information system if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or commission of or incitement to an offence under this Act.

So what is this horrible hate speech? It's a letter about academic freedom and free speech on campus signed by a bunch of Pakistani and American academics. The letter documents a few examples in Pakistan of attacks on academic freedom:

As faculty members and teachers, we are extremely concerned about the events that have taken place over the last few days at universities across Pakistan, which signal a closure of intellectual space within the country. Between April 12th and 13th four separate but related instances of repression took place on university campuses in different parts of the country.

In the first instance, an event entitled ‘Ethnic Rights, New Social Movements, and the State of the Federation in Pakistan,’ which was supposed to be held at Habib University in Karachi on April 13th was forcibly cancelled only an hour before the event was due to be held after a visit from state functionaries. This event was intended as a teach-in and panel discussion in which various new social movements emerging across the country would be analyzed and discussed by experts from the field. Not only was the event abruptly cancelled, one of the guest speakers was forced off campus by the university security despite the fact that it was the university that had invited him in the first place.

In the second instance, an event that was planned to be held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, also on April 13th, which was a commemoration of the student who was brutally murdered by a mob one year ago at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mashal Khan, was also forcibly cancelled on the same day the event was due to be held. This event was planned in order for students to come together and mourn the loss of a fellow student who dedicated his short life to raising his voice in the struggle for peace and justice.

That doesn't seem to be hate speech, now, does it? So, once again, we have "hate speech" rules being used in an attempt to punish people the government doesn't like.

This, of course, is not a defense of "hate speech," but this pattern is undeniable. The nature of hate speech is such that it is frequently used by the powerful against marginalized groups. And, by definition, marginalized groups are rarely in power in the government, so it frequently does little to actually protect such groups. However, when there is no real definition of "hate speech" and it is quickly turned into "anything we don't like," it enables powerful governments to silence and punish anyone.


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 9:22am

    Far too often, the term "hate speech" can be better understood by tacking the word "I" or "we" on the front.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 9:22am

    Not just petty, spiteful AND petty

    That both events were cancelled the day(and not just that but the hour for the first event) they were intended to be held is something I find rather hard to chalk up to 'coincidence', and instead strikes me as squashing then in a particularly vindictive manner, as though to show those stupid little students who's really in charge and what they think of said students.

    The Pakistan Telecom Authority comes out of this looking beyond ridiculous, to the point that I'd call them thin skinned and childish if I didn't feel that would be an insult to actual children. If their idea of 'hate speech' is simple discussion of current social movements and a memorial for a murdered student, then I'd say they've demonstrated just how tyrannical and/or desperate to hide anything that might leave people questioning just how great their country/places of education they really are.

    As for the universities, whether they were pressured into killing the events at the last minute or did so on their own they don't really come out looking any better. Gutless cowards or vindictive thugs, neither of those are exactly flattering for institutions who would probably like to at least pretend to be places of higher learning and critical thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 9:22am

    Hate?

    Well, the government hates what they are saying, so that makes it hate speech right?

    Remember the kissing cousin of Hate Speech is Blasphemy. Always a fun law to apply to anything remotely religious. (Or non-religious! Secular thought is _inherently_ blasphemous.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2019 @ 9:55am

      Re: Hate?

      Everyone (who doesn't run a publishing company) hates paywalls, which makes this "interfaith hatred"...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 10:19am

      Re: Hate?

      Blasphemy is noting that elevating a class of people to Protected Status where "hate speech" can be prosecuted is discriminating against every person not of that Protected Class.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 10:26am

    you cant Justify religious idiogogy.

    The concept of 'Im right, you are wrong' is one for hte fundamental reasoning in religion. Its a justification to do anything. In any form the heads of that religion ASK/DEMAND..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 14 Jan 2019 @ 12:13pm

    If a govt. or its minions hate it, then it's "hate speech":

    "Begging for more freedom will make us all less secure."

    (I'm feeling less secure already.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2019 @ 1:07pm

    The term "hate speech" may have a different connotation in Pakistan, as the 1947-1948 partition of India caused the deaths of millions, by violence that was driven by hate speech.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 3:01pm

    " in the interest of the glory of Islam ..."

    That is just wonderful isn't it.

    heh! The GLORY of Islam. One has to laugh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 14 Jan 2019 @ 6:21pm

    Twitter warns conservative author his book violates Pakistan law

    Twitter warns conservative author his book violates Pakistan law... Might be hearing about this any day now on TechDirt. Look it up for yourselves if you don't feel like waiting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2019 @ 2:29am

      Re: Twitter warns conservative author his book violates Pakistan

      Look it up for yourselves

      Usually that means you have heard a rumour and cannot be bothered to check for yourself whether it actually has any foundation in fact.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 15 Jan 2019 @ 8:13am

    I demand the complete removal of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, and every other "free speech" and "hate crime" violator from the Internet as a whole. Let Pakistan make their own network if they don't like ours.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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