Is the Internet a safe space? The European Union thinks it should be, according to a recent proposal.
Vera Jourová, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, unveiled a new EU code to tackle illegal ‘hate speech’ on the internet. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have all lined up with the EU to remove hate speech from the web, with a particular focus on racism and xenophobia. “The internet is a place for free speech, not hate speech,” Jourova said.
In advance of the proposed code– and concurrently, the release of the second edition of Paul Coleman’s book Censored: How European “Hate Speech” Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech– the online journal Spiked published a piece “asking leading free speech thinkers to weigh in on Europe’s increasingly punitive hate-speech legislation, which has led to individuals being arrested, fined and even jailed for anything from criticizing homosexuality in church sermons to handing out leaflets critical of Islam.”
Heterodox Academy collaborator Jonathan Haidt wrote one of the short essays. Much like we have seen on college campuses recently, Haidt argues, hate speech restrictions quickly devolve into justifications for intimidation, threats, disruptions, and disturbances- most frequently from left leaning individuals who do not condone, and then seek to block, conservative speakers, groups and clubs from forming, gathering and delivering talks or events. “One side of the political spectrum arrogates to itself the right to decide what arguments are acceptable in the public domain.”
A friend of Heterodox Academy – Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, also weighed in. He argued that the colleges themselves are complicit, with more than 55 percent of the 437 colleges and universities analyzed in a recent FIRE study maintaining speech codes that seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students.
The Spiked feature includes reactions from additional thinkers who collectively make the case that the proposed EU code will undermine the very foundation of democracy and ideals that Western countries have long held up as their most sacred right.