Post the Christchurch mosque shootings there has been much blame being placed about who is responsible, apart from the actual killer. Amongst blaming racism, white supremacists and nationalists the biggest finger has been pointed at the internet itself.
This is due to the fact the killer Brenton Tarant broadcast the shooting from his Facebook account. Despite governments, social media companies and ISPs best efforts to remove the broadcast from the internet it is a lost cause. But that hasn’t stopped the calls for governments to regulate “the ungoverned” internet and crackdown on hate speech.
In New Zealand two men have been charged for sharing the shooting video and face prison terms of up to 28 years. An 18-year old who cannot be named was the first to be arrested for sharing the video with the caption “target acquired” and has been denied bail. A 44-year old man was the second to be charged and was bailed set to appear in court in April.
The New Zealand Government has been threatening citizens with 14 years imprisonment if they are in possession of the video, which is a higher sentence than if they are caught in position of child pornography. The Government is also blocking access to websites that are known to host the footage.
In Australia major ISPs Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, already known for their corporate social responsibility activities took it upon themselves to block access to sites that had hosted the shooting footage including KiwiFarms, 4chan, 8chan, Zero Hedge, Voat, LiveLeak and BitChute.
Many expressed concern that ISPs could decide that they know better than their customers and should be in charged of what they can and cannot view online. The action of the ISPs to self censor has spurred interest from Australians about using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to escape geographical censorship.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he wants a global crackdown on social media, even suggesting a ban on livestreaming, claiming “If they can write an algorithm to make sure that the ads they want you to see can appear on your mobile phone, then I’m quite confident they can write an algorithm to screen out hate content on social media platforms”.
Scott Morrison will meet with executives from Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter on Tuesday. He has already written to the G20 calling on leaders to “ensure social media companies implement better safeguards to ensure their platforms can’t be exploited by terrorists or to spread hate speech”.
While the case can be made for preventing the shooting video from spreading online, out of respect for the victims, a crackdown on a vague term such as “hate speech” is much more concerning.
For example Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said to Andrew Bolt last night that Sky News should be shut down for hate speech. The Greens also want to give the parliament the power to expel MPs who express “hate speech” such as Senator Fraser Anning.
The Christchurch shooting has coincided with prominent Australian nationalists Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson being banned from Twitter and moving to free speech social media platform Gab.ai. Fairfax has labelled Gab a “shadowy messaging service” its existence made them wonder “whether the (far-right) clampdown goes far enough”.
Fairfax asked Gab if they are okay with such “extremists” using their platform to which they replied “Gab is completely viewpoint neutral,”and that “It is the place of law, not of private tech companies, to determine the extent of acceptable speech”. In other words told Fairfax where to go.
Gab’s only restriction on speech is a direct call to violence, which nobody would disagree with, this policy was enacted when it banned American alt-right personality Christopher Cantwell from the platform who advocated massacring leftists as a political tactic. Cantwell had already been banned by all mainstream social media companies, email marker Mailchimp, PayPal and credit card companies.
If the Australian Government and ISPs encouraged by the mainstream media and leftist activists were to ban a platform such Gab from being viewed in Australia for “hate speech” then it would the most draconian act against free speech we have seen yet.
But in reality governments and ISPs acts of censorship in the age of the internet is futile, but post-Christchurch they are attempting mass censorship on an unprecedented level, they are only now realizing just how hard it is in the modern age to suppress opinions and disappear people.
We will await what comes from Scott Morrison’s meeting with big tech companies and other governments when it comes to internet regulation. But it should always be remembered that after any terror attack taking away freedoms and liberties fulfills the terrorists’ goals and succeeds in fracturing our society.