How Free is Speech Now?

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Big Tech Has Performed the “Greatest Bait-and-Switch in American History” As It Now Turns On Free Speech

Big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube have performed “perhaps the greatest bait-and-switch in American history” as they now have committed to an about-face to the American value of free speech.

That is the assessment of Breitbart New‘s Allum Bokhari who exclusively presented a leaked Google internal briefing titled “The Good Censor” to the public on October 9th, exposing the world once again to major tech companies’ attitude towards the bedrock of traditional American attitude.

“The Good Censor” is an 85-page briefing that openly admits that Google and other tech platforms are undertaking a “shift towards censorship” in response to unwelcome political events around the world. Unsurprisingly – especially after leaked video showed google employees in an emotional meltdown after the election victory of Donald J. Trump – The Good Censor cites the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the rise of the populist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party in Germany as unwelcomed events.

While admitting the shift away from free speech it is also simultaneously admitted that those select few giants “control the majority of online conversations.”

The briefing goes into how Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are stuck in a position of going along with the “unmediated marketplace of ideas” (free speech and free markets) vs. “well-ordered spaces for safety and civility” (censorship). These two directions are also described as the “American tradition” which “prioritizes free speech for democracy, not civility” and the “European tradition,” which “favors dignity over liberty and civility over freedom.” The internal pages claim that all tech platforms are now moving toward the European tradition.

Perhaps the most significant part of the brief, as Breitbart’s Bokhari reports, is when it associates Google’s new role as the guarantor of “civility” with the categories of “editor” and “publisher.”

This is significant, given that Google, YouTube, and other tech giants publicly claim they are not publishers but rather neutral platforms — a categorization that grants them special legal immunities under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Elsewhere in the document, Google admits that Section 230 was designed to ensure they can remain neutral platforms for free expression.

Bokhari wrote on Wednesday:

What ordinary Americans long suspected, The Good Censor has proven beyond doubt. According to Google’s own analysis, tech companies have performed perhaps the greatest bait-and-switch in American history, promising their users free speech while they were taking over the market, only to go back on their word once they came to “control the majority of online conversations.”

What better example to prove this bait-and-switch than the statement given by Sinead McSweeney, Twitter’s vice president for public policy and communications in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa who told British politicians at the end of last year that it’s “no longer possible to stand up for all speech.”

Just 5 years prior, Twitter’s first executive in the UK, Tony Wang, described the company as “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.”

The once acceptance and defense of free speech by these big tech players is discussed in The Good Censor, as the document reads: “This free speech ideal was instilled in the DNA of the Silicon Valley startups that now control the majority of our online conversations.”

And while Google hubrisly boasts that its free speech bait-and-switch has placed them and a few other giants as controllers of “the majority of online conversations” (aka the majority of all conversation happening on earth) the company has come out and finally admitted directly that it has a censored Chinese search engine project in the works. What better guarantor of “civility”, “publisher, “editor” could the masses of internet users wish to oversee the majority of online conversation?

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US Border Guards Checking/Copying Laptop Files

U.S. border guards may check, copy laptop files

Jan. 1, 2014 at 12:30 AM   |   1 comments
NEW YORK,    Jan. 1 (UPI) — U.S. border guards have a right to inspect and copy files from travelers’ laptops and other devices without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, a judge ruled.

Such searches are rare, with “about a 10 in a million chance” of happening, so “there is not a substantial risk” someone’s laptop, cellphone or other device will be searched and seized at the nation’s borders, including at airports and on trains, U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman wrote.

But for people whose devices do get searched, the government doesn’t need reasonable suspicion to examine or confiscate them, he wrote, citing case law that holds “searches at our borders without probable cause and without a warrant are nonetheless ‘reasonable.'”

In making his ruling, Korman, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, dismissed a lawsuit by graduate student Pascal Abidor, an Islamic studies scholar and a dual French-U.S. citizen, who had his laptop inspected and taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in May 2010 while he was on an Amtrak train from Montreal to New York.

The officers also handcuffed him, placed him in a cell and questioned him for several hours, the New York Times said.

The law enforcement agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, returned the laptop 11 days later.

Abidor could prove no legal injury from the laptop’s confiscation, the Washington Post said.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Press Photographers Association joined Abidor in the case, arguing their members travel with confidential information that should be protected from government scrutiny.

Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, they all alleged the policy violated their rights to privacy and free speech.

“While it is true that laptops may make overseas work more convenient, the precautions plaintiffs may choose to take to ‘mitigate’ the alleged harm associated with the remote possibility of a border search are simply among the many inconveniences associated with international travel,” wrote Korman, who is also a visiting judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

That court ruled in March extensive “forensic” searches required reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, but simple checks of photos and other files did not. Korman was not one of the judges in that case.

The ACLU said it was considering an appeal.

Catherine Crump, the ACLU attorney who argued the case in July 2011, said in a statement the searches Korman’s ruling addressed were “part of a broader pattern of aggressive government surveillance that collects information on too many innocent people, under lax standards and without adequate oversight.”

Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard said, “These checks are essential to enforcing the law, and protecting national security and public safety, always with the shared goals of protecting the American people while respecting civil rights and civil liberties.”

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