Internet censorship is a growing problem. Both governments and social media giants are cracking down on free speech under the guise of fighting racism, sexism, and other social ills. Censorship has increased in recent years, especially after a certain celebrity from a certain blockbuster flop quit Twitter after facing criticism.
I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart.All this cause I did a movie.You can hate the movie but the shit I got today…wrong
— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) July 19, 2016
Earlier this year, YouTube deleted channels by alleged supporters of the alt-right such as Gavin McInnes (accused of sexism) and the widely popular Alex Jones, whose internet and radio show, InfoWars, has millions of viewers.
Facebook and Twitter have both come under fire for their strict community guidelines, which many have accused of being biased. Twitter’s particularly strong speech codes have caused many to label it a global censor; using its power and influence to limit the expression of any views it deems offensive.
Even though YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are private corporations (and therefore have a right to kick anyone from their platforms), many activists have condemned these acts of censorship on the grounds that they violate free speech – an ideal that serves as one of the most important values of western civilization.
Countless activists have used their freedom of speech to change the way people view the world and, in doing so, create a more tolerant society. Gay rights, civil rights, and women’s rights are all a result of activists having the freedom of speech necessary to express beliefs that were not widely supported.
But there’s another reason to oppose censorship: it empowers white supremacy.
In a free market of ideas, where all theories are allowed to be discussed and shared, racism never wins. Activists during the Civil Rights Movement repeatedly out-argued racists because their ideology isn’t based in logic. It is based entirely in hatred.
When we refuse to engage their dangerous ideas, or worse yet censor them, they don’t magically disappear. Instead, they congregate on separate websites; away from anyone who could tell them the truth. These sites are cesspools of hardcore racism and unchecked conspiracy theories.
When we fail to debate white supremacists on the facts, we don’t make their views less accessible. Instead, we push them into digital echo-chambers where their views are constantly reaffirmed and their racism only grows stronger.
Censorship makes us look like tyrants; malicious idiots supposedly scared of the truth and unwilling to think. Of course, none of this is true. Racism is in no way scientifically accurate. Which is exactly why censorship is so dangerous: it shields racist demagogues like Richard Spencer from being exposed as the mindless conspiracy theorists and frauds that they are.
This isn’t just speculation or theory; white supremacists themselves believe the recent surge in censorship is amplifying their message. After all, every time social media giants censor them it makes headlines. This free exposure draws more people to them.
Facebook says it engages in censorship in order to protect us. But did it protect us from the horrors of Charlottesville? Did it stop the hatred of Dylann Roof when he gunned down innocent church-goers? These two are textbook examples of the danger of censorship and the echo-chambers they create.
These violent acts were not the direct result of censorship. Many factors are at play. But it is an undeniable fact that censorship has failed to stop racism or protect us from its results. Despite Twitter’s rampant disregard for free speech, white supremacist groups have been rapidly growing.
The only way to combat racism is to confront and debate it. Censorship isn’t just an easy way out, and it doesn’t just strip people of their rights; it empowers racists and puts people of color in danger.