The European Union has a censorship addiction, and a desire to inflict the costs of indulging that addiction on the world’s top tech companies.
Vera Jourova, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, complains that Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft respond too slowly to demands that they delete posts deemed “hate speech” from their platforms.
In May, those companies “voluntarily” affirmed a code of conduct committing themselves to 24-hour turnaround on doing Jourova’s dirty work for her. Six months later, she claims the companies are too slow and that the EU may be “forced” to enact laws to punish them for not shutting people up as quickly as she wants them shut up.
All this follows other similar EU nonsense, including an absurd demand that search engines acknowledge a “right to be forgotten,” under which individuals could demand the removal of unflattering or inconvenient (but accurate) information from public view. The industry knuckled under to that in the EU, which quickly came back demanding they implement it worldwide.
Agreeing to the “code of conduct” was far from the tech industry’s first mistake. As Kipling wrote, “once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.” By legitimizing a litany of claimed powers to conscript them as censors, the firms virtually guaranteed that Jourova and her gang would keep coming back with more, and more bizarre, demands.
The EU needs technology more than the world’s tech firms need the EU. At some point, the EU’s constant attempts to shift the costs of (and the public oppobrium aimed at) its ever-increasing police statism onto those firms will make doing business in the EU too expensive to be bothered with.
The world needs more of the “Wild West” atmosphere that censors in the EU and elsewhere attribute to it. A country with decent Internet infrastructure to constitutionally commit itself to non-interference with network traffic and content of all kinds would have a great pitch: “Domicile in our territory. Low taxes, no censorship. Countries that don’t like the traffic can bear the financial and political costs of blocking it.”
If the EU is unwilling to join civilized society and protect, rather than suppress, free speech, it should at least be forced to bear the full costs of its backward authoritarianism until it straightens up.
The tech industry should tell Vera Jourova to pound sand, and make it stick.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “Censorship: Tech Firms Should Abandon the EU to Its Madness,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Platte County, Wyoming Record Times [print only], 12/07/16
- “Censorship: Tech Firms Should Abandon the EU to Its Madness,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Ventura County, California Citizens Journal, 12/09/16
- “Censorship: Tech Firms Should Abandon the EU to Its Madness,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Sonoran News [Arizona], 12/09/16
- “Censorship: Tech Firms Should Abandon the EU to Its Madness,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Woonsocket, Rhode Island Call [web and print editions]
- “Censorship: Tech firms should abandon the EU to its madness,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Kingston, Jamaica Observer, 12/16/16
Also published on Medium.