Cloudflare is one of the more important companies on the Internet. If you’re unfamiliar with their name, you’ve certainly seen the results of their services.
In a recent event, Cloudflare dropped Daily Stormer as a client.
If you’re unfamiliar with Daily Stormer, count yourself lucky. They’re full on Nazis. Or were. They’re offline now.
(If I have to explain why Nazis are bad, please just go away.)
Matthew Prince from Cloudflare posted a well thought out blog post here:
The irony is that they went full Nazi to censor Nazis, and at the end of the blog post, realise that they went full Nazi.
In the blog post, Matthew sides with “due process” over “free speech”:
Freedom of Speech < Due Process
The issue of who can and cannot be online has often been associated with Freedom of Speech. We think the more important principle is Due Process. I, personally, believe in strong Freedom of Speech protections, but I also acknowledge that it is a very American idea that is not shared globally. On the other hand, the concept of Due Process is close to universal. At its most basic, Due Process means that you should be able to know the rules a system will follow if you participate in that system.
Due Process requires that decisions be public and not arbitrary. It’s why we’ve always said that our policy is to follow the guidance of the law in the jurisdictions in which we operate. Law enforcement, legislators, and courts have the political legitimacy and predictability to make decisions on what content should be restricted. Companies should not.
This is entirely misguided. You can’t have due process if speech is muzzled. This should be obvious enough.
He also weighs in with some moral arguments:
You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer’s site is vile. You may believe it should be restricted. You may think the authors of the site should be prosecuted. Reasonable people can and do believe all those things. But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice.
I think those are worth breaking down a bit more.
You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer’s site is vile.
That’s a personal opinion, but yes, I also find them vile.
You may believe it should be restricted.
Absolutely not. While I may find DS vile, I’m not willing to denigrate free speech to only speech that I don’t find vile. The only speech that may rightfully be restricted is that speech which is criminal in nature, such as incitement to violence, etc. This has been covered in literature extensively.
You may think the authors of the site should be prosecuted.
No. I don’t. It shouldn’t be a crime to be an asshole fucking loudmouth. There are many things that I find personally repulsive that I don’t think should be prosecuted. My opinion shouldn’t dictate how other people live their lives. Even if I find it abhorrent. (The exception being criminal behaviour, and again, this has been covered many times, so I won’t repeat it here.)
Reasonable people can and do believe all those things.
No. Reasonable people don’t believe all those things. You just went full fucking Nazi on actual Nazis and you’re trying to justify your horrific behaviour.
But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice.
This is true. I have no dispute there. Due process needs to be followed, and in order for that to happen, people must be free to speak.
Then at the end of the post, Matthew seems to flip around somewhat, and realise that he and Cloudflare have crossed a very important line.
Someone on our team asked after I announced we were going to terminate the Daily Stormer: “Is this the day the Internet dies?” He was half joking, but only half. He’s no fan of the Daily Stormer or sites like it. But he does realize the risks of a company like Cloudflare getting into content policing.
That’s a telling and important bit, and perhaps the most important bit in the blog post.
He was half joking, but only half.
The point of free speech is that we need to tolerate (not accept!) things that we disagree with, and even things that we find horrific.
It’s that difference between tolerance and acceptance that seems to be blurred.
In 2012 Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” You can find it here:
The authors argue for infanticide, or in plain English, murdering babies. They even extend it to murdering toddlers up to 3 years old.
While some people may not find murdering babies horrific, I do. However, I never considered that muzzling those people and censoring them to be an option.
I’m struggling to find anything that’s more horrific than murdering babies. Perhaps I’m lacking in some imagination.
Sure, we could talk about adding in other crimes, such as rape and torture, but at the end of the day, are they really all that much horrific than simply murdering toddlers and babies? I think that in those terms, we start to lose perspective as it’s so far beyond any semblance of morality or decency.
Still, there’s no excuse to censor those authors as far as I can see.
You don’t win against full Nazis by going full Nazi. Let the marketplace of ideas prevail. Most sane people reject Nazism, just as they reject infanticide. We don’t need to censor non-criminal speech.