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Terrorism as an excuse to curtail freedom of speech

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  • Government officials and their cheerleaders in the media, in several countries, have used the New Zealand mosque killings to suggest that information linked to the murders should not be published.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said live-streaming on the major social media platforms should be stopped. New Zealand police asked for video footage to be removed.
  • The deputy leader of the Labour party in the UK called for YouTube to be hobbled in the aftermath of the shootings.
  • Britain’s police chief for counter-terrorism blamed the «mainstream media» for terrorism.
  • These people are afraid that uncensored information inspires and radicalises terrorists.
  • The right to free speech is only meaningful when it includes the right to publish material that many find objectionable. The «right» to publish information everyone agrees with isn’t much of a right. It’s the right to disagree that is the key.

Within hours of the massacre at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last week, government officials began calling for censorship of the media. The New Zealand police were first. In reference to copies of the killer’s live-streamed video of the shooting, they tweeted, «We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.»

That immediately posed a problem for the media trying to make sense of the event. The video showed the killer’s face clearly. It was imperative for reporters to be able to correctly identify that the man in the video was the same man whose Facebook account was taken offline that day, and that he was the same man who published on Twitter a racist manifesto justifying the killings.

The price for misidentifying a killer is high: That happened in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2015, when idiots on Reddit — as part of a «crowd-sourced investigation» — decided that Sunil Tripathi, a completely innocent man who had disappeared the month before the bombing, was a prime suspect. In fact, Tripathi had died some time before the bombing. In the meantime, however, his family was targeted by an online lynch mob. The Tripathi family received hundreds of threatening, racist, and Islamaphobic messages until the truth came out.



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