The Electronic Frontier Foundation
) an organization dedicated to the free flow of information online has discussed the perils of mass-censorship. In the context of the violence at Charlottesville Virginia online service providers have acted to censor various content. The eff
have responded by publishing an article discussing these actions.
It is explained that under U.S. Law service providers have a right to control content which they publish. And search engines companies, of which Google is the preeminent example, may choose to exclude from search results anything on an arbitrary basis.
Because Internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world.
The known quality of Google as a search engine has lead to its having gained what is close to a monopolistic control of its market. In the case of YouTube the amount of content downloaded per minute is in excess of 500 Hours, according to a 14 November 2015 article.
The result of all this is that the decisions of a very small number of people have far reaching power.
In the conclusion of the eff article they observe:
It might seem unlikely now that Internet companies would turn against sites supporting racial justice or other controversial issues. But if there is a single reason why so many individuals and companies are acting together now to unite against neo-Nazis, it is because a future that seemed unlikely a few years ago—where white nationalists and Nazis have significant power and influence in our society—now seems possible. We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love.
Part of the work for all of us now is to push back against such dangerous decisions with our own voices and actions. Another part of our work must be to seek to shore up the weakest parts of the Internet’s infrastructure so it cannot be easily toppled if matters take a turn for the (even) worse. These actions are not in opposition; they are to the same ends.
We can—and we must—do both
They are wise to remind us that the powers that are exercised against groups that you may well disprove of, can as easily be used against groups that you approve of. Their point is to remind us of a salient point. All of us are vulnerable. Which is why we must do all we can to make our rights to free speech something more than a pious utterance.