Case has “enormous potential fallout for free speech online”
by Paul Joseph Watson | July 15, 2015
A Canadian man faces 6 months in jail for disagreeing with feminists on Twitter, a case that one journalist warns “could have enormous fallout for free speech.”
54-year-old Greg Elliott could be charged with criminal harassment simply for expressing his opposition to a campaign by activists Steph Guthrie and Heather Reilly to publicly shame a young man in Northern Ontario.
Father of four Elliott was arrested in 2012 and fired from his job as a graphic designer after he opposed Guthrie and Reilly’s plan to generate “hatred on the Internet” targeting the designer of an online video game which allowed players to simulate punching feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian in the face.
Elliott felt that the two activists’ plot to publicly shame the young man “was every bit as vicious as the face-punch game,” and could cause the young man to commit suicide, urging Guthrie and Reilly not to follow through.
Guthrie and Reilly then claimed that Elliott’s refusal to endorse the plot (he had previously helped Guthrie’s feminist group by offering to design a free poster), represented “criminal harassment.”
Under Canada’s draconian anti-harassment laws, the victim merely has to claim that the offending conduct made them “fear for their safety.”
In other words, if Elliott is convicted, feminists in Canada could claim that anyone who disagrees with or offends them is engaging in “criminal harassment” and demand they be sent to prison.
Guthrie and Reilly also claimed that Elliott was engaging in harassment merely for tagging them in tweets. At no point did Elliott make any remarks directed at the two that could be construed as sexual harassment, hate speech, or violent rhetoric, according to Toronto Police Detective Jeff Bangild.
The very worst comment that Elliott made in reference to the activists was a tweet in which he indirectly referred to the women as “fat” and “ugly”.
“Basically what he did was disagree politically with these young women….he just disagreed with some of their politics,” said Blatchford.
The notion that someone could be arrested and incarcerated for engaging in vigorous online debate “will have a chilling effect on people’s ability to communicate, and not just on Twitter,” said Elliott’s attorney Chris Murphy.
The astounding thing about this case is that Elliott himself was clearly subjected to harassment by Guthrie and Reilly when the two activists sent him a barrage of hateful tweets. Another supporter of Guthrie and Reilly even pretended to be a 13-year-old girl to try and portray Elliott as a pedophile.
“If anybody was being criminally harassed in this case, it was my client, it was Mr. Elliott,” Murphy told Ontario Court Judge Brent Knazan.
Guthrie and Reilly also met in August 2012 to discuss how they would attempt to disparage Elliott.
“That was a conspiracy to commit a criminal offence … they were conspiring to go out and publicly shame Mr. Elliott,” said Murphy.
This case once again illustrates how politics is downstream from culture. The sewer pipe of social justice warrior mental illness, once restricted to the dark recesses of Tumblr and Twitter, is now infecting law and government – posing a direct threat to free speech.
It’s bad enough that Twitter acquiesces to contrived hate mob outrage and bans prominent anti-feminists from its social media network, but to actually send people to prison for politely expressing disagreement with feminists represents a staggering lurch into unbridled authoritarianism.
On July 5, 1852, the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass delivered one of the greatest speeches of his long and storied career. Titled “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” Douglass’ speech contained both a searing denunciation of American slavery and a rousing defense of the libertarian principles coursing through the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. “Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted,” Douglass thundered from the stage, “the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.”
In my view, there’s no such thing as a bad day to reflect on the wisdom of Frederick Douglass—but July Fourth is perhaps a better day for it than most. So as a way of both honoring Douglass and marking the anniversary of his remarkable July Fourth speech, here are two stories from the Reason archives which examine the life and legacy of this indispensable American hero.
It’s true that Frederick Douglass simultaneously championed both civil rights and economic liberty. But the proper term for that combination isn’t Social Darwinism; it’s classical liberalism. The central component of Douglass’ worldview was the principle of self-ownership, which he understood to include both racial equality and the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.
Hate speech laws are going in all around the world, and progressive activists in the United States want to use these kinds of laws to destroy free speech in America.
You see, the truth is that these hate speech laws that are being implemented all over the planet are not just about preventing speech that promotes violence or genocide against a particular group of people. Instead, these laws are written in such a way that anyone that says something that “offends” or “insults” someone else is guilty of “hate speech”. Even if you never intended to offend anyone and you had no idea that your words were insulting, in some countries you can be detained without bail and sentenced to years in prison for such speech. Today, there are highly restrictive hate speech laws in Canada, in Mexico and in virtually every single European nation. The United States is still an exception, but the truth is that our liberties and freedoms are being eroded every single day, and it is only a matter of time until “hate speech laws” are used to take away our freedom of speech too.
If you don’t think that this could ever happen in America, you should consider what the American Bar Association has to say on the matter. This is the national organization that represents all of our lawyers, judges, etc. So when the ABA speaks on legal matters, it carries a significant amount of weight. The following is how the American Bar Association defines “hate speech”…
Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.
Did you catch that?
If I say something that offends or insults you, there is a very good chance that I have just committed “hate speech” according to the ABA.
And support for these kinds of laws is growing. In fact, one survey found that 51 percent of all Democrats now support hate speech laws. It is only a matter of time before progressives start pushing for them in a big way.
Sadly, many of these progressives don’t even understand that our Constitution protects free speech. Just consider what CNN anchor Chris Cuomo recently had to say about this…
Hate speech is not the same thing as free speech, wrote CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on the ultimate forum for public discourse:Twitter.
Amid debate about free speech after a shooting at an anti-Muslim protest in Texas , a user tweeted at Cuomo: “Too many people are trying to say hate speech (doesn’t equal) free speech.”
In response, Cuomo, who has a law degree, said, “It doesn’t. Hate speech is excluded from protection. Don’t just say you love the Constitution … read it.”
No, I think that it is Cuomo that needs to read the Constitution. The fact that he gets to deliver “the news” to millions upon millions of Americans is absolutely frightening.
But without a doubt, we do need to have a conversation about “hate speech” in the United States. If I offend or insult you, that does not mean that I “hate” you. And if I disagree with you, that does not mean that I “hate” you either.
Some of the things that are considered to be “offensive speech” these days are absolutely ridiculous. For example, just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Paul Joseph Watson…
Here’s an actual list of things that according to the University of Wisconsin are racist:
– Asking someone where they are from or where they were born.
– Telling someone they speak good English.
– Telling someone that you have several black friends.
– Saying that you’re not a racist.
– Complimenting an Asian person by telling them they are very articulate.
– Asking an Asian person for help with science or math.
– Uttering the phrase “There is only one race, the human race.”
– Saying that you think America is a melting pot and that when you look at someone you don’t see race.
– Believing that the most qualified person, regardless of race, should get the job.
– Thinking that every person, regardless of race, can succeed in society if they work hard enough.
– Telling a black person who is being too loud to be quiet.
– Telling an Asian or Latino person who is too quiet to speak up.
– Mistaking a person of color for a staff member when you’re in a store.
– Calling something “gay”.
– Doing an impression of someone’s dialect or accent.
Could you imagine going to prison for any of those “offenses”?
But this is where our country is heading if we don’t stand up for our rights.
Right now, the progressives are on a roll. In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage, some progressives are already talking about going after the tax exemptions of churches that oppose it. In fact, the New York Times recently published an article entitled “Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions“.
The American Unity Fund is a heavily funded new super-PAC looking to blanket the country with LGBT anti-discrimination laws.In effect, those laws aim to wipe out any alternative voice to the LGBT agenda. The effort is being spearheaded by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer and another wealthy hedge fund manager, Tim Gill. Gill’s operations—the Gill Foundation and Gill Action—have been dedicated to “nonpartisan” gains for the LGBT lobby on the legislative and judicial fronts.
Those that do not believe that this could ever possibly happen in “the land of the free” should consider what has already happened in our neighbor to the north…
Anyone who is offended by something you have said or written can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals. In Canada, these organizations police speech, penalizing citizens for any expression deemed in opposition to particular sexual behaviors or protected groups identified under ‘sexual orientation.’ It takes only one complaint against a person to be brought before the tribunal, costing the defendant tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The commissions have the power to enter private residences and remove all items pertinent to their investigations, checking for hate speech.
Of course the same kind of thing is already happening over in Europe as well. For instance, one Christian pastor in Northern Ireland is being prosecuted for calling Islam “a doctrine spawned in hell”…
An evangelical pastor in Northern Ireland is under fire and will be prosecuted after calling Islam “satanic” and claiming that its doctrine was “spawned in hell” during a controversial 2014 sermon that streamed over the Internet.
Pastor James McConnell, 78, of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast, Northern Ireland, made his comments — which included calling Islam “heathen” — in a sermon delivered last May, the BBC reported.
“The Muslim religion was created many hundreds of years after Christ. Muhammad, the Islam Prophet, was born around the year A.D. 570, but Muslims believe that Islam is the true religion,” he preached. “Now, people say there are good Muslims in Britain. That may be so, but I don’t trust them.”
McConnell continued, “Islam’s ideas about God, about humanity, about salvation are vastly different from the teaching of the holy scriptures. Islam is heathen. Islam is satanic. Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.”
Once such laws are in place in the United States, it won’t be difficult for the government to find you if you are committing “hate speech”. As I have written about repeatedly, the U.S. government already monitors virtually everything that is said and done on the Internet. The following is an excerpt from an article that was recently authored by Micah Lee, Glenn Greenwald, and Morgan Marquis-Boire…
The sheer quantity of communications that XKEYSCORE processes, filters and queries is stunning. Around the world, when a person gets online to do anything — write an email, post to a social network, browse the web or play a video game — there’s a decent chance that the Internet traffic her device sends and receives is getting collected and processed by one of XKEYSCORE’s hundreds of servers scattered across the globe.
In order to make sense of such a massive and steady flow of information, analysts working for the National Security Agency, as well as partner spy agencies, have written thousands of snippets of code to detect different types of traffic and extract useful information from each type, according to documents dating up to 2013. For example, the system automatically detects if a given piece of traffic is an email. If it is, the system tags if it’s from Yahoo or Gmail, if it contains an airline itinerary, if it’s encrypted with PGP, or if the sender’s language is set to Arabic, along with myriad other details.
And as I wrote about yesterday, western governments are already using paid trolls to identify and combat “extremists” on social media websites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
We are rapidly becoming a “Big Brother” society, and if we don’t stand up for our freedoms and liberties now, it is inevitable that we will eventually lose just about all of them.
Unfortunately, most of the population is absolutely clueless about all of this. In fact, as Mark Dice demonstrated the other day, many Americans don’t even know what we are celebrating on the 4th of July. As a society, we have become extremely “dumbed down”, and we have lost connection to the values and principles that this country was founded upon.
So is there any hope for us? Please feel free to tell us what you think by posting a comment below…
Red Guards agitators assault Alex Jones, steal equipment, censor free speech while yelling their love for Satan
by Paul Joseph Watson | May 22, 2015
Shocking video footage shows rabid pro-abortion Communist militants repeatedly assault Alex Jones, steal private property and attempt to censor free speech while announcing their love for Satan and killing babies during a pro-life rally in Austin Texas yesterday.
The protest took place outside a Planned Parenthood facility to draw attention to the fact that on average a black baby is aborted every minutein the United States and that black women are twice as likely to have abortions in comparison to whites.
This issue has been completely overlooked by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which apparently thinks little of the hundreds of thousands of black babies every year that never even get a chance at life, including in major cities like New York where more black babies are aborted than ones actually born.
Soon after the protest began, Communist activists from a group called Red Guards Austin (who laughably deny advocating Communism despite praising Mao, Stalin and marching under a hammer and sickle), arrived to aggressively try and shut down the demonstration.
They initially tried to censor the free speech of pro-lifers by blocking their signs with pieces of cardboard and black tarps. In the world of “tolerant” liberals, the First Amendment rights of their fellow citizens will not be tolerated. Photos on the group’s Facebook page also show them burning literature with which they disagree – another hallmark of historical dictatorships
Some of the agitators then became violent, screaming at and shoving Alex Jones before one physically snapped a microphone wire and ran off, another aggressive attempt to censor free speech.
In another revealing exchange, a Red Guards agitator sardonically tells David Knight’s wife Karen she is a “white savior” for adopting two children. “I’m not white,” responds Karen.
Asked how many children she adopted, the Red Guards activist responds, “How many did I adopt? I kill my kids.”
The same woman is pictured on the group’s Facebook page marching under a hammer and sickle. She also has lovingly tattooed her arms with the faces of Lenin and Stalin.
Another Red Guards activist is also caught on tape yelling, “I have armpit hair, I kill my children, I fucking love Satan….I fucking love Satan so fuck you!”
Another Red Guard militant – who resembled a cross between a rat and a shrimp – said he would “pay to kill babies,” while admitting that he was “going to hell.”
After the rally, Red Guards posted a message to its Facebook page libeling Alex Jones by claiming he “seeks to make pro-choice activists home addresses public for his wingnut fascist supporters to access,” and “encourages violence against women activists.” Both of these claims are total fabrications backed up by zero evidence.
The group also disgracefully calls for other agitators to visit the homes of people who disagree with them and says it will publish their private addresses online, a form of harassment known as doxxing.
“We know as much about their circles as they could ever hope to know about ours. We will be posting updates of photos, names, addresses and license plates of known racists who associate with infowars and the conspiracy theorist crowd in general,” states the post.
The message quotes Mao Tse-tung, the Communist dictator whose regime was responsible for the deaths of 60-80 million people.
This incident serves as yet another reminder that leftists are some of the most crazed, aggressive, violent, and intolerant people on the planet who will go to any lengths to censor and intimidate anyone who dares disagree with them.
We invite our readers to express their First Amendment rights by visiting the Red Guard’s Facebook page and letting them know what they think of the group’s behavior.
“Increasingly we are abridging our freedoms so as not to offend savages”
bySteve Watson | InfoWars | May 4, 2015
Pamela Geller, the woman behind the freedom of speech event in Garland, Texas, that came under attack from muslim extremists has spoken out in her first interview today, slamming a CNN host for suggesting that the event was too provocative.
CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota attempted to make the case that anti-Islamist speech should not be openly encouraged in the US or elsewhere in the Western world.
Geller, who is often charged with being anti-Islamic or “Islamophobic,” fired back, arguing that “Increasingly we are abridging our freedoms so as not to offend savages.”
“The very idea that is something offends me, or I’m insulted by something, I’ll kill you, and that way I can get my way, and somehow this is OK with members of the elite media and academia, is outrageous. It’s a cartoon. It’s a cartoon.” Geller, the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, urged.
Camerota continued the line of questioning, declaring that “No one is saying this warrants the violence,” but adding the caveat that “there’s always this fine line between freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative.”
“Intentionally incendiary and provocative by drawing a cartoon.” Geller hit back.
“This is the low state of freedom of speech in this country,” she added. “I disagree and I disagree most vehemently.”
” The First Amendment protects all speech not just the speech that we like.” the activist continued.
Geller then used an analogy many on social media have been sharing.
“When Jesus Christ was put in a jar of urine it was called art. Did Christians like it? Of course not. Did they slaughter people? Did they burn embassies? Did they kill kill whole communities? Of course not.” Geller declared.
Meanwhile, raw video has emerged of the police responding to the attack as it was taking place. It video shows cops ushering people away from the violence and apprehending a bearded man.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.
We talk a lot about how fair use is under attack these days, and I’ve discussed in the past my concerns about freedom of expression when we always have a company (or a few companies) standing in the middle of our decisions on whether or not we can speak. NiemanLabs has a great example of where this becomes problematic in a story about how SoundCloud will not even consider fair use in making decisions about whether or not to take down content, and how that’s harming journalism:
Here’s a wakeup call to audio creators everywhere: SoundCloud does not recognize your fair use rights under U.S. copyright law. If your content contains any copyrighted material to which you haven’t secured the rights — even if you have a valid fair use claim — SoundCloud may take it down at any time.
That’s exactly what happened to a former student of mine, and his experience should serve as a warning to the growing number of news organizations (including several that I work with) that use SoundCloud to host podcasts and other audio content.
Journalism as we know it could not exist without fair use, so it’s possible SoundCloud may not be a viable tool for the field. Imagine trying to do a story about the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit without playing copyrighted clips from the songs involved.
The article goes on to discuss an interesting journalism project that used a very brief clip of copyrighted music in a way that almost certainly was fair use. SoundCloud took it down. When pressed on this, the company eventually admitted that it refuses to take fair use into account, in part because fair use is only in the US:
We understand that US copyright law includes a doctrine of fair use. However, these rules are limited, difficult to apply outside of a court of law, and in any event do not necessarily apply outside of the United States. As SoundCloud is a global platform, we expect all of our creators to respect copyright law, and the rights of copyright owners, on a global basis.
As the writer of the article, Adam Ragusea, points out, this should be a major concern for any journalists using Soundcloud. And that includes us at Techdirt — as we use SoundCloud to host our podcast. But the fact that the company might not even allow us to make use of our fair use rights — the same rights that the Supreme Court has said are essential for protecting the First Amendment — is a major concern, and one that has me thinking we should be looking for other platforms.
But, even then, we would most likely face the exact same situation. Any other platform will be under pressure from any sort of DMCA notice system as well. And while they could stand up for their users, many don’t want to take on the liability risk. And thus, we run a serious risk of losing a key component of free expression.
And, honestly, the problem is only partially the companies like SoundCloud. The entire legal system is designed to make this sort of response the only real choice they have. With fair use being only truly available in a few countries, it’s difficult to operate a global platform. This is why if we’re going to put copyright into international trade agreements fair use needs to be included, otherwise we risk losing it back here in the US as well. But when you combine that situation with copyright law in which statutory damages are insane, and where the DMCA requires you to shoot first and ask questions later, it is way too easy for companies like SoundCloud to just throw up their hands and say this isn’t worth dealing with.
Even companies that do try to take fair use into account — like YouTube — all too frequently fail to do a good job of considering fair use, leading to perfectly legitimate content disappearing, with no real recourse for the creators. This is why, beyond fair use, it seems like we need much stronger safe harbors for intermediaries like SoundCloud. It works with Section 230 of the CDA, in which the rule is pretty ironclad: the service provider should never be seen as legally liable for the content its users create. For fair use to thrive, copyright law requires a similarly ironclad safe harbor. This doesn’t — as some will inevitably claim — mean that there is no recourse over infringement. There absolutely is. The copyright holder still has every right to target the actual end user, and that person can then stand up for their own fair use rights, which is only proper.
But under the current system, end users don’t even have the chance to stand up for their own fair use/free speech rights, because third-party platforms like SoundCloud get to make the final decision for them — and with all of the liability incentives stacked against them, free speech doesn’t have a chance.
As I was close to finishing my own story, The New York Times published a long article last night about the rather intense and fascinating controversy that has erupted inside PEN America, the group long devoted to defending writers’ freedom of expression from attacks by governments. In essence, numerous prominent writers who were to serve as “table heads” or who are long-time PEN members have withdrawn from the group’s annual awards gala and otherwise expressed anger over PEN’s decision to bestow its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.
The Times story does a good job laying out the events and describing the general controversy, so in lieu of repeating that, I instead want to publish the key correspondence between the writer Deborah Eisenberg and PEN’s Executive Director, former Obama State Department official and Amnesty USA Executive Director Suzanne Nossel, which sparked the controversy; post the full comment given to theIntercept by the writer Teju Cole, who has withdrawn as a table head; and make a few observations of my own. The Intercept has also submitted several questions to Nossel, which I’m also posting, and will prominently post PEN’s responses as soon as they are received. All of those documents are here.
Though the core documents are lengthy, this argument is really worth following because it highlights how ideals of free speech, and the Charlie Hebdo attack itself, were crassly exploited by governments around the world to promote all sorts of agendas having nothing to do with free expression. Indeed, some of the most repressive regimes on the planet sent officials to participate in the Paris “Free Speech” rally, and France itself began almost immediately arresting and prosecuting people for expressing unpopular, verboten political viewpoints and then undertaking a series of official censorship acts, including the blocking of websites disliked by its government. The French government perpetrated these acts of censorship, and continues to do so, with almost no objections from those who flamboyantly paraded around as free speech fanatics during Charlie Hebdo Week.