Within hours of the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that country’s government called on people to refrain from sharing the killer’s “manifesto” and the video he’d taken of his crimes-in-progress. Except that New Zealand’s officials didn’t just ask; pointing to the laws of their own country, they demanded that the offending material be suppressed by social media companies and online publishers, under penalty of laws that wouldn’t seem to apply beyond the island nation.
The desire to avoid promoting a mass murderer’s ideas and actions is certainly understandable, writes J.D. Tuccille, but the wisdom of removing them from public observation and discussion isn’t by any means a given. And the eagerness with which most of the online giants complied with a government’s censorship demands raises serious concerns about the prospects for the free exchange of ideas.
The dangers of that sort of soft totalitarianism emphasize the importance of developing and promoting alternative platforms which are committed to free speech and resistant to collaborating with government officials.