Just because your idea is outdated or offensive, doesn’t mean you should be silenced… or does it?
Two days ago I reported how neonazi rag “The Daily Stormer” was expelled first by GoDaddy and later by Google, and was forced to take refuge in a Russian domain, from which two days later it has also been ejected, then Cloudflare, a DNS provider, along with protection and distribution of content fundamental on the internet, also withdrew its services to the neonazi page.
Cloudflare’s decision, intelligently explained by its CEO, Matthew Prince, in either a short and crude version supposedly for internal circulation, or in a longer and more refined version, merits thought. The publication in question faces huge difficulties continuing its activity online: to all intents and purposes, has been expelled from the internet. Kevin Prince’s words leave no room for ambiguity: after the Daily Stormer suggested Cloudflare had neonazi sympathies, he said:
“I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone should not be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power. “
There is a great deal of common sense in Prince’s admission as to his power: but the reality of business consolidation is that fewer and fewer companies run the internet, and no matter how repugnant a particular page or ideology may be, access to the internet should not be the responsibility of a few private companies: that decision should correspond to the courts.
The trend of excluding neonazi and white supremacist ideologies of recent days is not limited to a single page. Bands that play music associated with the alt-right disappear from Spotify, links to that type of content suddenly have no place on Facebook, you cannot talk about it on Reddit forums or on some instant messaging services, you cannot write about that on WordPress, fundraising sites want nothing to do with their campaigns, and there is no access to payment services such as Apple Pay or PayPal, neonazis can even forget about finding the love of their life on OKCupid.
Let me spell it out: neonazis and white supremacists SUCK. Big time. They not only are dead wrong, but also, they belong in the same garbage can as jihadism, an idea of a religious crusade from about a millennium ago, but which can still drive people to carry out acts such as those in Barcelona last night. Ideologies that claim one race or religion, gender or sexual inclination is superior to another have to be called out.
That said, an imbecile that has managed to become president can, unfortunately, attempt to revive long-dead ideas… But regardless of whether we publicly speak out against these ideas rooted in the distant past, it is not down to individuals or private companies to silence them, and instead is the responsibility of the courts. In many Central European countries certain ideas have been banned from public discussion, the result of a social consensus based on history. In other countries, such as the United States, the constitution prevents the government from silencing you but does not prevent a private company or others from doing so in certain environments: in this case, the internet.
We are aware of the paradox of tolerance, and we should bear in mind that we are talking about the building blocks of the society in which our children will live. Should we try to prevent, prohibit or eliminate from society all ideologies that do not accept certain rules? What to do, for example, with AfD in Germany, which do not admit to being neonazis simply to avoid problems with the courts, but that openly defend such ideologies under another name? Just because an ideology is rooted in the last millennium or in the last century doesn’t mean there aren’t idiots out there prepared to reanimate them, as we are sadly seeing.
We are going to have to make more measured decisions about the place that these outdated ideologies can or should have in our societies or on the internet.
(En español, aquí)