Monday, May 24, 2021

#ChristchurchCall wants online speech controlled

Prince Harry's First Amendment Aversion Is Funny; the Governments That Agree Are Scary | Reason - J.D. Tuccille: 

May 21, 2021 - "'Instead of thinking about content moderation through an individualistic lens typical of constitutional jurisprudence, platforms, regulators, and the public at large need to recognize that the First Amendment–inflected approach to online speech governance that dominated the early internet no longer holds,' writes Harvard Law School lecturer Evelyn Douek in an April 2021 Columbia Law Review article. 'Instead, platforms are now firmly in the business of balancing societal interests and choosing between error costs on a systemic basis.'

"The catalyst for this shift away from First Amendment-style speech protection by the tech giants was COVID-19, claims the Australian academic, who approves of the transformation. She sees lasting effects beyond social media.... Douek cites a pre-pandemic paper by Harvard Law School's Jonathan Zittrain who unintentionally anticipated the impact of COVID-19 when he observed that the treatment of speech is moving to a 'public health framework [that] is much more geared around risks and benefits than around individual rights.'

"Among the lawmakers treating speech as a health threat are French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who have joined together with other political and tech leaders to demand tighter regulation of online speech. New Zealand's prime minister, in particular, wants digital media companies to implement 'ethical algorithms' to steer people away from material of which the authorities disapprove and toward content that they prefer. 'Let's have that conversation around the ethical use of algorithms, and how they can use be used in a positive way and for positive interventions,' Ardern last week told a conference of participants in Christchurch Call, which advocates for greater control over online content.

"Ardern faces opposition at home, where the libertarian ACT party, which won 10 of 120 seats in the October 2020 election, makes free speech a major part of its platform and its opposition to the governing Labour Party. That was already a demanding job in a country that has an official national censorship office, and hasn't become easier in a pandemic-shocked world grown accustomed to 'emergency' incursions into individual rights.

"But Christchurch Call, co-founded by the governments of France and New Zealand, wins a friendly reception elsewhere. The European Union has long been on-board with speech controls and had no objection to endorsing the effort. Over 50 governments and most of the big tech companies have also signed on. 'YouTube is committed to the #ChristchurchCall,' CEO Susan Wojcicki tweeted May 14. 'We continue to strengthen our policies, improve transparency, and restrict borderline content. We look forward to continuing to work with the Call community.'

"Also endorsing the Christchurch Call is the government of the United States.... 'The United States endorses the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online, formally joining those working together under the rubric of the Call to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting the Internet,' the U.S. State Department announced on May 7. The statement went on to promise that 'the United States will not take steps that would violate the freedoms of speech and association protected by the First Amendment,' but that's going to be hard to square with a mandate for 'ethical algorithms' intended to nudge people away from ideas frowned on by officialdom."

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