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  1. #1

    Default The value of Free Speech

    There is a worrying article in today's Times, in which they are proposing that algorithms on the web are used to take down posts which deny the efficacy of vaccination. This seems to me to be the thin end of the wedge, and that the next targets will be "cholesterol and statin deniers" those who oppose a "high carb low fat diet" and possibly eventually those who enjoy meat and believe it to be health giving in a way that a vegan diet is not.

    I am concerned about the erosion of free speech. We have all been watching the Jordan Peterson debacle in the media where he is declared to be the "darling of the alt-right" and damned for it by people who have not read his works or watched his youtube presentations.

    A few weeks ago there was an assault on Zoe, Asseem Malhotra and Malcolm Kendrick accusing them of being "deniers" and comparing them with Dr Wakefield the man who led the campaign against MMR vaccines and whose research has been dismissed as containing falsified results. I do not know enough about Dr Wakefield's research or whether he had any evidence in support of his assertions. I do, however, believe that this is a planned attack on the rights of free speech and that we should all be worried, very worried indeed!!

    Today the web platforms take down vaccine related material, tomorrow they take down anti-statin material, next week they prevent forums like this or the keto-dudes from existing?
    Gilli - DLTBGYD

  2. #2
    Super Member Mamie's Avatar
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    Well said Gilli. It’s a mine field.

  3. #3

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    And how does free speech stand up against racial hatred and vilification Gilli? I really have a problem with that - do you allow that sort of free speech? How far do you go with the "I don't agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it" (or words to that effect!)
    Sue - the first "no thank you" is the easiest

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2nd_Alto View Post
    And how does free speech stand up against racial hatred and vilification Gilli? I really have a problem with that - do you allow that sort of free speech? How far do you go with the "I don't agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it" (or words to that effect!)
    Free speech has to be free speech - there is always the caveat that people are free to think of you as a moron if you exercise your free speech moronically (hate-speech etc)

    Once you start policing what people can and cannot say, you are guilty of thought-police and we know where that ends.....
    The worst bigots in the world are those who most loudly proclaim their ‘tolerance’

  5. #5

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    There are laws which deal with incitement to commit a criminal offence. Anything which falls short of that must surely be allowed to be said. It is almost certainly offensive and definitely discourteous to say some things which might be better left unsaid but each of us should be allowed to decide how far along the spectrum we want to go. The pain of saying the unforgiveable will therefore land on the shoulders of the speaker (writer) at whom right-thinking people will look askance.

    It was the unwillingness to name the racial identity of the grooming gangs responsible for the rape of teenage girls in Rotheram, Oxford, Newcastle, Aylsbury, Peterborough, Keighley and Bristol which enabled the perpetrators to operate under the radar through the 1990s and well into this century.

    I go the whole way Sue. I stand for the rights of freedom of speech and free debate and yes freedom to be offensive if you want to be. People who are gratuitously offensive will be called out on it by others.
    Gilli - DLTBGYD

  6. #6

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    Thanks for your answer Gilli. My head knows that it is essential that we defend free speech but my heart breaks for those who are bullied or vilified - often anonymously on social media.
    Sue - the first "no thank you" is the easiest

  7. #7
    Super Member Mamie's Avatar
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    Social media has a lot to answer for. Maybe it’s the anonymity of being able to have a user name instead of a full name and address. Maybe people would be more careful about what they say if the world knew where they lived.

  8. #8

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    I really share your concerns Gilli, I think that there is a real debate to be had about freedom of speech here. It is complicated and can see 2nd alto's point too. Where do we stand on FB not stamping down on people like Tommy Robinson although in the end they did.

    I am pro vaccine but don't think people should be stopped from discussing it online

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffi coffi View Post
    I really share your concerns Gilli, I think that there is a real debate to be had about freedom of speech here. It is complicated and can see 2nd alto's point too. Where do we stand on FB not stamping down on people like Tommy Robinson although in the end they did.

    I am pro vaccine but don't think people should be stopped from discussing it online
    I never saw anything Tommy Robinson posted on facebook, but I am not particularly active on fb. If his postings were vile, which they may have been, surely it is better for him to show himself in his true colours and be identified as an extremist (or as an unpleasant man whose company you would not wish to spend time in) on the basis of what he says or posts rather than on the basis of what others say about him.
    Gilli - DLTBGYD

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffi coffi View Post
    I really share your concerns Gilli, I think that there is a real debate to be had about freedom of speech here. It is complicated and can see 2nd alto's point too. Where do we stand on FB not stamping down on people like Tommy Robinson although in the end they did.

    I am pro vaccine but don't think people should be stopped from discussing it online
    Quote Originally Posted by Gilli View Post
    I agree. My personal policy is to not say anything online that I would not say to a person's face and to never regard someone disagreeing with my opinion as a personal attack on me. There is no doubt that people do take advantage of the anonymity to say things which they would not say in the pub or post office where they are known.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gilli View Post
    I never saw anything Tommy Robinson posted on facebook, but I am not particularly active on fb. If his postings were vile, which they may have been, surely it is better for him to show himself in his true colours and be identified as an extremist (or as an unpleasant man whose company you would not wish to spend time in) on the basis of what he says or posts rather than on the basis of what others say about him.
    I always go with the proverb - Better keep your mouth shut and be thought of as an idiot than open your mouth and remove all doubt...

    I have serious misgivings about policing opinion - quo custodiet ipso custodes!?
    The worst bigots in the world are those who most loudly proclaim their ‘tolerance’

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