Things whose suppression is not necessarily
(or at least, I feel there could be some debate about it).
General discussion of various hard cases,
the definition of speech, the role of the law, etc.
As an adjunct to the Anti-censorship page.
Obviously, some writing can essentially have no message,
make no point, and serve no purpose
other than to harrass, intimidate and upset somebody.
While I think some defence can be made for allowing
in the abstract
(otherwise some forms of rational discourse may become fearful and impossible),
on the other hand pointless aggression against named living people
is surely behaviour -
along the lines of stalking or spam - rather than speech.
Provided it is pointless, of course.
And here there may be differences of opinion.
I think much of what the
tabloids do (e.g. to the Royal family)
should actually be illegal
- but maybe that's just me.
And of course privacy can be invoked to essentially
prevent history being written.
In fact, I think it's a little sad
- even for those who would come out of it badly -
that we never get to see the true histories of our times.
They are written long after we are dead,
and then of course ironically, we, to whom they would be of the greatest interest,
cannot read them.
For instance, my family history is wonderfully detailed about people who are dead and forgotten long ago,
but then is stripped down to no more than skeletal information about everyone alive now.
There are many reasons why people want privacy,
but one of the main ones is fear of predators that will come into our lives
and attack us, the more they know about us.
In that sense, burglars, thieves and stalkers have a chilling effect on free speech.
The child porn issue
can be considered on many levels other than obscenity.
It can be considered as a privacy issue.
It can be considered as an aiding and abetting crime issue
- by not handing over the photographs of crimes to the police.
The Starr inquiry
and other queries into the sex lives of politicians
are not good for democracy.
The abuse that politicians (and other celebrities) get
in terms of publication of their private lives,
serves no function to democracy,
and one of its side effects is to deter many talented people
from public office.
Who would want all that abuse when you could make more money
- and keep your private life private -
But what if the information is not
Should it be allowed exist at all? Should the police, for example,
be allowed hold a DNA database of every citizen?
The classic civil liberties position has always opposed compulsory ID cards,
DNA databases and other information the police may collect on the citizenry
as a whole.
But perhaps their opposition is becoming misplaced.
Perhaps the proper, the honest, solution is to campaign freely and openly
for more liberal laws
(such as reforming the drug laws),
so that no citizen, now matter how deviant their lifestyle, has anything to fear.
Civil liberties groups evolved in a situation
where the state
- by criminalising and oppressing
minority groups such as homosexuals,
contraceptive users, drug users,
atheists, blacks, aborigines,
women and Catholics
- was the greatest threat to civil liberty.
But if all these battles are won (and I agree the drug issue remains outstanding),
maybe we should look again at the privacy of modern society
- which allows serial rapists, killers,
attackers and burglars to operate uncaught
As conservatives have long pointed out, these people
are a threat to civil liberty too.
If there was a compulsory national DNA database,
rape (and rape murder) could become virtually impossible.
Even theft and burglary could be hard hit
- with the citizenry using their own home DNA kits to hunt for evidence.
So how about the following:
- A DNA database of all citizens.
- Tag all violent offenders for life,
so their whereabouts are always known (to a non-public computer).
You can still live, and do what you like.
All we ask is that we must know where you are.
- Or even tag the whole population, so it is known where everyone is.
Make assault, rape, abduction and murder literally impossible.
Maybe civil liberties groups have it all wrong.
Maybe this is the future of civil liberties -
the end of crime,
in a liberal, pluralist state.
In summary, if we ever do win the battle to create a proper liberal state,
then maybe we will eventually come to see privacy
as the greatest single threat to civil liberty.
This is a long way off perhaps, but it's still something to think about.
Hard cases - Speech that encourages threats to other people's liberties
The only reason we're in favour of free speech
is because we're in favour of freedom and liberty.
So how about when the speaker
doesn't believe in freedom and liberty
for others, and threatens them?
How about these hard cases:
- Intellectual arguments:
- A site that makes an intellectual case for
racism / fascism or
- A site that makes an intellectual case for
Can such a case be made?
I'm not sure.
I can see that there is an argument
that this is not necessarily the same as supporting torture of animals.
After all, adult animals have sex all the time
(at least with each other).
- Anyway, how about a site that does
support torture of animals for sport or entertainment
- hunting, circuses, dancing bears, and so on.
- A site that makes an intellectual case for
This is not necessarily a site supporting aggressive rape.
e.g. Say a site making an intellectual case
against the criminalisation of early- to mid- teenage sex.
- Writing that does openly support aggressive pedophilia,
including the rape of toddlers,
such as the writings of
- A site supporting the
aggressive rape of civilians in warfare
(see also here),
or a site supporting
the killing of captured civilian women and children
(see also here).
- In wartime,
an intellectual argument supporting the enemy
(e.g. the Iraqi resistance,
or the IRA).
- Non-intellectual glamourisation of activities that threaten others:
- Almost every Hollywood action movie glamourises or condones
things that would, in real life, threaten other people's liberties:
- Car driving - If Hollywood car chases were true-to-life,
there would be dead passers-by in every film,
just as real-life police and real-life joyriders
do kill passers-by.
- Guns and fighting as a solution to all problems.
- Glamourisation of all forms of criminal abuse of others -
burglary, vandalism, arson, joyriding,
- all have been glamourised,
such as in the obnoxious The General.
Oddly enough, say, rape or child murder
is rarely glamourised.
- Glamourisation of
police brutality, lack of due process,
vigilante action, summary execution, etc.
- Glamourisation of
- Practical advice in general, "How-to" do something:
- A site that gives practical advice on guns, explosives, etc.
- A site that gives practical advice on burglary, lock-picking, etc.
- A site that gives practical advice on joyriding, speeding, car races, car chases, etc.
- A site that gives practical advice on rape.
- A site that gives practical advice on torture, for foreign police forces.
- A site that gives practical advice to pedophiles
- tells them where to meet children, etc.
- Real information:
- A site that tells motorists where speed traps are.
- A site that tells motorists where drink-driving checks are.
- A site that tells burglars what houses are empty,
where old people live alone, and so on.
- A site that tells loyalist paramilitaries
where Catholics live in each housing estate.
- A site that lists addresses of doctors that perform abortions.
- In wartime or in a time of genocide,
a foreign media site linked to the enemy regime
(e.g. Serb TV)
and perhaps helping organise the genocide (e.g. Rwandan radio),
or encouraging the enemy
(e.g. Arab TV,
jihadi videos on YouTube).
- In wartime, a home site
telling the enemy where military targets and informants are
I'd like to say I have easy answers for all of these,
but I don't.
My instinct would be that
most of 1. and 2.
have to be tolerated
as offensive speech,
whereas most of 3. and 4.
cross the border into directly threatening people.
But I must say that it is hard to define the exact principles
I am using.
Avoiding offensive speech
While we might allow speech like that in 1. and 2.
you do of course always
have the perfect right
to find the speech
and you should be able to filter it successfully
and completely out of your life.
Indeed, this applies to any
speech you don't like.
Part of the problem
with offensive speech is that with many media, like
TV or the cinema,
we cannot run advanced
- we simply have to sit there and get assaulted by what is coming next.
But this is a personal technology
not a legal problem,
and it can be solved by giving the individual
to put them more in control of their life.
Libel is a grey area, especially now that we all have our own printing presses.
People aren't as helpless as they used to be.
You can set up your own website to refute the media.
Which leads to the question of:
- Some, or all, of the claims on the above web pages may be untrue
But is actually listing the URL libellous?
- How can it be?
Linking to libel (without repeating it) cannot be libel:
- First, I don't publish the actual claim, only a URL.
This is no more than saying:
"The Irish Times named the alleged murderer in its August 15th issue on page 9."
And it is provably true that the Irish Times made a claim
- whatever about the truth of the claim itself.
- Second, I don't say I agree with them
(I don't say "whatever is at the end of that URL is true").
In fact, I have already forgotten what is at the end of that URL.
- Third, the owners of the URL can of course change
(and may already have changed) what they say at that page without my
knowledge or consent
and, for example, make me accountable for hundreds of libels.
But I could hardly be guilty of libel if I had never heard of (let alone uttered) the claimed libellous statement.
For example, today's news is at
Now, am I liable for whatever libels appear from time to time at the end of that link?
- Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and a court may decide otherwise.
But the technology seems unstoppable:
- Someone can set up a dedicated website
and the courts will then be in the ridiculous position
of making it illegal to print the words
or possess a T-shirt with the logo
And you can make the URL the name of a company
or organisation, so newspapers would have to be forbidden to print:
issued a statement yesterday".
- Crimewatch UK
- Another example of how the Internet can be used by the "good guys" as well as by the bad.
All unsolved crimes should be listed on the Internet, searchable by area.
All stolen property
should be listed and described online, searchable by type.
- Crimeline (Ireland)
- Sex offender registries
The thing about noise is the choice
of whether we have to
hear the speech or not.
You have the right to say what you like.
I have the right to filter your speech out of my life.
Speech is one thing, behaviour is another.
I support the right of the Orange Order
to their publications and web sites,
which we can all read in a non-threatening environment.
But as to whether they should be able to rally and march
down the roads of upset and intimidated residents
is quite another question.
Marches are behaviour, not pure speech.
Demos and marches
are an odd form of speech,
one that often interferes with those who do not want to hear it,
in a way that, say, websites don't.
It seems to me that
demos and marches
should be restricted to city centres, not residential areas,
unless there is some good reason why they have to go to a particular place.
Spam is not a censorship issue.
You can read all the ads you like at the spammer's site,
if you choose
to go there.
Spam is the enemy of free speech, by trying to destroy discussion groups and mailing lists.
Before 1992, I sent a few unsolicited messages myself.
It took some time for me (and others) to understand that this was a Bad Idea.
The Internet was quieter in those days, and no one complained to me or flamed me,
but I wish they had.
I should have realised sooner that unsolicited messages had no future.
Now there are hundreds of millions of people online.
If unsolicited direct-marketing commercial email is tolerated,
eventually everyone will be
receiving thousands or even tens of thousands of computer-generated email messages a day.
Already over 90 percent of email is spam.
spam is still legal in the US.
The only long-term solution is to make it illegal.
In the meantime, it is up to the Internet
to protect itself against these vandals.
Spam is the enemy of free speech
Just to be clear on that.
support the government regulating the Internet
Spam is possibly the single greatest enemy of free speech on the
- It makes people not take part in discussion groups
for fear of sending their email address to spammers.
- It actually destroys the discussion groups
by filling them with spam, so everyone leaves.
- It makes people not put their email address on their web pages,
for fear of it being collected by spammers.
- It makes people run blacklists and filters on keywords
for their incoming email,
which may filter valid email messages as well.
I also would vote for making direct-marketing postal mail, direct-marketing telephone calls and direct-marketing faxes illegal.
By any reasonable standards of adult consent and privacy,
drug dealing should be legal
while direct-marketing should be illegal.
The future of spam
Spam with embedded porn images is just beginning.
The future of spam is:
- Billions of person hours are lost every year, year after year,
by workers sifting through spam.
- You are forced to look at porn in your office
every time you read your email.
- Your kids are forced to look at porn
every time they read their email.
See good article on explicit spam
by John Aravosis.
This is the future,
until direct-marketing email is made illegal as it should be.
are not a censorship issue
(you can get the stuff at the author's site).
If you're shut down for spamming or uploading warez, I don't care.
Spam, warez and extreme forms of copyright theft are not speech.
- I also don't think
are a censorship issue.
Framing can enable one site to make
someone else's content look like their own.
In my opinion:
Linking is referencing, and is a right, with or without permission.
Framing is reproduction, and is not a right.
You have the right not to be framed if you don't want it.
- How to stop linking and framing:
- Of course, some people try to stop references to themselves
because, well, because they are mad:
- Some people have tried to charge (or at least request permission)
for linking to them,
but it does not seem that this has any legal status:
wrote a CGI script to take the bloated
and present a
"de-boned", stripped down version of it
that loads fast.
While I could understand Salon
being angry about him presenting this as a website,
how about a CGI script that de-bones all sites?
Or a browser plug-in that de-bones all sites?
- Linking law
Return to Anti-censorship page