Imagine waking up one morning, and discovering that the content you posted on your blog, your YouTube account, or any other social media where you have an account, has been blocked because someone, somewhere, considered that specific content offensive to them.
It happens. Although it hasn’t happened to me yet, it has for some others. This morning I was perusing my Twitter timeline when I saw a retweet from Atheist Revolution. The tweet was in reference to Jerry Coyne, who writes the Why Evolution is True blog. Clicking on the link in the tweet I saw something that really doesn’t surprise me anymore: a country, Pakistan, had complained to WordPress (his host) about a specific piece of content they found to be blasphemous and demanded that WordPress block that content from being seen in their country.
Od course, WordPress obliged and sent Dr. Coyne the notice. I think it’s cowardly for these companies to just acquiesce but not complying with the demand might mean that the company is blocked in its entirety from that country. Facebook and Twitter, just to name 2 others have done the same with respect to demands from certain countries.
What would it mean here in the US if we had similar laws restricting what a person may or may not say online. For we atheists, it would mostly be the end of our ability to criticize religion. Any religion. There are countries in the West that do have hate speech laws, and there has been a growing sentiment here in the US that we, too, should implement something similar.
I can only speak for myself but I would object to any law limiting my ability to criticize anyones religious belief or political ideology, or even race, gender, or sexual orientation. I’m not referring to threatening or advocating violence against any of the above – that’s already illegal, and should be – but just criticizing some group for what I might think of them. It might be bigoted speech, and in my view often is, but unless it crosses that bright line, should still be protected.
I don’t want to wake up one morning with a notice from WordPress, or any other online platform I use, informing me that my content has been blocked simply for having an opinion which someone or some group may find offensive.