By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (8/25/17)
In a move critics characterized as a dangerous threat to freedom of expression, the German government announced on Friday its decision to shut down a left-wing website it claims has links to violence that broke out during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany last month.
“This is what advocates of censorship are spawning,” said The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald in response to Germany’s decision.
“Those who advocate state censorship today are its defenseless targets tomorrow.” – Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
Greenwald has sharply criticized those who have, in the aftermath of right-wing violence, advocated the censorship of right-wing views—a position he argues creates a slippery slope that ultimately “will backfire” by “ensuring that those who advocate state censorship today are its defenseless targets tomorrow.” Evidence supporting this thesis, Greenwald suggests, can be seen in the German government’s case against linksunten.indymedia.org.
In pursuing the site, the Washington Post reports, Germany’s government treated it as “an ‘association’ instead of a media outlet,” which “meant constitutional protections for free expression were less firm.”
The Post continued:
“Internet watchdog groups in Germany have warned that far-right websites are growing in popularity—and the government shut down one such forum, “Altermedia Deutschland,” last year—but Friday’s action was the first aimed at the left.
“The website linksunten.indymedia.org was taken offline for “sowing hate against different opinions and state officials,” the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, told reporters.
“The website has been a destination for leftists of many stripes—anarchists and squatters, anti-capitalists and antifascists, opponents of the police and of critics of borders. It served as a log of opportunities for direct action and celebrated protests and other forms of interference. It also tracked opposing forces.”
In addition to shutting down the website, German law enforcement conducted raids “in the early hours of Friday against several leading members and supporters of the website,” the New York Times reported, but there was no indication that these individuals were being charged with participating in or inciting violence.
Many pushed back against the government’s decision to close down the website.
Ulla Jelpke, a spokesperson for Die Linke—a democratic socialist party—said that while her party repudiates “any sort of call to violence,” the government’s decision to shutter Linksunten amounts to an “illegitimate act of censorship, and a willful cut in the freedom of speech and press freedom.”
“I find a lot of the things on this page very stupid—I can’t condone a lot of it,” she said. “If you have articles that are anti-capitalist, but otherwise are not prosecutable—our constitution allows you to be anti-capitalist. So the question is: who does it affect tomorrow, people who support anti-capitalist politics?”
Jelpke also objected to the government’s classification of the site as an “association” in order to skirt constitutional protections.
“It’s certainly a media organization,” Jelpke concluded.
The Misguided Attacks On ACLU For Defending Neo-Nazis’ Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville
By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept (8/13/17)
EACH TIME HORRIFIC political violence is perpetrated that is deemed to be terrorism, a search is immediately conducted for culprits to blame other than those who actually perpetrated the violence or endorsed the group responsible for it. It’s usually only a matter of hours before the attack is exploited to declare one’s own political views as vindicated, and to depict one’s political adversaries as responsible for, if not complicit in, the violence. Often accompanying this search for villains is a list of core civil liberties that we’re told ought to be curtailed in the name of preventing similar acts of violence in the future.
All of this typically happens before much of anything is known about the killer, his actual inspirations, his mental health, or his associations. In the aftermath of the widespread horror such violence naturally produces, the easiest target for these guilty-by-association tactics are those who have advocated for the legal rights of the group that the individual attacker is a member of and/or those who have defended the legal right to express opinions in the name of which the attack was carried out.
If you allow those initial censorship efforts to succeed because of your distaste for those being targeted, then you lose the ability to defend the rights of those you like because the censorship principle has been enshrined.
These tactics are most familiar when a Muslim perpetrates violence within a Western city, aimed at Westerners. Before anything is known about the attacker other than his religious identity, the violence is instantly declared to be terrorism. Then the search is quickly launched to find anyone who can be said to be responsible for the violence by virtue of having “encouraged” or “enabled” Islamic extremism, often by doing nothing more than having defended the legal rights of the group being blamed for the attack.
At the top of the blame list, one always finds a wide range of imams who preach Islam — even those who have never in their lives advocated violence of any kind — as well as activists who defend Muslims from bigotry and persecution. But also prominently featured in this vilification game are legal groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union, that defend the free speech rights and other civil liberties of Muslims to be free of state persecution and suppression. Recently, even social media platforms that allow Muslims to express themselves without state censorship are said to be “complicit.”
Linking CAIR to terrorist attacks because of their civil liberties work is commonplace among the Islamophobic right. The ACLU — which has defended accused Al Qaeda terrorists, tried to prevent the Obama administration from killing Anwar al-Awlaki without due process, and opposed the criminal prosecution of Muslim extremists on free speech grounds — is constantly vilified as terrorist enablers by the anti-Muslim right as a result of that civil liberties advocacy. And now, each time there’s a new attack, the UK government routinely accuses Facebook and other social media companies of “aiding and abetting” the Islamic State and Al Qaeda because of its refusal to obey UK government orders about which views should be censored from the site. …
- Glenn Greenwald Gives Strong Argument Against Government Censorship – Few ideas have done as much damage throughout history as empowering the government to criminalize opinions it dislikes … Read the Rest
- Be VERY Careful What You Ask For: People Cheer Companies Kicking Nazis Off The Internet. But Who’s Next? – The Daily Stormer, a website started by a neo-Nazi, has promoted racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic content since it was founded in 2013. But this week, after adeadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, several tech companies effectively kicked the site off the internet. Some of the companies that stopped doing business with The Daily Stormer argued that the website violated their terms of service by inciting violence, which major internet companies prohibit. But a CEO at of one of those firms sent an email to staffers on Wednesday that frankly acknowledged what other tech companies have refused to admit publicly: The interpretation of terms of service is often subjective, giving internet infrastructure companies the power to effectively shut down their customers’ websites whenever they feel like it. That leaves any group’s ability to keep operating its website subject to the arbitrary whims of private firms. … Read the Rest
ACLU Leader On Defending Rights Of Hate Groups
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