UK Liberty

The thorny problem of what speech to ban

Posted in freedom of speech by ukliberty on May 29, 2008

Yesterday we learned a number of bloggers are upset about a BNP councillor blogging on My Telegraph.

Today:

Harry’s Place:

The Guardian apparently has no moral objections to propagating the views of far right sectarians, as it actively solicits pieces by Muslim Brotherhood supporters such as Faisal Bodi, Anas Altikriti, Ismail Patel and Soumaya Ghannoushi. They even publish, on a regular basis, work by Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas’ “Special Envoy“ and wannabe suicide bomber.

Sunny responds:

This rather silly. Most of them might be conservative right-wingers, and Faisal Bodi a complete idiot, but comparing them to the BNP is disingenuous. They don’t go around spouting racial or religious hatred (Bodi and Azzam Tammimi excluded).

Nevertheless, two out of the five presumably do spout racial or religious hatred, yet the Guardian actively solicits their articles, rather than (as with My Telegraph) passively providing a blogging platform?

But, says Sunny:

The difference is this you see. The BNP don’t have any problems getting their voices heard. The Guardian gives Hamas a platform because it feels that its political voice is being marginalised at a time that it should be heard. If you want to make peace with the enemy, you have to hear what it has to say. The BNP work in a different paradigm.

Hmm… I’m not sure why racists and terrorists should be actively given a voice by a newspaper, in the sense of them giving them a platform. I’m not bothered about BNP or Hamas using a blogging platform provided to all and sundry by a newspaper but I am concerned (although not greatly!) about newspapers actively soliciting their views.

On the whole though, I don’t think merely offensive content should be pulled or forbidden from being solicited – illegal, yes (in general) but not offensive.

Well, whether or not you agree with such views you can see here a real world example of a difficulty in practice: a number of sides, each finding another’s content offensive and wishing it to be pulled.

Who gets to decide what content is pulled?

Now we’re getting into a thorny area, aren’t we?

So I’m still with the Telegraph on this:

Our readers are entitled to their opinions and, within the law [and presumably the T&Cs], they’re entitled to publish them on the My Telegraph blogging platform. We believe our readers are intelligent and discerning enough to avoid the content they dislike and report that which offends. That doesn’t mean the Telegraph necessarily endorses their opinions nor promotes them.

and,

when you have an open platform, whether it’s My Telegraph, Comment Is Free, or the internet itself, then you have to accept that a multiplicity of views will be expressed on it and that some of those views will be unpalatable to some people.

And presumably if there is a sound basis for complaint, the offending article will be edited or pulled as per the T&Cs, hopefully after consulting with the author depending on the severity of the offence and urgency of the need to mitigate the problem (eg defamation requires immediate action).

But I can’t help thinking the real issue here is that some people climbed on their high horses to complain about articles more ludicrous than offensive just because they were ‘published’ by the Dreaded Torygraph and written by a member of the Bigoted Nationalist Party.

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