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Hate Speech: a crime in Europe

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Mikko Ellila blogs in Finnish on Prodos's Thinker-to-Thinker site. Here is what Mikko wrote to Prodos:

I am writing to you because I received a letter from the municipal police department saying they want to interrogate me because of the anti-Muslim, pro-Israeli, pro-European, pro-American posts in my blog. According to the letter, I am suspected of hate speech merely because I have pointed out that Islam is a fascist ideology that advocates killing Jews, atheists, homosexuals etc.
Read the whole letter here. (HT: Zigory) Edited by softwareNerd

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Since I posted the original, I think it's fair that I post this update. Prodos provided a link to a translation of Mikkos's essay.

What a revoltingly anti-Objectivist essay. The writer believes that biology is destiny, that man is not born tabula rasa but rather that one's ethical philosophy is baked into one's genes. In epistemological theory, the writer is a soul-mate of Al Sharpton and David Duke.

People like this think they have some affinity with Objectivists, because their genetically-programmed theory in certain areas of ethics and politics happens to coincide with Objectivism. The truth is, with friends like this...

I uphold the right of David Duke and Al Sharpton to spew racist nonsense without being questioned by the police. So, on that one point -- by the coincidence where my adopted philosophy happens to match Mikko's genetically-programmed ethics -- I would support the principle of free-speech. However, I would advise him not to stand up for such a principle. Since the cops are from his race, it is obvious that their ethical programming is evolving to include some multiculturalism aspects. I would advise him to go along with what the police of his race are telling him to do: who is he to question the wisdom of his tribe.

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A recent "hate speech" incident took place in U.K. From the news-stories, it appears that a black soccer player (Muamba) collapsed during a game, and some person posted to Twitter: "LOL, Fuck Muamba. He's dead". it led to a to-and-fro where his tweets became racist.

One or more Twitter reader sent the conversation to the cops, and he was arrested and charged with "a racially aggravated public order offence to incite violence". The Evanescent blog has a good post arguing against hate-speech laws, here.

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I remember Hitchens saying something about this when he was lecturing about free speech.

Hungary has laws against holocaust and communism deniers. Don't think anyone has been convicted though...

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Another "hate-speech" arrest in Britain.

Some background: A British diver did not win a medal.

This 18-year old diver's dad died recently. A moronic 17 year old tweeted to him: "You let your dad down, I hope you know that"

The diver re-tweeted it, adding "After giving it my all … you get idiots sending me this …"

The police arrested the 17 year old.

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Someone pointed out that I'd not read further into that article, where the Tweeting kid sent another tweet saying:

"i'm going to find you and i'm going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick".

So, I guess the cops got him for the incorrect use of "your". ;)

I reckon it makes sense for cops to check out a threat against a celebrity athlete.

Edited by softwareNerd

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The rest of his tweets are irrelevant. The Police statement makes it clear that he was arrested on suspicion of "malicious communication", based on the tweet you quoted.

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The rest of his tweets are irrelevant. The Police statement makes it clear that he was arrested on suspicion of "malicious communication", based on the tweet you quoted.

No, given the quality of the reporting in that article, it is not clear to me that the facts are as you say.

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If someone goes around threatening to drown and strangle someone then that is harassment. It is right that they should have to answer to the police. The police issued the kid with a warning. This is entirely proportionate. What is the big deal?

Edited by Kate87

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Here's a better article, which explains that this arrest isn't an isolated case, but part of a pattern to clamp down on electronic messages which are of a "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character".

Police ridiculed over Tom Daley Twitter abuse arrest

The law is a restriction on freedom of speech (It can and is being used to punish unpopular speech) and is being applied selectively (the threats that came later were a part of a back and forth between the guy who got arrested and the athlete's fans, with both sides being equally guilty of hurling unrealistic threats of violence and sexual assault; and yet, there was only one arrest made).

P.S. The article doesn't address this, but the campaign on politically incorrect speech isn't limited to the Internet. Charges of racism have been brought against people who committed the offense in other contexts, too, often for surprisingly mild observations which most people would not even consider racist.

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In the latest British travesty, a man was arrested for posting a picture of a burning poppy. This would be like being arrested for posting a picture of a flag-burning.

A lawyer arguing against the arrest asks: "What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by @kent_police for burning a poppy?"

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For those not familiar with this, the poppy is used as a symbol of remembering fallen soldiers in Canada (and I guess the UK too).

I guess Kate is gonna stop by and explain how his gesture is a threat to all the dead people.

Edited by Nicky

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Here are the figures on how many people had their lives ruined by being prosecuted and/or convicted in the UK, over the past few years, for Internet communications of grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character:

Arrests and prosecutions: 1,263 in 2009; 1,843 in 2011.

Convictions: 873 in 2009 ; 1,286 in 2011.

Here are some examples of convictions. Let's start out with a joke: "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your (expletive) together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high."

That earned a conviction and two years spent in litigation with the government (after the person lost his job, of course).

Here's an example of straight forward political/religious expression (no threats, not even jokingly) that resulted in a conviction and 240 hours of community service: "soldiers should die and go to hell". That's it.

Another teenager was convicted to twelve weeks in jail for making offensive comments about a missing child.

While China doesn't release this information, I did look around for unofficial estimates, and based on them I'm confident that the UK has hands down overtaken China in the enforcement of Internet censorship.

Read more: http://www.myfoxny.com/story/20104567/in-uk-twitter-facebook-rants-land-some-in-jail#ixzz2CJq9ZMJT

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I've already written to my MP as soon as the poppy story broke. It is truly a travesty. The police's power in this area comes from the phrase “insulting words or behaviour” in Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. It seems that this section has only recently begun to be enforced.

The Public Order Act needs urgent reform - read this: http://reformsection5.org.uk/ then write to your MP.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19910865

The law is changing after Christmas - according to "The One Show" (a magazine style TV show) the law will be clarified to emphasis that someone who is enacting a sustained campaign of insulting abuse will be prosecuted whereas someone who just insults will not.

People who enact racial abuse will still be liable for prosecution apparently. I'm not sure what I think about this last point. What do you guys think? Should it be against the law to racially insult someone?

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The law is changing after Christmas

There are several laws being used to prosecute people for speech. In the article you linked to, there's no mention of any plans, by any legislative body, to change any of those laws. In fact there's no mention of the laws.

The only two things mentioned are:

1. changing strategy on how to use the law to stifle speech (presumably in a way that makes it look less stupid and fascist, but nevertheless achieves the goal - which is, clearly, still to stifle speech).

2. it suggests a new way to stifle speech: putting pressure on private companies to censor unauthorized speech directly, by deleting illegal ideas and opinions before anyone can read them.

I think this new approach is far more sinisterly Orwellian than the old one. At least now, the standards the government is using are out in the open, for everyone to ridicule, because they have to publicly prosecute people who break their rules. Once that's gone, and our communications start just disappearing into the ether (the way mail to the outside and back tends to just inexplicably disappear in China), it's gonna be much worse.

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2. it suggests a new way to stifle speech: putting pressure on private companies to censor unauthorized speech directly, by deleting illegal ideas and opinions before anyone can read them.

I think we should all put pressure on private companies to censor racist insults and other grossly insulting speech.

Edited by Kate87

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I think we should all put pressure on private companies to censor racist insults and other grossly insulting speech.
So, you think Facebook should start deciding what comments are racist and insulting, and should remove such comments? Should Google make its search results hide web-sites that it judges as racist or insulting?

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I think we should all put pressure on private companies to censor racist insults and other grossly insulting speech.

And Mitt Romney thinks we should all put pressure on women to stop having abortions. He doesn't mind using the government for that purpose either. You two should hang out more, you'd get along great.

Personally, I don't think it's your business if I have an abortion, or ten. Or if I use the time between my abortions to insult minorities on a private website. (though I find it a little more curious that you have a bigger problem with the latter). I think your response to that should be to mind your own business, by staying away from both the abortion clinic and the website.

Edited by Nicky

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I think we should all put pressure on private companies to censor racist insults and other grossly insulting speech.

I'm not sure what you mean. I'd certainly support companies keeping their own employees in check. I'd personally boycott racist companies. But I'm not comfortable answering softwareNerd's questions in the affirmative.

One of the reasons for my apprehension is the fact that different people have different definitions of racism. Even this community can't always agree about which specific acts are racist, and we generally agree that racism is the judgment of character based on the non-character trait of race. I can't imagine how confused the issue would get if the webmasters started using conventional or contemporary academic definitions of the term.

Racism is a pretty awful character trait. I don't want to outsource my character judgment to a corporate entity when eliminating a racist from my online social circle is as easy as clicking my mouse.

Edited by FeatherFall

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So, you think Facebook should start deciding what comments are racist and insulting, and should remove such comments? Should Google make its search results hide web-sites that it judges as racist or insulting?

Good point. You would have to make a distinction between companies that facilitate communication (ie the Post Office, Google, AT&T) etc, and companies that do not facilitate communication.

Edited by Kate87

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