Freedom of speech on the Internet to come at a cost

Jesse Sutterley, Co-editor-and-chief

Let’s talk about something near and dear to me: the right that we have to speak freely.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” First amendment, Bill of Rights. Look it up.

But you know what can not be found on the Bill of Rights or any other founding US documents? Your right to be offended.

There has been a global push in recent years to not say things that offend others. To make the world a more empathetic place.

And that’s all well and good. Love thy neighbor and all that other crap. But I will not stand for it if it comes with the loss of freedom of speech.

And in the ever growing sensitive censorship bubble, Twitter has come forth with a Trust and Safety council to make sure no one’s feelings get hurt while they browse the internet. Good luck.

In Twitter’s press release for the council, it stated, “Twitter empowers every voice to shape the world. But you can’t do that unless you feel safe and confident enough to express yourself freely.”

Life is full of people with differing opinions, and that is never going to change. But by banning people — and removing opinions opposed to your views — will only make you a dull, uneducated, inexperienced and all around uninteresting person.

I understand that as a white somewhat liberal heterosexual male, I’m the last person that will be attacked or made fun of on the internet. But seeing the internet, a place that was once filled with fiery debate and disagreement, become more and more censored, kills me in side. I no longer fear the big brother government from Orwell’s 1984 constantly watching our every word, that doesn’t need to exist when people are policing one another speech with out the help of the establishment.

Harassment does exist and is a huge problem, but the line between harassment and criticism is becoming increasingly blurry. If someone is spamming you online and you block them, but they create another account just to continue to spam you, that’s harassment.

If someone has disagreed with you, called you a liar, or made a video arguing the opposite of your point—that isn’t harassment, that is their opinion. Maybe you don’t agree with it, you don’t have to. That’s the whole point of freedom of speech.

From the great misquote of Voltaire, that sums up the true meaning of freedom and free speech, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Those are words to live by, even if Voltaire didn’t say it. I may disagree with you, even hate what you are saying, but I will stand up for your right to say it. That’s one of the principles of this nation.

But that’s just too crazy for some people. It’s a lot easier to try and block it out, or hide inside your safe space, but this is the beautiful disgusting reality of it. This is the world we live in. People all think differently, and the fact that we can debate over these disagreements is something we can not afford loose.