Thursday, March 29, 2018

Liberdade de expressão e censura social/privada (II)

The Free Speech Dilemma, por Chris Dillow:

What role should social pressure play in the policing of free speech? (...)

Such social pressure has worked well in the case of David Irving. He should be legally free to deny the holocaust, but the rest of us are entitled – and correct – to treat his as a pariah.

I’m even relaxed about most cases of no-platforming. Nobody has a right to speak at (say) a students union, any more than I have a right to a column in the Telegraph. A right to speak does not give the rest of us an obligation to host you.

Nor does that right entail freedom from the consequences of exercising it. You have a right to speak, and the rest of us have a right to tell you forcefully that you’re talking shit or to ignore you.

In fact, if the marketplace of ideas is to work, bad ideas must be weeded out. This is done by vigorously opposing them.

All this leads me to think that we should police speech not with the law but with the force of others’ opinion – either shunning them or opposing them depending on context.

Except, except, except. Here are four counter-arguments:

- Some privately-provided platforms are so widespread and important that withdrawing them is, as Robert Sharp says, a form of “privatized censorship.” He’s talking of Facebook’s banning of Britain First. They deserve no sympathy, but there’s a slippery slope here: if Facebook can ban them, it can – as Robert says – also censor others.

- Private sanctions against speech we don’t like can be excessively harsh. For example, I wouldn’t want firms to be able to sack employees just because they have opinions their employers don’t like.

- There’s a point, perhaps not easily defined, at which vigorous and widespread opposition becomes bullying: was Mary Beard bullied after her (I think) ill-judged tweet about “’civilized’ values”? I’m not sure. But women are especially vulnerable to an ugly mob rule.

- John Stuart Mill had a point in warning us of the tyranny of the majority. This he wrote, is
more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them;

My point here is that we face a genuine dilemma. On the one hand, there’s much to be said for using social rather than legal sanctions against speech we don’t like. But on the other, those sanctions can be as excessive and misapplied as legal ones.

1 comment:

João Vasco said...

Está muito bem apanhada a selecção de "dilemas". Coloco a "fronteira" precisamente nesses pontos (insuficientemente definidos).

E sim, plataformas como o facebbok atingiram um grau de importância social que não podemos assumir que os donos têm "todo" o direito de limitar a expressão de ideias políticas. Do ponto de vista formal compreendo o argumento, mas nesse caso os utilizadores deveriam penalizar severamente estes serviços. O problema é que para o evitar estes serviços começam por censurar apenas ideias extremamente impopulares, e a esmagadora maioria das pessoas não é capaz de conceber que alguém esteja preocupado com a liberdade de exprimir uma opinião com a qual se discorda. Assumem sempre "se estás preocupado com os Britain First é porque não discordas assim tanto".