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Samizdata quote of the day – the single greatest threat to free speech in Europe

“The #DSA (Digital Services Act) is here to protect free speech against arbitrary decisions.” So said Thierry Breton, EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, in a recent tweet. Given the extraordinary level of discretion this Act gives the European Commission to pressure online platforms to enforce vaguely defined “hate speech” and “disinformation” rules, one might reasonably take issue with Mr Breton’s self-presentation as a guardian of free speech. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that the Digital Services Act is the single greatest threat to free speech in Europe since the formation of the European Economic Community in 1957.

David Thunder

12 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – the single greatest threat to free speech in Europe

  • Fraser Orr

    It seems he is concerned with the arbitrariness of it, not that speech is suppressed. He isn’t opposed to suppressing free speech, he just wants to make sure it isn’t arbitrary, rather it is done according to the rules which he and his minions decide.

    Free speech is easy. The American founding fathers did it in one sentence, not some 800 page document.

    Congress shall make no law … abridging freedom of speech or the press.

    Not complicated unless you want to hide your nefarious goals in impenetrable tomes of legalese.

  • Paul Marks

    All “member states” of the European Union are required to have “Hate Speech” laws. But the concept is pushed by the left in all countries – including the United Kingdom, and the United States where a couple of appointments to the Supreme Court would “interpret” the 1st Amendment out of existence.

    The concept goes back to such thinkers as Herbert Marcuse who declared that Freedom of Speech was “Repressive Tolerance” as words “harmed” “disadvantaged and marginalised groups”, the “words are violence” and “unsafe environment” for people of XYZ groups (pushed by the Obama Administration in the u universities) comes from Marcuse and other thinkers of this school of thought, as do British legal practices going back to the 1970s and before.

    But it is getting worse and worse with the passage of time – for example I know people who have been arrested for saying things that it was fine to say only a few years ago, and my own arrest is only a matter of time.

    In the European Union or out of it, the Western World is dying.

    It is quite true that the United Kingdom now has the legal authority to repeal its own “Hate Speech” laws (as we are no longer in the European Union), but I see no chance of this happening – as the free speech culture has been dying for a long time.

  • jgh

    Saying “Stop killing Jews” is violet hate speech, but slitting the throats of babbies and festival-goes is vibrant diversity.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Fraser Orr, Congress can’t stop free speech, but what about the individual States? Does the Constitution stop them?

  • Nicholas:

    The term you’re looking for is incorporation.

    1A has definitely been incorporated. Other amendments to varying degrees, notably 2A, regardless of what the Wikipedia article says.

    9A and 10A are largely ignored. 🙁

  • Alan Peakall

    Ted, For the benefit of non-USians, would it be fair to say that that accounts for why Roe vs Wade was so controversial – that its reasoning’s conjunction of the 14th and 9th amendments attempted to incorporate an unenumerated right to privacy before the incorporation of all the enumerated rights was settled doctrine?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray
    Fraser Orr, Congress can’t stop free speech, but what about the individual States? Does the Constitution stop them?

    Yes it does, by way of the fourteenth amendment’s due process clause:

    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

    This is what is called the doctrine of incorporation which applies the limitations of the bill of rights to all levels of government. It has been litigated many times at the supreme court, in fact seems to be one of the most common arguments I hear of there, and is black letter law.

    It doesn’t apply to private entities, however, it is the zeitgeist, the cultural character of America, and so I’d say that although not legally bound to do so, private entities should have a strong preference to not censor speech unless they have a good reason to do so. For example, if Joe Liberal comes to dinner at my house he is pretty free to say anything he wants. He can CERTAINLY disagree with me, in fact I’d encourage it — I’m not going to learn anything new sitting in my little echo chamber of agreement. However, I do have limits that no government could have. If he starts shouting “gas the Jews” like that lovely group in Australia recently did, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask him to leave, even if he does it before I serve dessert. (And I made banoffee pie, so that is going to be a BIG loss to him 😀)

    Here I can censor him the government on the other hand absolutely should not. I deeply objected to that group of Palestinians yelling “gas the Jews, kill the Jews” in Sydney, but had the police come and rounded them up and charged them with hate speech I would have objected to that FAR more vigorously.

    Oh, I just notice Ted already answered… sorry for the duplication.

    It is also worth saying that irrespective of this, most state constitutions also have a right to free speech written into them directly too.

  • Alan:

    I think it would be simpler to say that the talk about “penumbras” and “emanations” was just muddle-headed thinking designed to produce a result that the majority wanted. Said emanations from the penumbras somehow never seem to exist for anything else.

    In the linked interview with Lord Sumption day, his comments on abortion also stand, which is that this is an issue that would have been resolved, and likely relatively close to the European standard of generally free first-trimester abortions and strong restrictions thereafter (which is roughly what the Mississippi law brought before the Court in 2022 did). Taking away the natural legislative process of getting there gradually and making abortion on demand sweeping hardened a hell of a lot of opinions.

  • Paul Marks

    No part of the United States Bill or Rights, or the Bills of Rights of the 50 States (which are often very well written – and horribly ignored) can stand if the judges are no good.

    Remember five “Justices” in 1935 de facto decided that the government could rightfully steal all monetary gold and rip up all contracts – public and private. Five of the Nice Justices of the United States Supreme Court proved to be shits – and that-was-that, all economic power handed over to the government and the corrupt credit bubble banks (they had almost unlimited power for a long time – but the two “gold clause” cases made it official). At first the banks and the government (but I repeat myself) remembered they were engaged in a scam (a “confidence trick”) and were fairly careful – but in recent decades both Washington D.C. and the Wall Street financial system have gone utterly insane, perhaps because they no longer know they are playing a very dangerous fame, they think “we can spend anything we need to spend” that creating “money” from nothing at all, is just fine.

    If the left get to appoint a couple more “Justices” then the 1st and 2nd Amendments are as dead as the 10th Amendment. The 10th Amendment was badly wounded in the 1930s and then basically killed in World War II – first the courts ruled that there is a “general welfare spending power” as opposed to the “common defence and general welfare” being the PURPOSE of the specific spending powers given to the Congress by Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution, then the courts ruled that “regulate interstate commerce” did not mean make commerce regular over State lines, but meant the government could (if it felt like it) tell you want to grow or not grow on your own farm and what price you sell your crop at – ditto manufacturing.

    By the way – if there were honest judges you would not need to “incorporate” the Federal Bill of Rights at the State level, as already noted the States have their own Bill of Rights covering Freedom of Speech, Right to Bear Arms, and so on.

    “But Paul the State level judges are corrupt” and some are in some States.

    So are many Federal judges.

    That is the fundamental problem – a corrupted culture that, at least in much of society, no longer respects either basic liberties, or fundamental honesty.

    Everything is “Pragmatism” – “what do we need to do in order to keep the system going”.

    A real judge does justice – regardless of whether “the system will keep going” or not.

    Honest courts to do not send people to prison for a murder that was no murder (and they knew – they knew – “BLM will burn the cities unless we please them” is not thinking of people worthy of any respect) – or levy civil damages on someone for stuff they know (they know) he did not do (the absurd “he raped me” Trump case in New York).

    And honest courts to not disregard the Constitution, both Federal and State, when they feel like it.

    And without honest people, honest judges and honest juries, all is lost.

  • GregWA

    Not being a lawyer, I wonder if the statement, “The #DSA (Digital Services Act) is here to protect free speech against arbitrary decision”, being the bald face lie that it is, easily refuted by a freshman logician, could be prosecuted under this Act? Doesn’t need to be prosecuted in the most famous jurisdiction…any will do.

    Reminds me of that Star Trek episode where Spock successfully explodes the brains of some robot bimbos simply by telling their leader, “Everything I say is a lie. I am lying.”

    More succinctly, the logic of this Act’s language is flawed!

  • Paul Marks

    GregWA – yes, whether it is a matter of decisions made by officials (such as the despicable “Ofcom” in Britain – or the European Union version of “Ofcom”) or Acts of Parliament enforced by the courts – such as the Swiss legislation that just had a person sent-to-prison for writing that another person is a “fat lesbian” (which she is), the PRICIPLE is wrong.

    The PRICIPLE of “Hate Speech” is wrong – it is Herbert Marcuse madness (Freedom of Speech as “Repressive Tolerance” that “harms” “disadvantaged and marginalised groups”).

    The basic concepts of “disinformation” or “misinformation” and “Hate Speech” as a basis for censorship, must be rejected.

  • Paul Marks

    If Ukraine wants Freedom of Speech after the present war – it is going to have to avoid the European Union and the general agenda of the “international community” and its “rules based international order”.

    Because the E.U. and the rest of the “international community” are committed to using such concepts as “disinformation-misinformation” and “Hate Speech” as a basis for Censorship. Not just during a war – but all the time, for ever.

    And with a couple of appointments to the Supreme Court (which will then kill what is left of the Bill of Rights) the United States will also be committed to censorship, and the rest of the death-to-liberty agenda of the international Corporate State (many of these vast Corporate entities are American).

    By the way, Mr Putin’s regime in Russia is also committed to censorship – just as it was committed to Covid lockdowns, and is committed to “gun control”, mass abortion, and so on.

    People who look at Mr Putin and see a conservative “White Knight” coming to save them – really need to have their eyes tested.