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Free speech is in free fall in Silicon Valley

Niall Ferguson
 

By Niall Ferguson (Original source The Times)

“I am old enough to remember when Twitter billed itself as “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party”. Heck, I can even remember John Perry Barlow’s hippie-libertarian “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” — a place “where anyone, anywhere, may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity”.

Well, “it’s the morning after the free-speech party, and the place is trashed”. Don’t take it from me. Those words come from twentysomething Adam, a content moderator in one of the “trust and safety teams” now employed by Facebook, Google and the other network platforms to detect and remove “hate speech”.

Last week, YouTube announced that it was “specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status”. It swiftly became clear what that meant in practice. On Wednesday, as The New York Times reported, “numerous far-right creators began complaining that their videos had been deleted or had been stripped of ads, presumably a result of the new policy”.”

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