By Frank Vernuccio
The growing threats to free speech throughout the United States come from a number of sources, including government officials, academia, and the rising influence and power of social media giants. The threats by government leaders, such as former attorney general Loretta Lynch who, while in office, considered “criminally prosecuting” anyone who disagreed with President Obama on climate change, and the move by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to limit the application of the First Amendment concerning paid political speech, may have diminished due to the results of the 2016 election. But in other circles, the pressure to mothball free speech rights continues.The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has released a vital document, which charts academic freedom over the past 103 years. According to author David Randall:
Originally posted in the New York Analysis of Policy & Government newsletter
We publish this chart today because America faces a growing crisis about who can say what on our college campuses.
According to the study:
At root this is a crisis of authority. In recent decades university administrators, professors, and student activists have quietly excluded more and more voices from the exchange of views on campus. This has taken shape in several ways, not all of which are reducible to violations of ‘academic freedom.’ The narrowing of campus debate by de-selection of conservatives from faculty positions, for example, is not directly a question of academic freedom though it has proven to have dire consequences in various fields where professors have severely limited the range of ideas they present in courses … Potent threats to academic freedom can arise from the collective will of faculty members themselves. This is the situation that confronts us today. Decades of progressive orthodoxy in hiring, textbooks, syllabi, student affairs, and public events have created campus cultures where legitimate intellectual debates are stifled and where dissenters, when they do venture forth, are often met with censorious and sometimes violent responses. Student mobs, egged on by professors and administrators, now sometimes riot to prevent such dissent. The idea of “safe spaces” and a new view of academic freedom as a threat to the psychological wellbeing of disadvantaged minorities have gained astonishing popularity among students.
Students have begun to realize the dangers of campus censorship. Shuhankar Chhhokra, writing in the Harvard Crimson notes:
What happens when we replace the high-strung, passionate atmosphere of the campus protest with the sober, more intellectually demanding lecture hall? Far scarier than any campus protest was my experience in class last week, when in light of the grievances of these student protesters, we discussed the limits that should be placed on disagreeable speech on campuses. We asked ourselves in all seriousness a question that, despite the irony, I believe is too dangerous to even entertain: When is censorship okay? … If we dive into the diction of this new student activism—diction that some of the most vocal supporters of free speech restrictions used in my class ad nauseam last week—we may see some, albeit poor, rationalization of their demands. Disagreeable speech is no longer “offensive;” rather, it’s “hostile.” It is no longer a violation of good taste, but a prima facie violation of the victim’s personhood and liberty. A student in my class claimed that repeated microaggressions pose a quantifiable threat to their victims’ lives, equal in severity to physical violence itself. This reframing of an argument about decorum to a patently false, histrionic one about something far more critical is how these calls for censorship may actually gain some traction.
The internet is the greatest revolution in the availability of information since the invention of the printing press. However, the leadership and staff of social media giants have begun to use their extraordinary power to warp public discussion by censoring out ideas and beliefs that they disagree with.
Hayden Ludwig, a communications associate at the Capital Research Center, reports:
The assault on First Amendment rights can be seen within the workplace environment of social media giants. A Reuters analysis reported in the New York Post provided an example in January, concerning a Google employee who claimed that:
If you’ve ever contemplated what censorship in media looks like, here’s an illustration.
At 12:00 PM on February 8, the Capital Research Center released our latest short video entitled ‘The Dirty Secrets of Democratic Politics.’ I narrated that brief exposé on Robert Creamer, the longtime Democratic Party operative whose attempts to smear Donald Trump supporters in 2016 using violent agitators were exposed by the investigative group Project Veritas. When Project Veritas promoted the video in a tweet that afternoon, we discovered that YouTube had removed CRC’s video for supposedly violating their community guidelines on ‘hate speech.’ In less than 6 hours, our video—which contains no “hate speech” or other violations of YouTube’s community guidelines of any kind, and even used footage from Project Veritas that has been up on YouTube for well over a year and has millions of views—was flagged for review and removed by a platform supposedly built on promoting free speech. It isn’t the first time YouTube has censored our work. In December 2017, the company targeted another CRC video called ‘Right-Wing or Left-Wing, Identity Politics is Destroying America,’ narrated by CRC film and video producer Joseph Klein. Despite our nonpartisan critique of identity politics for driving Americans apart, YouTube restricted access to the video—blocking it from view in 28 foreign countries and halting American viewers from advertising, commenting, or ‘liking’ the video … After we fought back and brought these outrages to light, YouTube quietly reinstated both videos. But it’s become increasingly clear: when it comes to allowing free speech, YouTube is willing to break their professed values if it advances their ideology at the cost of conservatives.
The company has failed to protect employees from workplace harassment related to their support of President Donald Trump or conservative political views, according to the lawsuit.
Robert Epstein, writing in U.S. News, states that:
Google, Inc., isn’t just the world’s biggest purveyor of information; it is also the world’s biggest censor. The company maintains at least nine different blacklists that impact our lives, generally without input or authority from any outside advisory group, industry association or government agency. Google is not the only company suppressing content on the internet. Reddit has frequently been accused of banning postings on specific topics, and a recent report suggests that Facebook has been deleting conservative news stories from its newsfeed, a practice that might have a significant effect on public opinion—even on voting. Google, though, is currently the biggest bully on the block.
Sometimes, the pressure to attack First Amendment rights on the internet comes from abroad. Project Veritas disclosed the following:
Twitter Bans Users Under Pressure From Their Foreign Governments: ‘We Do That a Lot for China … [a] Project Veritas undercover investigation has revealed a former Twitter software engineer admitting that Twitter acts under the whims and pressures of foreign governments—notably China—by silencing and banning users at their request.
How has censorship become an increasingly acceptable tactic, predominately for those on the left? Andrew analyzed the question in a City Journal article:
Nothing scandalizes a leftist like the truth … The Left has co-opted our good manners and our good will in order to silence our opposition to their bad policies. The idea is to make it seem impolite and immoral to mention the obvious … Google/YouTube now stands charged by multiple accusers of singling out conservative voices for censorship, “fact-checking,” and demonetization. Hidden-camera videos released by Project Veritas this week show Twitter employees conspiring to “shadow ban” conservatives on their system. On campus, intelligent conservative speakers of good will like Ben Shapiro, Charles Murray, and Christina Hoff-Sommers have faced violent protests meant to shut them up. No person of importance on the right seeks to silence anyone on the left. The Left, on the other hand, is broadly committed to ostracizing, blacklisting, and even criminalizing right-wing speech …