By Michael Lodge, The Business Advisor, Greenville, South Carolina: A few days ago I was listening to a speech that former President Obama was giving on censorship on the internet, social media at Stanford University. He made it very clear that censorship did not go far enough on social media to stop misinformation. Obama, ""But while content moderation can limit the distribution ... it doesn't go far enough... these big platforms need to subject to... regulation." This is troubling when a former President feels that freedom of speech on the internet needs to be regulated. We are getting very close to the use of regulation that Stalin used to keep control of his government and citizens of Russia.
Joseph Stalin's regime is often associated with the suppression of free speech and the stifling of political dissent. As the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953, Stalin implemented a series of policies that effectively ended free speech within the country. Under Stalin's rule, the state exercised strict control over the media, education, and cultural institutions. Censorship was pervasive, and any form of expression that deviated from the official party line was ruthlessly suppressed. Political opponents, intellectuals, and writers who dared to challenge the regime were silenced through intimidation, imprisonment, or execution. Stalin's reign of terror created an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, effectively eradicating any meaningful freedom of speech within the Soviet Union.
Furthermore, Stalin's implementation of communism in the Soviet Union played a significant role in curtailing free speech. Communism, as envisioned by Marx and Lenin, advocates for a stateless society where all means of production are collectively owned. However, Stalin's interpretation of communism deviated from these ideals. Instead of fostering a society where diverse opinions and debates could flourish, Stalin's regime centralized power and established a totalitarian state. The Communist Party under Stalin's leadership became the sole arbiter of truth, and any dissenting voices were considered enemies of the state. The suppression of free speech was justified as a means to maintain the party's control and ideological purity. This resulted in a climate of conformity, where individuals were discouraged from expressing their views openly, leading to the erosion of free speech as a fundamental right. Over the past few years, the U.S. government wanted to be the sole arbiter of truth, and then we found out their truth were lies. The government turned against their citizens and tried to mute the voices of people asking questions and making statements that we then found out to be truths.
The actions of governments and the illegal censorship of free speech on the internet and social media platforms share striking similarities in their impact on the freedom of expression. Both stain the fabric of open discourse and limit the ability of individuals to express their thoughts and opinions without fear of repercussions. Whether through oppressive regulations, surveillance, or the suppression of dissenting voices, both state-controlled actions and unauthorized censorship on digital platforms seek to control the flow of information and restrict the fundamental right to freedom of speech. These shared characteristics underscore the importance of protecting and upholding the principles of free expression, both online and offline, as essential pillars of a democratic society.
Free speech is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society, and the internet has revolutionized the way we exercise this right. However, there have been calls for increased government control over online speech, particularly during the Obama administration. While the intention behind such proposals may seem noble, it is crucial to recognize the dangers inherent in granting the government the power to monitor and control speech on the internet. This article aims to outline the reasons why Obama's approach to regulating internet speech should be opposed.
1. Threat to Free Speech: Allowing the government to monitor and control speech on the internet poses a significant threat to the principle of free expression. The government's involvement in regulating online speech opens the door to censorship and the suppression of differing viewpoints. A healthy democracy thrives on the diversity of ideas and opinions, and any attempt to curtail this diversity undermines the essence of free speech.
2. Slippery Slope: Government control over internet speech is a slippery slope that can lead to further encroachments on civil liberties. Once the government gains the power to regulate online discourse, it becomes increasingly likely that it will extend its control to other forms of expression. History has repeatedly shown that granting authorities unchecked control over speech has resulted in the suppression of dissenting voices and the stifling of political discourse.
3. Chilling Effect on Innovation: The internet has been a catalyst for innovation, creativity, and economic growth precisely because it has provided a platform for unrestricted expression. By introducing government regulation, we risk stifling this spirit of innovation. Entrepreneurs, content creators, and individuals will be hesitant to explore new ideas or engage in controversial discussions if they fear government scrutiny, thereby hindering progress and limiting the potential of the internet as a tool for positive change.
4. Potential for Abuse: Granting the government control over internet speech opens the door to potential abuse of power. History has shown that when governments have the means to control speech, they often abuse that authority to suppress dissent, manipulate public opinion, and consolidate their hold on power. Concentrating such power in the hands of a few individuals or entities undermines the principles of democracy and poses a genuine threat to individual freedoms.
5. Alternative Approaches: Rather than relying on government control, alternative mechanisms can address concerns over online speech. Self-regulation by online platforms, user-driven moderation, and the promotion of digital literacy and critical thinking can create a healthier online environment. Encouraging platforms to develop transparent content moderation policies and empowering users to make informed decisions about the content they consume can foster responsible speech without compromising free expression.
While the intention behind efforts to monitor and control speech on the internet may be driven by concerns over harmful content, it is essential to recognize the inherent dangers of granting the government such power. Free speech is a cornerstone of democracy, and any attempt to limit it jeopardizes the principles upon which our societies are built. It is crucial to advocate for alternative solutions that promote responsible online behavior without compromising the fundamental right to free expression and protecting Americans from the over reach by government to cancel out free speech.
"Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance, this great land of ordered liberty, for if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin." - Henry Cabot Lodge
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.