Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Free Speech

Facebook: When Free Speech Costs Money

Very quietly, so quietly that it has almost gone without notice, Facebook has begun to charge its users to have their posts shown to more than a small percentage of their friends, fans, and subscribers. New posts on Facebook now come with a “promote” option, where you have the opportunity to pay Facebook money to ensure that your posts actually reach the people who have signed up to receive them. Facebook, famous for its promise that “it’s free, and always will be”, seems to have skirted this issue by charging not to be a user of Facebook, but to actually have your material seen by more than a tiny number of people. Do not mistake this post for a rant about Facebook however–though I myself am impacted (even as this blog has grown more popular over the last several months, the number of referrals from Facebook I receive has indeed dropped since I got the “promote” option), I am not here to trash Facebook but to point out what this move by Facebook more broadly represents–a move toward a fusion of free speech with income, and the debilitating effects this has on democracy.

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The Moral Weakness of Hate Speech Laws

Yesterday, at the United Nations, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi expressed support for laws banning hate speech, claiming that, while he respects freedom of expression, he restricts this respect to only one that:

is not used to incite hatred against anyone. One that is not directed toward one specific religion or cult

You can listen to the entire speech here; I was unable to locate a transcript.

The President of Yemen, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, was more to the point:

There should be limits for the freedom of expression, especially if such freedom blasphemes the beliefs of nations and defames their figures.

This policy of illegalising what has become known as “hate speech” is held by many leaders in the Middle East, and enshrined in many legal codes not only in the developing world but even in many western countries. Today I would like to put forth an argument that these laws and the beliefs that sustain them display tremendous moral weakness.

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Obama at the UN

Barack Obama addressed the United Nations yesterday on the subject of Middle East policy. In the meantime, Mitt Romney continued to criticise the Obama administration on the same issue. Today I would like to discuss the remarks of each, and point out one key flaw at the heart of both men’s policies.

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