• Freedom of Expression,  Law,  Social Media

    The Thought Police Are Here

    The Thought Police have arrived and it is doubtful they’ll ever go away. This isn’t an hysterical reaction with a hyperbolic headline. The UK police have quite literally announced they police thought crimes. Well, ‘thought crimes’ isn’t quite accurate because one’s thoughts aren’t actually crimes, but the police will knock on your door or come to your place of work anyway. The Telegraph reports that a man has had a visit from the British Police because he retweeted – not wrote, mind you, retweeted – a satirical limerick about transgenderism. But this is the terrifying part: When the man asked why the police were questioning him even though they acknowledged…

  • Freedom of Expression,  Stateside

    Reinstate Bahia Amawi

    While university speech hi-jinks often receive media attention, it can be easy to forget how free speech is being curtailed by state legislatures in the US. In addition to introducing legislation barring teachers from introducing “controversial topics” in the classroom, states like Texas have made it a dismissible offense to engage in speech not endorsed by the state government. Enter Bahia Amawi:

  • Freedom of Expression,  Journalism,  Social Media,  Technology

    Virtue-Signalling Utilities

    Allow me to be the first to coin the term “Patreonizing“. It is defined as the increasingly desperate – but on the surface, smug – attempts by a large tech company to reassure its users that its silly and arbitrary decisions were virtuous and “the right thing to do” when almost everyone can see they made a terrible mistake. And of course the word derives from the stab crowdsourcing giant Patreon had at justifying its removal of political vlogger Sargon of Akkad from its platform.  The vlogger had, they say, violated their terms of use by using the dreaded “n-word” when interviewed on a podcast not on his channel and…

  • Freedom of Expression

    ECHR ruling on defaming the Prophet Muhammed

    Although it’s difficult to evaluate legal judgments based on a summary in a newspaper, on the face of it, this particular judgment seems concerning. Defaming the Prophet Muhammed “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace” and thus exceeds the permissible limits of freedom of expression, ruled the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday, upholding a lower court decision. The decision by a seven-judge panel came after an Austrian national identified as Mrs. S. held two seminars in 2009, entitled “Basic Information on Islam,” in which she defamed the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage. According to a statement…

  • Crime,  Freedom of Expression

    Cut & Paste Crime

    The BBC reports that a (white, since it pertains to the case) teenager who posted some lyrics on her Instagram page by the (black, since it pertains to the case) rap musician Snap Dogg has been found guilty of a racially-aggravated hate crime because the inclusion of a racial epithet common in rap lyrics amounted to a criminal offence. Presumably the teenager was expected to censor the Snap Dogg lyrics before posting them instead of cutting-and-pasting them from any popular song lyrics website. However, if it’s unsuitable to be written in a public forum, then it’s definitely unsuitable for public broadcast. So why is the playing of Snap Dogg songs –…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Lindsay Shepherd and the Jordan Peterson controversy

    Lindsay Shepherd is a teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada.  She hit the headlines after showing a clip (taken from this programme) in one of her classes featuring controversial Canadian Professor Jordan Peterson discussing gender pronoun choices. Shepherd was then hauled in for an interview with three senior colleagues which she recorded.   Based on what I’ve seen and read of Jordan Peterson his main beef seems to be with certain gender neutral pronouns such as ‘zhe’. I infer that he would not, for example, insist on calling a transgender woman ‘he’, and (although accused of abuse by a fellow panellist) does not use abusive language. There are all…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Denmark revives its blasphemy laws

    In a worrying move, a Danish man has been charged with blasphemy after burning a copy of the Qur’an and posting a video on Facebook. The last conviction for blasphemy was in 1946, the last charge in 1971.  Here it is suggested that the decision to bring the charge might have been motivated by a wish to fend off terrorist attacks.  Another (unintended) consequence will probably be to strengthen voices further to the right.  The accused’s lawyer makes a telling point: Mr. Paludan also noted that in 1997, a Danish artist burned a copy of the Bible on a news show by a state broadcaster but was not charged. “Considering…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Ben White’s talk at UCLAN cancelled

    It was recently revealed that the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) had cancelled a panel discussion featuring Ben White which had been scheduled to take place as part of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’.  Here’s is the explanation: But a spokesperson for the university said “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine” contravened the definition of antisemitism adopted by the government and was “unlawful”. In a statement on behalf of the university in Preston, Lancashire, the spokesperson said: “The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes antisemitism. “We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances…

  • Freedom of Expression,  Stateside

    Trump, Yiannopoulos and Berkeley

    President Trump – whose latest exploits include using a prayer breakfast to discuss Celebrity Apprentice ratings, cutting white supremacism from a counter-extremism programme and lashing out at that well known enemy of the free world, Malcom Turnbull – has now moved his sights to U. C. Berkeley. Even by Trumpian standards it’s hard to see how the University can be blamed for its conduct over the cancelled speech by alt-right leaning provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos was invited to speak by Berkeley College Republicans.  The University’s response seemed perfectly reasonable, particularly in a US context: “While we realize that the presence of certain speakers is likely to upset some members of…