- Date published:
12:00 pm, January 7th, 2015 - 46 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, human rights, internet, interweb, Spying - Tags: free speech, GCSB, Glenn Greenwald, Spying, Surveillance state
A long, fascinating piece by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept this morning. Please head on over there and read the whole thing, but here are some extracts:
WITH POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA GROWING, POLICE NOW MONITORING AND CRIMINALIZING ONLINE SPEECH
… Criminal cases for online political speech are now commonplace in the UK, notorious for its hostility to basic free speech and press rights. As The Independent‘s James Bloodworth reported last week, “around 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online.”
But the persecution is by no means viewpoint-neutral. It instead is overwhelmingly directed at the country’s Muslims for expressing political opinions critical of the state’s actions. … this is not merely an attack on free speech but on specific ideas. Writing about Ahmed’s case in The Guardian, Richard Seymour described him as “the latest victim of a concerted effort to redefine racism as ‘anything that could conceivably offend white people.’”
Like all technologies that threaten to subvert prevailing authority, social media–along with the Internet generally–is being increasingly targeted with police measures of control, repression and punishment. Just like mass surveillance does to the Internet, this is all part of an effort to convert these new technologies from a potential tool of subversion into one that further bolsters governing power factions.
It is thus unsurprising that the national police of Scotland postedthe above-displayed warning last week. That warning tweet is starker and more honest than the tone typically used to convey such messages, but it perfectly captures the mindset of states throughout the west about the “dangers” of social media and the repressive steps they are now taking to combat them. As Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation documented this week, legal suppression of online speech is spreading throughout the west and democracies worldwide.
As is true for all War on Terror abuses, this American version of criminalizing speech is spreading far beyond its original application, and is increasingly applied domestically. Anti-police messages are now being subjected to the same criminalizing treatment as anti-military and anti-U.S.-foreign-policy ideas.
Last month in western Massachusetts, police issued a criminal summons to 27-year-old Charles DiRosa for posting an “anti-police Facebook post.” … There’s no question that DiRosa’s “anti-police” post is pure free speech, constitutionally protected. Even if one wants to construe it as a recommendation to others that they kill police officers, the First Amendment bars any prosecution. … Under the most basic free speech principles, nobody can be prosecuted for expressing those views. These principles reflect a vital recognition: empowering officials to criminalize the expression of those views is far more dangerous than the views themselves.
Like the law generally, criminalizing online speech is reserved only for certain kinds of people (those with the least power) and certain kinds of views (the most marginalized and oppositional). Those who serve the most powerful factions or who endorse their orthodoxies are generally exempt. For that reason, these trends in criminalizing online speech are not so much an abstract attack on free speech generally, but worse, are an attempt to suppress particular ideas and particular kinds of people from engaging in effective persuasion and political activism.
The fact that the most effective communications medium yet invented is monitored, surveilled, and increasingly being used as a tool to protect the power and position of the privileged, isn’t exactly news of course. But Greenwald has written a compelling summary, with several example cases and plenty more analysis – the full article is well worth a read. Consider it in the recent NZ context of dirty politics, the raid on Hager, the media raids following the “teapot tape”, the Snowden revelations (CORTEX, XKEYSCORE and the like) and our recent extensions to state surveillance powers. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.