Arguments Against Free Speech And How To Debunk Them: GamerGate Edition.
One of the things I’m fond of is free speech advocacy, and one of the reasons I’m aligned with GamerGate is my fury over those who seek to suppress it.
Granted, there are good reasons some speech should be suppressed, but the parties who offend me do not have reasons based on lawful precedent. In stead, their arguments against certain speech are:
- It hurts my feelings.
- I consider it harassment.
Let’s debunk these, shall we?
The first one does have some lawful precedent in annals of law, commonly called emotional distress, but this generally applies to cases in which reputation or financial losses have also been incurred and when a private issue results in public embarrassment, such as the Hogan versus Gawker trial incident.
It was never intended to silence saying you think someone is “a lying sack of shit” in a public fora so long (A) do not disturb public order (B) your speech does not infringe on another right to speech.
The first is easy. Making a Youtube video saying someone is a liar does not disturb public order unless you advocate committing crimes against the party you believe is a liar. The second is also easy, as unless your speech is meant to illegally restrain someone else’s right to speak, your speech is otherwise lawful.
The second one, harassment, this is a big one abused by opposers of GamerGate, especially parties like Zoe Quinn (I refer everyone to Eugene Volokh’s articles on how her attempts to restrain Gjoni’s speech on these grounds is unconstitutional), and my favorite, Brianna Wu, who has worked overtime trying to get any negative press about themselves taken down anywhere they can.
Harassment cannot be applied in a passive context, so if someone made a Youtube video or Facebook post about how Brianna Wu is a fraud, that’s their opinion and does not infringe on Wu’s ability to offer rebuttal nor attempt to stop Wu from offering rebuttal. It would also apply to Eron Gjoni, who if he merely made a public announcement he was engaged in a legal confrontation with his ex and cited information anyone could easily look up on public court records anyway, he is not harassing Zoe Quinn nor stirring a hate mob against her, he’s just stating public information. The same would apply to Brianna Wu, who has denied Breitbart’s allegations of being John Flynt, though all sorts of publicly available information such as internet postings, college admissions info, and most recently discovered by the Kiwi Farms, voter registration information all verify Breitbart’s assertions, and it’s telling Wu has not sued for libel in any of these incidents and has instead attempted to suppress this information, all of which was gleaned from sources available to the public in any event.
Harassment is an active effort to interfere with someone’s rights to privacy, which cannot be reasonably expected if the parties accused of harassment are merely posting information the public can find themselves by checking public records. If the Kiwi Farms were posting social security numbers or credit card data, that’s one thing, but posting about someone’s public data such as accounts on social media and information anyone who checks a phonebook or voter registry could find out for themselves, they have not committed a crime.
Another free speech straw man those who oppose GamerGate seek to build then destroy is saying certain places, like r/KotakuInAction and 8chan should be torn down for “doxxing” and pedophilia.
On the “doxxing” front, if they are posting SSN’s or credit card information, that’s a valid argument. Posting links to someone’s social media accounts (like Wu or Quinn’s Twitter) is not “doxxing”, the public can easily find it for themselves with a Google search.
On the pedophilia front, I need to add I utterly revile pedophiles and personally couldn’t care if 8chan died tomorrow, but since this is a common straw man they love to bring up and it concerns free speech arguments they love to argue, let’s go over it:
- They argue 8chan allows lolicon/shotacon and creepshot pictures of stuff like child beauty pageants, kids in swimsuits, and other odious crap that, while failing the legal child pornography test, it’s still depraved and it needs to come down.
- They point to spambots posting links to CP or individual posters doing the same, or even images of that content, claiming this makes 8chan an illegal site.
Let’s break down these arguments:
- The first runs into the problem of “It’s not moral, but it’s legal”. Thing is, I agree almost entirely on the moral grounds that crap they mention is utterly immoral and disgusting, they have no argument from me. However, so long as it fails the LEGAL test under US law, they can complain all they wish, but so long as they don’t cross legal lines, those who enjoy content they disagree with can do so all they wish as long as they approach the border of illegality but don’t cross it. Problem with this argument is that is basically is moral outrage they want to be law, and the law is not based on moral outrage, but on legal principles that apply to everyone equally, and mere offensiveness has not and should never be grounds for vacating speech, it must actively violate the rights of others, which clothed pictures of real children that is legal for the public to view and drawn child porn do not, as the first fails the obscenity test and the second does not involve harming real children to make or produce. They are still morally repugnant, but are not illegal because they don’t require crimes to make, produce, and distribute.
- The second is saying a site where anyone, themselves included, can post content should be punished because a few parties abuse that right, a statement one could apply to Wikipedia, Reddit, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, or any other site that allow submitting text and photos. Unless the site owners and operators actively sanction such activities, the actions of miscreants do not reflect on the site as a whole, or the sites mentioned above would have ceased to exist a LONG time ago. If the people who spout this canard can find proof they can bring into a court of law that the owners and operators of 8chan actively support illegal acts on their service or do nothing to stop them when made aware of them, then they have a case. Otherwise, this would be like shuttering the doors of Youtube because one person uploaded a child porn video, despite it being against the rules, against the law, and both Youtube and the authorities bringing down the hammer on the offender, while everyone else using the service did not break the law.
In conclusion, I wrote this because free speech and free expression are sacred rights I staunchly defend, and those in GamerGate have been under attack by those who want theirs stripped away, so I wrote this to take some of the most common attacks and lay bare their flaws so the parties I have aligned myself with are armed with the same knowledge as myself as to their rights.