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EU clamps down on free speech

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In this piece, Tim Dieppe comments on news that the EU is to collaborate with major social media platforms in removing anything deemed 'hate speech'. 

The European Commission has announced a new code of conduct for ‘hate speech’ online, in collaboration with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Youtube. These IT companies have agreed to review valid complaints about online content within 24 hours, and remove or disable access to the content if appropriate. This powerful new code was announced without any public consultation, or discussion by democratically elected leaders. It will nevertheless, affect the civil liberties of 500 million people, which serves to illustrate the undemocratic nature of the EU.

The problem is that ‘hate speech’ is difficult to define. The code states that it "means all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin." 'Incitement to violence' is clear and uncontroversial. That aside, the definition is circular - 'hate speech' means 'incitement of hatred'.  It is not clear just what is meant by ‘hatred’. Elsewhere, the European Union Agency of Fundamental Rights defined 'hate speech' to include "disrespectful discourse." That is an incredibly broad definition that would potentially rule out any criticism of another person’s beliefs.

Just what may be included in the definition of ‘hate speech’ was revealed in a speech by Vĕra Jourová, the EU Commissioner responsible for the code, at an event last year. She said: "We are also seeing that a narrative undermining LGBTI rights is quietly spreading, often disguised as so-called religious principles. This is unacceptable." Christian Concern has already seen a student expelled from university for expressing support for biblical teaching on marriage on Facebook. The Commissioner later also mentioned ‘islamophobia’ in the context of ‘hate speech’, before stating that "We will work with internet providers to ensure hate speech is taken off the web as soon as it's reported." Now she has achieved her aim of obtaining agreement with internet providers to remove offending items. From her speech, this may include statements opposing same-sex ‘marriage’, or criticising Islam.

The code talks of Orwellian "trusted reporters" who will highlight offending items to the IT companies. The direction of travel here is for ‘hate speech’ to mean whatever those in power deem offensive. Politically incorrect speech will be silenced so that we can all be undisturbed by ideas that the political elite deem as harmful for society. This controlling of what we can and cannot say is totalitarian and dictatorial in its approach, all in the name of preventing ‘hate’.

Already we have seen the effects of this censorship in action. The day after the announcement, an author for the respected Gatestone Institute had her Facebook account deleted. She has written and reported on the stunning rise in rapes in Sweden, frequently perpetrated by immigrants of Muslim background. Only after enormous grassroots pressure was her Facebook account reinstated, with no explanation or apology.

Christian Concern has previously had its website blocked by wifi networks linked with O2. This latest development at the EU only increases the prospect of further censorship of politically incorrect views. Our precious right to free speech is sadly being eroded by the increasingly Orwellian and totalitarian system we live in. 

Related Links: 
European Commission and IT Companies announce Code of Conduct on illegal online hate speech (European Commission)
CENSORED: Facebook deletes a Gatestone author's page! (Gatestone Institute) 
Christian Concern O2 Blockage? (O2 Community) 
Christian student to seek further action after expulsion from university course