Firstly, my heartfelt condolences must go out to everyone affected by the tragic events in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) last Friday. Secondly, I’d like to express my admiration for all the young people who took part in the School Strike for Climate activities that same day. Even while we express our sadness at being in the shadow of a dark cloud, we must remember that there is so much more power in the sunshine than in the darkest cloud.

Laura O’Connell Rapira, Director of ActionStation.org.nz, sent out a wonderful email about how we can support the survivors of Friday’s tragedy, which I totally endorse, with one very important exception. Here’s my reply:

 

Kia ora Laura,

Thanks for your compassionate and helpful email at this difficult time. I have signed the petition on banning public ownership of semi-automatic weapons in Aotearoa. I note that having Police roaming the streets with guns in their cars did nothing to prevent this tragedy, while that policy has led to a number of tragedies of its own making. I hope to see ActionStation campaigning to end the policy of providing beat cops with firearms, and redirect resources into making sure our appropriately trained Armed Offenders Squads have everything they need to respond quickly and effectively when things like Friday’s tragedy happen.

Moving on to the rest of your email, I agree with most of what you say, but as I’ve expressed in previous emails, I have some serious concerns about this part:

“TAKE ACTION TO END HATE SPEECH 

For the last few months, our team has been researching the links between online hate, online misinformation and the rise in hate crimes

One thing is abundantly clear: Extreme words lead to extreme actions. We need to do all we can to stop both.

Sign this petition that we’re delivering in a couple of weeks if you want our government to crackdown on online hate and misinformation

I support an end to hate speech and misinformation online.”

I certainly share this goal, as an activist who has been involved in running internet forums since the 1990s, including about 7 years in the editorial collective of Aotearoa Indymedia. But with all due respect, I have to say I think you are going about it exactly the wrong way.

I strongly believe that venues where people can express ignorant opinions and have them firmly but respectfully challenged are - aside from being essential to a functioning democracy - also an essential safety valve that can help to prevent more tragedies like what happened on Friday. What better venue could there be for this than the internet? On the net, arguments can’t escalate to physical violence between participants, as they can in person. Online, we can all make informed decisions about whether or not to engage in the spaces where these kinds of discussions take place, and if we do, use the opinions expressed as a guide to who we might want to connect with, ignore, mute, or even block from seeing or contacting us. Online discussion platforms need to be engineered to put that power in the hands of us, the end users, not corporations or governments. For example, the open source community designing software using the SSB (Secure Scuttlebutt) protocol have a set of principles for how they are going about that.

I think the censorship strategy ActionStation is arguing for is not only ineffective in achieving our shared goal, but counterproductive to it. Why?

For a start, I don’t accept your generalization that “extreme words lead to extreme actions”. I think it’s just as arguable that extreme actions can result from an inability to blow off steam through words, or from feelings of frustration, alienation, and injustice, that can arise in people unable to openly express their honest opinions.

It’s also important to consider the psychological principle of “negative reinforcement”, which states that whenever any behaviour earns someone attention or reactions it is encouraged, even when that attention is negative. Positive Parenting courses integrate this principle by encouraging parents to give their children lots of attention for behaviour they like (”caught being good”), and minimal attention to behaviour they don’t like, ignoring it completely if possible. On the net, this principle is known as the “Streisand effect”, and it’s long been recognized that trying to suppress anything online only increases interest in it, multiplying the problem like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice chopping up his broom.

So not only is trying to suppress racist speech online likely to have exactly the opposite effect, it may also have a more dangerous one. As Three Arrows pointed out in his web video debunking Jordan Peterson, Nazism - like all forms of xenophobic ethno-nationalism - thrived by cultivating a sense of collective victimhood. Excluding people expressing white nationalist ideas from the normal protections of our democratic rights to speak our minds, assemble, and organize, only serves to reinforce that sense of victimhood. So it’s likely it actually helps groups planning racist violence with their recruitment, rather than hindering them.

I strongly suggest you watch the documentary ‘Taking Liberties’, which explains how the governments of the Allied countries - including New Zealand - carefully studied how the Nazis came to power, and why the majority of Germans who didn’t support the Nazis were unable to effectively resist them. As a result of this study, many of the civil rights we now consider essential to democracy were strengthened or even created after World War II, specifically to prevent a resurgence of fascism. Arguably, it is as a consequence of the erosion of civil liberties in democratic countries since 9/11 that we have seen the rise of toxic enthno-nationalism and its associated violence, not as a result of too much of the wrong kinds of speech.

I also don’t accept that the ends justify the means. Even if it was true that giving the state absolute power to stop people openly saying racist things would fix racism, that wouldn’t mean it was the right thing to do. Killing the entire human population might fix climate change and prevent the extinction of many other species, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. In this (admittedly extreme) example, the negative consequences are obvious, but in designing policy, we also need to be very mindful of the risks of unintended consequences.

There’s a parallel here with the well-meaning attempts by US legislators to suppress sex trafficking - another goal we all support - with FOSTA/SESTA. As Norman Shamas of Open Privacy explained in an interview with Final Straw Radio, not only do these laws make life harder for a lot of innocent people, they also make the jobs of the people who investigate sex traffickers harder too. When sex traffickers can’t hide their communications in plain sight among legitimate ads put up by sex workers, it doesn’t stop them communicating. It just pushes them deeper into the darknet where it takes a lot more resources to find and investigate them. Exactly the same is true for communications among white supremacists.

It’s much safer for everyone if people with racist views discuss them on mainstream platforms, where they can be monitored by both law enforcement and civil society watchdog groups like ours. This is such an important discussion that I’m going to post the text of this email on the Disintermedia blog, and submit it to TheDailyBlog.co.nz as a possible guest blog. I welcome you to engage with me by private email, or on either of those platforms.

Kia manawanui,

Danyl Strype

No Comments

RSS

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

To comment on this blog you will need to log in or create an account first.
  • Annual Events

  • Digital Freedom Foundation
  • LibrePlanet
  • Aotearoa

  • Aotearoa Indymedia
  • BallaNZ
  • Creative Commons Aotearoa/ NZ
  • Creative Freedom Foundation
  • DigitalNZ
  • Enspiral
  • Fair Deal Coalition
  • GreenStage
  • InternetNZ
  • Island Bay World Service
  • Living Economies
  • Localise
  • Loomio
  • Matrix FM
  • Nicky Hagar
  • No Right Turn
  • NZ Council for Civil Liberties
  • NZ Makers
  • NZ Makers Map
  • NZ Māori Internet Society
  • NZ Open Source Awards
  • NZCommons
  • OASIS
  • Open Government Ninjas of NZ
  • Open Source Society of NZ
  • Open Standards NZ
  • Open Ur Eyes
  • Pacific Media Centre
  • Permaculture in NZ
  • PledgeMe
  • Radio Chomsky
  • Regulation
  • Scoop
  • Tech Liberty
  • Timebank Aotearoa
  • Transition Towns Aotearoa/ NZ
  • Uncensored Magazine
  • Waatea News
  • Waikato Linux Users Group
  • What If
  • Wiki NZ
  • Zenbu
  • archives

  • ArchiveTeam
  • Critical Commons
  • Ibiblio
  • Internet Archive Community Software Collection
  • Open Archives Initiative
  • Blogroll

  • Abject
  • Access Now
  • Ars Technica
  • BadScience
  • Banjo - RoboBlog
  • Boing Boing
  • Born out of Binary
  • Centre for Media and Democracy
  • Choke Point Project
  • Copyrighteous
  • Create Digital Music
  • Creative Commons International
  • Cryptogon
  • Digital Standards Organisations
  • Disinfo
  • E-Democracy
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Ever Vigilant
  • Freedom Box Foundation
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Gaming On Linux
  • Global Indymedia
  • Gondwanaland (Mike Linksvayer)
  • Institute for the Future of the Book
  • Institute of Network Cultures
  • Internet Governance Project
  • InternetNZ
  • Island Bay World Service
  • Iterating Towards Openness
  • Knowledge Ecology International
  • LinkedListCorruption
  • Linuxed - Exploring Linux Distros
  • Localise
  • Moved by Freedom - Powered By Standards
  • Nanowares
  • New Zealand Māori Internet Society
  • Nicky Hagar
  • No Right Turn
  • NZ Council for Civil Liberties
  • NZCommons
  • O'Reilly Radar
  • OASIS
  • OERu Technology Blog
  • Open Educational Resources Foundation
  • Open Knowledge Foundation
  • Open Rights Group
  • Open Social Web
  • Open Source Conscious Intelligence Network
  • Open Source Food
  • Open Stand
  • Open Ur Eyes
  • OpenCollective
  • OpenDotDotDot
  • OpenSource.com
  • Permaculture in NZ
  • Plumi
  • Public Interest Journalism Foundation
  • Punk Rock Permaculture
  • Question Copyright
  • Replicant (OS)
  • Rob Meyers
  • Schneier on Security
  • Scoop
  • Shareable
  • Slashdot
  • Software Freedom Law Centre
  • Software in the Public Interest
  • SourceMap
  • Sustento Institute
  • Tech Liberty
  • TechRights
  • The Tin Hat
  • Tinkering Down Under
  • TorrentFreak
  • TransitionMovement
  • Translation Project
  • Trisquel GNU/ Linux
  • United Diversity
  • Waatea News
  • We Speak for Freedom
  • Why Your Boss is Programmed To Be a Dictator
  • code bank

  • Allura
  • BitBucket
  • FusionForge
  • GITHub
  • GITLab
  • Gogs
  • Internet Archive Community Software Collection
  • LaunchPad
  • NotABug
  • Savannah
  • Software Freedom Conservancy
  • Software Heritage
  • Sourceforge
  • community economics

  • Commons Transition
  • Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
  • In Our Back Yards
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Libre-Living
  • Living Economies
  • Sensorica
  • Sustainable Economy Law Centre
  • Timebank Aotearoa
  • TransitionMovement
  • cooperative

  • Loomio
  • Snowdrift Coop
  • crowdfunding

  • ArtistShare
  • BountySource
  • Causes
  • CauseVox
  • Crowdfunder
  • Crowdjustice
  • Crowdrise
  • Crowdsupply
  • Flattr
  • Fundit.buzz
  • GiveaLittle
  • Goteo
  • In Our Back Yards
  • KickStarter
  • KissKissBankBank
  • Liberapay
  • Mighty Cause
  • OpenGift
  • Patreon
  • PledgeMe
  • PledgeMusic
  • Pozible
  • Snowdrift Coop
  • StartSomeGood
  • Taproot Foundation
  • The Working World
  • Tidelift
  • Events

  • IndieWebCamp
  • free code

  • April
  • Black Duck Open Hub
  • DistroWatch
  • Ever Vigilant
  • F-Droid
  • Free Software Directory (GNU FDL 1.3 or later)
  • Free Software Support Network
  • Free Software Support Network
  • Free Your Android
  • FreshCode
  • Gogs
  • Gun.io
  • Internet Archive Community Software Collection
  • LILA
  • LinuxTracker
  • NotABug
  • OERu Technology Blog
  • Peers Community
  • Plumi
  • PublicLab
  • Replicant (OS)
  • Software Heritage
  • Urchn Studios
  • Free Media

  • Communes Collective
  • Copyrighteous
  • Create Digital Music
  • Definition of Free Cultural Works
  • Dyne Foundation
  • FLOSSManuals
  • Free Culture Foundation
  • Ibiblio
  • Librivox
  • LILA
  • Open Video Conference
  • Show Me Do
  • Translation Project
  • Urchn Studios
  • WikiLeaks
  • freelancing

  • BountySource
  • Gun.io
  • independent media

  • Aotearoa Indymedia
  • BallaNZ
  • EngageMedia
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • LILA
  • Matrix FM
  • Pacific Media Centre
  • Public Interest Journalism Foundation
  • Radio Chomsky
  • Radio Heritage Foundation
  • Uncensored Magazine
  • Waatea News
  • libre gaming

  • Gaming On Linux
  • Makers

  • GreenStage
  • Libre-Living
  • Mediamatic
  • NZ Makers
  • NZ Makers Map
  • Open ROV
  • Renewable PCs
  • Rob Meyers
  • Sensorica
  • maps

  • GeoForAll
  • GeoNames
  • Green Map System
  • Map Tools
  • Open Geospatial Foundation
  • Open Street Map
  • open governance

  • Crowdfunding
  • D-Cent
  • Deep Democracy Institute International
  • E-Democracy
  • Fight for the Future
  • Holacracy
  • Internet Governance Project
  • Kettering Foundation
  • Knowledge Sharing Toolkit (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
  • Open Government Ninjas of NZ
  • Open Policy Network
  • Open Space World (CC-BY-SA 2.5)
  • Open Stand
  • Open Standards NZ
  • Participedia
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • Transition Towns Aotearoa/ NZ
  • What If
  • WikiLeaks
  • open hardware

  • H-Node
  • Makey Makey
  • Meeblip Open Source Bass Synth
  • Open Hardware Summit
  • Open ROV
  • Open Source Hardware Association
  • Orgs

  • Access Now
  • Apache Foundation
  • April
  • Autistici/Inventati
  • Collaborative Knowledge Foundation
  • Commons Transition
  • Communes Collective
  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
  • Creative Commons Aotearoa/ NZ
  • Creative Freedom Foundation
  • Critical Commons
  • D-Cent
  • Deep Democracy Institute International
  • Digital Due Process coalition
  • Digital Freedom Foundation
  • Digital Standards Organisations
  • DigitalNZ
  • Dyne Foundation
  • E-Democracy
  • Electronic Frontiers Foundation
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Fair Tracing Project
  • Fight for the Future
  • Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives
  • Free Culture Foundation
  • Free Network Foundation
  • Free Software Foundation
  • Free Software Support Network
  • Free Software Support Network
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Guifi
  • Ibiblio
  • Identity Commons
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Internet Engineering Taskforce
  • Internet Governance Project
  • ISA Commons
  • Kettering Foundation
  • LEAP Encryption Access Project
  • LILA
  • Living Economies
  • Loomio
  • May First/ People Link
  • Mediamatic
  • NZ Māori Internet Society
  • NZ Open Source Awards
  • Open Architecture Network
  • Open Archives Initiative
  • Open Geospatial Foundation
  • Open Policy Network
  • Open Source Hardware Association
  • Open Source Society of NZ
  • Open Web Foundation
  • OpenADR Alliance
  • OpenCorporates
  • Outreachy
  • Participatory Culture Foundation
  • Peers Community
  • Permaculture in NZ
  • Privacy International
  • Public Citizen
  • Public Interest Journalism Foundation
  • Public Knowledge
  • Public Patent Foundation
  • Question Copyright
  • Radio Heritage Foundation
  • ReDecentralize
  • Reform Government Surveillance
  • Regulation
  • Rhizome
  • RiseUp
  • Science Commons
  • Software Carpentry Foundation
  • Software Freedom Conservancy
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • Sustainable Economy Law Centre
  • Taproot Foundation
  • Transition Towns Aotearoa/ NZ
  • Waikato Linux Users Group
  • Wiki NZ
  • World Wide Web Consortium (WC3)
  • Xiph.org
  • XMPP Standards Foundation
  • Peer2Peer

  • BitCoin
  • FreeCoin
  • Permaculture

  • Appropedia (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
  • Fruit Tree Planting Foundation
  • Future Scenarios
  • OrganicDesign
  • Permaculture in NZ
  • TransitionMovement
  • We Speak for Freedom
  • Privacy

  • Access Now
  • Digital Due Process coalition
  • Ever Vigilant
  • Fight for the Future
  • International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance
  • LEAP Encryption Access Project
  • OASIS
  • Privacy International
  • Reform Government Surveillance
  • What If
  • protocols and licensing

  • Definition of Free Cultural Works
  • Digital Standards Organisations
  • Greenlots
  • ISA Commons
  • Open Archives Initiative
  • Open Stand
  • Open Standards NZ
  • Open Web Foundation
  • OpenADR Alliance
  • Regular Events

  • Libre Graphics Meeting
  • Open Hardware Summit
  • science and datasets

  • AllTrials
  • Collaborative Knowledge Foundation
  • DigitalNZ
  • Fair Tracing Project
  • ISA Commons
  • Open Geospatial Foundation
  • Open Hand Project
  • SourceMap
  • Wiki NZ
  • Zooniverse
  • Tools

  • Autistici/Inventati
  • BitCoin
  • Black Duck Open Hub
  • CoActivate
  • Crowdfunding
  • DistroWatch
  • Dyne Foundation
  • F-Droid
  • FLOSSManuals
  • Fork the Cookbook
  • FreeCoin
  • GITHub
  • GNU Operating System
  • GreenStage
  • H-Node
  • How To Escape the GoogleMax Panopticon
  • Knowledge Sharing Toolkit (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
  • LEAP Encryption Access Project
  • LinuxTracker
  • Loomio
  • Map Tools
  • May First/ People Link
  • Meeblip Open Source Bass Synth
  • Monolith
  • Open Hand Project
  • Open Source Ecology
  • Open Space World (CC-BY-SA 2.5)
  • Open Street Map
  • OpenCorporates
  • OpenMailBox
  • Participatory Culture Foundation
  • Plumi
  • Renewable PCs
  • Replicant (OS)
  • RiseUp
  • Savannah
  • Show Me Do
  • Sourceforge
  • SourceMap
  • TransforMap
  • Translation Project
  • Web Platform
  • Zenbu
  • Transition

  • Green Map System
  • Health After Oil
  • Localise
  • OrganicDesign
  • Wiki

  • Appropedia (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
  • Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives
  • Instructables
  • LibrePlanet
  • Open (Government) NZ
  • Participedia
  • SourceWatch
  • WikiEducator
  • wireless mesh

  • Guifi
  • workplace democracy

  • Enspiral
  • The Working World