The European Commission is circumventing bans on governmental censorship by asking communciations platforms like Facebook and Twitter to agree to “voluntary codes of conduct”, which all users would be held to. As these are private platforms, they are not subject to the laws that limit what governments can do, and can impose any terms and conditions they like. But when it’s not really an option to be on these platforms in someone’s daily life, doesn’t it leave a very sour taste when governments are starting to limit speech – limit legal speech – by calling it “voluntary agreements”?
Last year, social media giants Facebook, Twitter and others agreed to “voluntary regulation of speech” on its platforms, and recently, were lauded for significant progress in reducing the scope of free speech.
European politicians are circumventing every single constitutional safeguard and are finding ways to ban undesirable but legal speech, by calling it a “voluntary code of conduct” that happens to be in force in all major places where people hold their conversations. This should be cause for outrage all by itself, and there’s alarmingly little discussion about it: Europe is effectively outsourcing governmental censorship, thereby making it both legal and unaccountable.
It’s not enough that “if citizens don’t like the voluntary terms of service, they can go somewhere else”. That’s as theoretical as the US Senator saying earlier this year that “nobody has to use the Internet”. The statement may be true in the strictest mathematical sense — if somebody absolutely doesn’t want to use any aspect of the Internet, there’s no government agent there holding a gun to their head and forcing them to anyway — but in practice, you don’t have a choice of where other people are, and in general, you need to interact with other people to