We need to think outside the legal square to deal with ‘hate speech’

I think that relying on legislation and the courts to deal with ‘hate speech’ issues may be largely futile. Laws and courts poorly suited to dealing with most online ‘hate speech’

We already have laws that deal with abusive speech and incitement – since the Christchurch mosque massacres there have been a number of arrests, with several people remanded in custody. While this has picked up on some of the more extreme examples and may have sent a warning message to others there has been a quick resurgence in derogatory and divisive speech online.

Just waiting for the police and courts to deal with the worst is not likely to be much of a solution.

I don’t think that widening the laws to make less serious ‘hate speech’ illegal and subject to prosecution is a practical approach.

One problem is what speech justifies prosecution. Another is who gets to decide.

And with the speed at which speech circulates online the legal system is generally far too slow to react, and even slower to deal with it.

Confronting and ridiculing have been suggested as ways of dealing with ‘hate speech’. To be effective this has to be fast and fact based.

Perhaps something like the Press Council or Broadcasting Standards Authority could be set up, but geared for rapid response – combating bad speech with good speech.

This could involve research so that common ways of replicating divisive and derogatory speech (and there are common patterns and techniques for some of it).

A website as a source of fact based rebuttals would be useful.

This could be Government funded but non-political and non-legal, but with an ability to refer the worst cases to the police.

I think we have to be thinking outside the legal square in looking at ways to deal with this. Some legislative tweaks may be warranted, but the main problems probably (and should) fall short of being made illegal.

Well meaning waffle on free speech v hate speech from two MPs

The opinions from National Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith and Labour list MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan from Stuff:  The delicate balance of free speech v hate speech

Stuart Smith

Finding a means to restrict free speech by legislating against “hate speech” – the modern version of blasphemy – is something that must be carefully considered.

Hate speech and harmful extremism, on any platform, should not be tolerated, and we are right to scrutinise the role of social media in the context of the Christchurch tragedy, and the wider issue of extremism and hate speech.

Our legal system has recourse for those seeking to incite violence.

If we legislated against hate speech, who would decide what constitutes hate speech?

I think that this is one of the primary concerns.

That is why I believe that some of the calls to regulate free speech through legislation may go too far. There is a risk that, as with many difficult and potentially harmful issues that society grapples with, attempts to regulate social media too heavily will drive groups underground to the “dark web”.

Or talk about it in private away from the Internet. That probably happens already.

This issue is not new. Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Massey University, was to give a very timely public lecture called The Politics of Hate in the Age of the Internet on March 19, but this was postponed.

He states that research points to a significant spike in online hate speech since 2017.

I agree with his argument that we should not allow it to become normalised and that this is not simply about legislation, but public awareness and discussion.

It is up to all New Zealanders to keep this important conversation going.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan

Access to the internet along with social media platforms has undeniably changed the way we consume information.

While discrimination and hate may have always existed, they now have new, powerful distribution channels.

Social media platforms have served to amplify hate speech across the world. It can be difficult to get rid of harmful messages and hateful comments on social media. Even if the original comment or post is deleted, someone, somewhere, could have already copied and shared it.

It’s time for social media platforms to act to prevent the spread of hate.

Major social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have poor records at preventing ‘hate speech’. They are too concerned about making money.

In the wake of March 15, we have the opportunity to confront the racism, xenophobia and hate that is proliferated through these channels. As individuals, we are each responsible for what we put out there on the internet, and as a country, there is an appetite for change.

As individuals we also have a responsibility to challenge harmful crap speech, both online and in our offline lives.

The Government believes the best and most enduring way to ensure change is to act collaboratively with other governments and with social media companies. The problem is global so the solution needs to be too.

The Prime Minister has committed to New Zealand playing a leading role in this change and Kiwis can expect to see more details of our plans in this space in the coming weeks.

I doubt that relying on international companies and other governments is going to deal with this adequately.

We need to come up with local means of dealing with global problems.

I am disappointed with these contributions to the discussion by Radhakrishnan and Smith. They may help keep the discussion going but they haven’t added much if anything themselves.

“It’s time to have a conversation about our hate speech laws”

Green MP Golriz Gharahman has been busy on Twitter encouraging “a conversation about our hate speech laws”.

She has first hand knowledge of hate speech, having been on the receiving end of awful attacks online.

This has also been promoted by the Green Party.

We now know that hate speech allowed to grow and be amplified online is undermining democracy around the world.

In New Zealand we know that it can be fatal.

The Bill of Rights Act protects free speech, but it’s balance against all our other rights. Our laws already protect individuals against harmful speech. You can’t threaten people. You can’t harm their reputation.

This isn’t really very accurate. The current laws don’t protect us, they give us some means of doing something about being threatened or having our reputations being harmed, but these means are usually far too slow and too inexpensive.

The police will only act on alleged threats if they thing there is a risk of serious harm.

Defamation proceedings are lengthy (Blomfield v Slater has taken six years so far to find that later had no defence, but damages are unlikely to be determined for another year or so) and very expensive. Most people can’t afford to protect their reputations via our current laws.

If defamation against individuals is already illegal, why should people be allowed to harm minority groups.

Including major minority groups?

What constitutes ‘harm’ is contentious and difficult to define. It can range from perceived hard feelings to escalation to actual physical harm.

Most new Zealanders would be shocked to find that our hate speech laws don’t cover religious minorities. They don’t cover gender, the Rainbow community, or the disabilities community.

All religions are minorities. There re no single ‘communities’ of Rainbow or for people with disabilities.

We need to change that.

We must make New Zealand the kind of place where we all feel truly safe and at home.

We certainly should work to change things for the better when it comes to speech.

But is it possible for everyone to feel ‘truly safe’ from hurt, while also feel truly safe to openly say what we think?

From follow up tweets:

You definitely shouldn’t be allowed to spread hate against a protected group based on your religion. Having well defined hate speech laws that assert equal protection for everyone’s rights and safety would do just that.

Deciding on “well defined hate speech laws that assert equal protection for everyone’s rights and safety” will be very challenging. And equal protection means there should not be specified ‘protected groups’.

It’s frightening that LGBTQIA communities aren’t protected against hate speech in NZ given the very real violence that translates to. Why is it unlawful to speak harmful mistruths about an individual and not a group?! Definitely time to realise we’re behind on this one.

Violent and intolerant language can contribute to actual physical violence – but a lot of harm can be done just with words.

A lot more tolerance of minority races, ethnicities, nationalities, political preferences, religions, gender and sexual preferences would be a major step forward.

But alongside this there must be some tolerance of speech that some people may feel uncomfortable with or offended by – it is common to hear people saying they hate opinions that differ from their own.

We need to have more than just conversations about how we address harmful speech, we need to have a robust debate about the balance between potentially harmful speech, and the freedom to speak in a normal and socially acceptable way.

ISP web blocks and online censorship debate

The Christchurch mosque attacks prompted unprecedented action from New Zealand Internet Service Providers, who tried to block access to the video of the attack.  This has just been extended.

We are heading into some important debate about censorship and free speech.

Newsroom:  ISP keeps Chch web blocks after Govt intervention

New Zealand’s largest internet provider has reversed plans to stop blocking websites which hosted videos of the Christchurch terror attack, after a last-minute intervention by the Government.

In the wake of the mosque shootings, a number of New Zealand’s biggest ISPs took what they themselves acknowledged was an “unprecedented step” – blocking websites which were hosting a video of the attack live-streamed by the alleged murderer, as well as his manifesto.

In an open letter explaining the move and calling for action from larger tech companies, the chief executives of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees said the decision was the right one in “such extreme and tragic circumstances”.

On Tuesday evening, both Spark and Vodafone told Newsroom they would start to remove the remaining website blocks overnight.

“We believe we have now reached the point where we need to cease our extreme temporary measures to block these websites and revert to usual operating procedures,” a Spark spokeswoman said.

However, less than two hours after its initial response, Spark said the websites would continue to be blocked for several more days “following specific requests from Government”.

Newsroom understands the U-turn came after Government officials held discussions with the company, asking it to keep the blocks in place until after the official memorial service for the victims of the attack took place on Friday.

No indication of how much persuasion was required to prompt a rethink.

The ISPs’ original actions have raised issues of censorship, with the companies acknowledging that in some circumstances access to legitimate content may have been prevented.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said website blocking had been “a really useful short-term tool” to stop the spread of the content.

“They’ve [the ISPs] been really clear with everybody that they took on the filtering responsibility because they wanted to play their part in reducing the obvious harm occurring in the aftermath of the attacks, and they did that.”

But this leads to an important discussion on censorship. There is already online material that is ‘censored’, as it should be (child porn, snuff movies, terrorism related material), but there will always be pushes for more limits and also less limits.

Thomas Beagle, chairman of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, said he had sympathy for the approach taken by ISPs following the “ghastly” attack, but the public needed to ask questions about whether similar blocking would occur in future.

“That was an exceptional situation and people took exceptional action – of course, the worry is now that it’s been done once, are people then going to start thinking, we can do it for other things as well?”

While there was an argument that the companies were simply exercising their contractual rights, Beagle said their near-monopoly in the telecommunications market meant there was a significant censorship issue.

“Civil liberties are traditionally concerned with government interference, but I think that when you’re talking about the dominant players who have 99 percent of the mobile market or more…that’s also an effective form of censorship as well.”

However, more traditional censorship by the Government could “extend and grow in an undesirable manner”, and would require a significant public conversation, he said.

There needs to be a lot of meaningful public discussion on the degree of censorship – as there has been over the Chief Censor recently ruling the terrorist’s manifesto harmful and there for illegal to possess or distribute in New Zealand (the easy availability internationally renders this a weak means of protection).

Censorship debate begins

What is clear is that the debate how to censor offensive material online is just beginning.

There has long been debate over censorship, but major events and actions in response will always draw more prominence to the arguments for and against.

Cocker said he supported the development of a formal, government-led process for blocking objectionable content when necessary, which would allow greater specificity in how content was blocked and set up oversight measures to avoid abuse.

“Those are the kind of things that come back to a government agency being empowered to take that responsibility, then all the telcos have got to do is just add the URL to the list and block it.”

However, Beagle said there was a question of whether ad-hoc arrangements would be preferable to a formalised process, given the rarity of an event like the Christchurch attack.

“Is it better to say hey, this is so out of the realm of normal day-to-day business we shouldn’t actually try and cater for it?

“I think it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t be rejigging our entire security infrastructure, internet filtering and censorship based on a one-off event which is utterly exceptional in New Zealand history.”

That’s an important point. A repeat of what happened in Christchurch seems very unlikely. Security measures should be reconsidered to look at how to minimise the risks, but public freedoms and free speech should not be over-restricted due to an abnormal one off situation.

Stuff imposes extensive commenting restrictions

Yesterday Stuff announced new terms and conditions for commenting on their website, which puts a lot of restrictions on types of comments and topics that be commented on. This is a flow on effect of  Christchurch Mosque attacks.

Immediately after the attacks David Farrar caused a lot of angst at Kiwiblog by imposing significant commenting restrictions, with anyone not identifying by their real name being put on auto-moderation (each of their comments needs to be approved by a moderator). There is still a lot of grizzling about it. From the last General Debate: (Monday, for some reason there wasn’t one yesterday):

DigNap15:

DF needs to change the name of this blog to
The sickly white liberal apologists blog.

Classical Liberal:

The moderation system is completely unfair to long term, reasonable KB supporters. I have always defended equal rights before the law for men, women, homosexuals, all ethnic groups.

But several of my perfectly reasonable comments are sitting here for hours.

I hope it’s just because it’s a slow Monday, not because the moderators have become immoderate!

Stuff updated yesterday – Terms and Conditions: User submitted content and comments

We (Stuff Limited) invite our readers (you) to post comments and profile information in a number of areas of the website.

The views expressed in the comments areas are not our views or opinions, nor the views or opinions of any of our staff or our related entities. We accept no liability in respect of any material posted in the comments areas, nor are we responsible for the content and accuracy of that material.

If you place reliance on material posted on this website you do so at your own risk, and you indemnify us (and our related entities) from any liabilities, claims, costs, loss (including consequential loss) or damage suffered or caused by reason of your reliance on any material posted in the comments areas.

Comment policy

Stuff welcomes comments from readers on our website.

We invite you to discuss issues and share your views. We encourage robust debate and criticism provided it is civil. But our comment section is a moderated online discussion, not a public forum.

We reserve the right to reject comments, images or links that:

  • are offensive or obscene;
  • contain objectionable or profane language – including use of symbols (we maintain a list of banned obscenities and comments featuring those words will be automatically rejected);
  • include personal attacks of any kind (including name-calling; insults; mocking the subjects of stories or other readers; or abusing Stuff journalists or contributors);
  • are discriminatory or express prejudice on the basis of race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexuality, religion, or disability;
  • contain spam or include links to other sites;
  • are clearly off topic;
  • are deliberate lies or attempts to mislead. While we cannot review all comments for accuracy, we reserve the right to reject comments we consider, on the balance of probabilities, to be deliberate falsehoods;
  • impersonate an individual or organisation, are fraudulent, defamatory of any person, threatening or invasive of another’s privacy or otherwise illegal;
  • are trolling or threatening;
  • advocate or endorse violence, vigilantism or law breaking;
  • infringe on copyrights or trademarks;
  • are self-promoting;
  • violate the law or breach court-ordered suppressions or have the potential to breach future suppressions; or
  • constitute a contempt of court or that contain details of cases and individuals before the courts;
  • violate our terms and conditions for user generated content;
  • promote, advertise or solicit the sale of any goods or services;
  • nitpick other commenters’ spelling or grammar;
  • deny anthropogenic climate change;
  • deny the Holocaust;
  • add nothing to the debate;
  • just generally aren’t very nice.

That covers just about anything stuff decide they don’t want to publish – which is their their right on their website.

Those conditions are quite similar to what Whale Oil has operated under for several years.

Usernames are also bound by these Terms and Conditions and offensive usernames will be blocked. Using your real name is preferred best practice.

We reserve the right to cut, crop, edit or refuse to publish your content. We may remove your content from use at any time.

With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:

  • 1080
  • allegations of criminality or misconduct
  • animal cruelty
  • beneficiaries
  • Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
  • court cases
  • domestic violence
  • fluoride
  • funerals
  • immigrants or refugees
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Kashmir
  • missing people
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • suicide
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • transgender issues
  • vaccination
  • vulnerable children

That’s a lot of topics deemed out of bounds for commenters.

They say they typically have several thousand comments a day submitted, so it’s a big workload monitoring them all.

Restricted or selective commenting is becoming more common.

Perhaps a reality is that media sites are not suited to open slather comments. Not only are they difficult to manage, they distract from their core purpose, to report news and to provide commentary.

Any site has the right to allow or not allow public comments.

Stuff: Our rights

We retain the right and discretion (but not the obligation) to edit, delete, reject or remove any comment which you post or seek to post in the comments or Stuff Nation areas.

As does any website owner or manager.

Kiwiblog Comments Policy:

Who has the right to post comments on this blog?

Apart from me, no-one at all has the right to post comments. Posting is a privilege, not a right.

Okay, so who is allowed to post comments here?

Anyone at all, up until the stage I ask them to stop or suspend them

There are plenty of other places that people can comment online, so it’s not really a restriction on free speech – before the Internet there was far less freedom to speak via newspapers, radio  and television.

Online discussion and debate will no doubt continue to evolve.

Trying to shut down speech a partisan overreaction

ll media should be considering how to deal with radical and provocative speech, and speech that could bolster extreme views and potentially actions.

But this (and I’ve seen similar elsewhere) is an alarming overreaction.

I have also seem claims that ‘virtue signalling’ is also responsible for various things.

Politically motivated attempts to put blanket bans on speech are not helpful in the current situation.

Rachel Stewart on Jordan Peterson and free speech

I really done care much about Jordan Peterson, but free speech issues that he ignites are important.

Peterson has a lot of supporters (almost cult like), seems to do good for some people, but also says some crappy things, either because he has crappy ideas (in my opinion) or is being deliberately provocative. Much of the publicity he gets is thanks to people trying to shut him up.

Media might see it as click bait fodder, but at kleast they are promoting understanding and discussion.

Peterson obliged with some provocative stuff:

Jordan Peterson, the Canadian celebrity psychologist and author currently on tour in New Zealand, has a thing for shock pronouncements. “The idea that men have been preferentially treated as a group across history is an absurd idea,” he told me in a half-hour interview this morning.

“Diversity, inclusivity, equity, all of those things together make up a very toxic brew.”
And: feminists have an “unconscious wish for brutal male domination”.

He’s said several times it’s wrong to believe the victim in rape cases. I asked him if he accepts the need to treat rape victims in a way that avoids revictimising them. As the video clip, taken from the full interview, reveals, he doesn’t think we need to do that.

In his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,, Peterson argues that the problem with the world is we have fallen prey to Chaos, so we need to restore Order. Order, by the way, is masculine and Chaos is feminine.

Surprisingly:

Simon Wilson’s full video interview with Jordan Peterson will appear on the NZ Herald website on Saturday, February 23. His feature article on the interview and Peterson’s town hall speaking tour will appear in the newspaper and online the same day.

Why hold it back until Saturday?

I don’t understand why so many people flock after Peterson, and especially pay to hear him talk when he is easy to find online. NZ tickets are $140-170 a pop. Youtube is free.

I understand why some people take offence at some of what he says – I think that some of what he says is offensive.

But jumping up and down and trying to shut him down is doing the opposite, giving him the publicity and revenue he seeks.

 

Action Station report on hate speech, versus free speech

It is actually working a lot, but often not how people want it to work. Can we do much about it? or do we just have to go with how things evolve, both good and bad?

Action Station has just released  The People’s Report on Online Hate, Harassment and Abuse.

It is not ‘the people’, it is ‘some people’ who have done the report. Good on them, but they should not claim to speak for ‘the people’.

For decades, the internet has been hailed as a groundbreaking interactive marketplace of ideas, where anyone with access to data and a device can set up a stall.

Online tools have made it possible to communicate easily with friends and whānau around the world, sell and purchase goods and services, enrol to vote, raise billions for charitable causes or start-up businesses, and even hail a ride or meal to your front door.

The internet has helped give people who have historically been locked out of democracy by discrimination or poverty a way to voice the needs of their communities and organise at scale.

Over the past four years, ActionStation members have used digital tools and platforms to connect and collaborate with hundreds of thousands of other New Zealanders who share their vision and values to engage powerfully in our democracy.

In the 21st century, social media has become the new public square.

The downside to this unparalleled information exchange and connectedness is that the internet also provides a powerful and relatively cheap way for groups and individuals to spread hate, fear, abuse and mis/dis/mal-information across time and space, and without transparency.

The term ‘fake news’ has been widely used to refer to a range of different kinds of false and harmful information.

While ActionStation has been at the forefront of exploring and facilitating digitally-enhanced democratic participation in New Zealand, we have also been exposed to these downsides.

It is that exposure that has prompted this report.

In 2015, the National-led government passed the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA). It states that a digital communication should not:

“…denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.”

In 2019 we ask: has the Act worked? Is the internet free from prejudice and harm? Do people feel safe to participate freely in conversations online? Or is there more work to do?

They say their findings show:

Why is it worse for people from some groups?

The Harmful Digital Communications Act (2015) is a powerful piece of legislation that was enacted to address the issue of online abuse. However it is not sufficient to address every issue of online hate, harassment and abuse.

The law (while broad) is designed for only a limited number of situations where online harm occurs. Specifically, it appears to work well in many cases of one-to-one abuse, where an individual who is being abused can contact Netsafe and identify the abuser.

There have however been instances, some high profile, where seemingly clear cut cases of abuse and harassment are deemed to not breach the act,such as when a Facebook user commented that writer Lizzie Marvelly should try “bungy jumping without the cord”.

The tools of the HDCA appear unsatisfactory in other cases of serious abuse online, such as when an organised group (often using ‘shill’ accounts and fake identities) are targeting an individual. There are also cases where hate is being directed at a group of people, but not necessarily targeted at an individual who can lay a complaint, where there is still a considerable harmful ‘bystander’ effect.

In New Zealand, the Human Rights Act currently includes provisions that cover both civil and criminal liability for the incitement of racial disharmony. However, the threshold is extremely high and there is a profound scarcity of successful racial disharmony claims to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Racial disharmony provisions only apply to instances where hostility is stirred up amongst people other than those who are the subject of the hate. The expression of hatred in and of itself (or the effect of that hatred on the person or group it is directed towards) is not sufficient for the law to apply. The hate speech provisions in the Human Rights Act also apply only to colour, race, or ethnic or national origins and not religion. ‘Hate speech’ against religion, or even religious people, is not unlawful.

Any laws against hate speech and harassment should be generic and protect anyone who is targeted.

One of the most significant themes to emerge in this research was the need to attend not just to individualised concerns (e.g. individual rights and privacy) but also to collective dynamics and wellbeing. Therefore any policies that are developed to protect people online and ensure their ability to participate freely and safely online need to have at their centre indigenous and collectivist thinking, especially as Māori have historically (and presently) been among those who are most targeted by hateful speech.

Māori digital rights advocate Karaitiana Taiuru says that two Māori values in particular could help support those who build the technology that permeates so much of our lives to build tools for a safer, better internet. Manaakitanga (How can we build tools that encourage users to show each other care and compassion and work to uplift each other?) and Kaitiakitanga (How can we build tools where all users become the guardians of the experience and data in a highly trusted, inclusive, and protected way?).

I’m not sure why ‘indigenous thinking and values’ in particular should provide the solutions. That’s ironic given their support of diversity. Surely all thinking and values should be considered.

After that their report stops. But back to the start they have some action – Sign the Petition – but as of now the link to that doesn’t work, but another link gets to it:

The time has come for urgent action to address the significant threats online hate, harassment and abuse is causing to New Zealanders.

We are asking Justice Minister Andrew Little to implement our recommendations and work with the online platforms to ensure our online spaces  are safe for everyone.

If the internet is the new public square, it is imperative that lawmakers ensure the ability of all New Zealanders to access reliable and credible information about issues of public importance, and the ability of everyone in this country to participate safely in public conversations about those issues.

Add your name to the petition to show your support and help us fight for change.

Proposed solutions:

If the internet is the new public square, it is imperative that lawmakers ensure the ability of all New Zealanders to access reliable and credible information about issues of public importance, and the ability of everyone in this country to participate safely in public conversations about those issues.

Based on our analysis, we are making four recommendations to the New Zealand government:

Remove: Ensure platforms are active in removing harmful content quickly. An investigation into the most effective method to do this would be required, but the responsibility should be placed on the platform, not the users.

Reduce: Limit the reach of harmful content. Neither the platforms nor the users who create hateful and harmful content should benefit from algorithms that promote divisive and polarising messages.

Review: The New Zealand government needs to review our hate speech laws, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Harassment Act and the Human Rights Act to ensure they are fit for purpose in protecting people online in the 21st century.

Recalibrate: One of the most significant themes to emerge in this research was the need to attend not just to individualised concerns (eg individual rights and privacy) but also to collective dynamics and wellbeing. Any policies that are developed to protect people online need to have indigenous and collectivist thinking at their centre. They should also ensure that all internet safety / hate speech agencies funded by the Crown reflect the increasing diversity of our country.

They won’t solve all of the problems with the internet, or even all the ones described in our report. But it would be a start.

More is explained at The Spinoff:  The internet is the new public square. And it’s flowing with raw sewage by Leroy Beckett, the Open Democracy campaigner at ActionStation

Speech and behaviour online are issues that certainly need to be considered, but far more widely than by Action Station.

Free speech is a fundamental part of an open democratic society. Protections which limit free speech need to be carefully considered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nonsense to suggest Brash speaks on behalf of Pākehā

@MorganGodfery: “pākehā should stop letting don brash try to speak on their behalf”

Don Brash obviously speaks for himself. He may speak for Hobson’s Choice, at times at least. But it’s ridiculous to suggest that he speaks on behalf of ‘Pākehā’.  As a number of people on Twitter pointed out in response to Godfery.

I could agree with some things he has said and says, but I also disagree with things he has said.

I see myself as Pākehā but he certainly doesn’t speak on my behalf. He never has. I opposed him when he lead National and specifically voted against National getting into Government when he was their leader.

And it’s even more ridiculous to suggest that Pākehā should stop letting Brash try to speak at all. But Godfery reiterated this nonsense.

This seems to be increasingly common from younger people – demanding that people they don’t like be shut down or shut up.

It shows an alarming lack of awareness of the importance of free speech in a democratic society.

But it’s not just younger people.

Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed

Anyone arguing against climate change happening can’t comment any more – don’t worry, not here, but that seems to be what Stuff are imposing on comments there.

I think that climate change is potentially a major problem facing our planet, and facing humankind. We are having a significant impact on the planet, and most probably on the climate.

I largely disagree with those who say there is nothing to worry about. We should be concerned, and we should be doing more to reduce the human impact on the climate and on the environment.

Not all climate change effects will be negative, some areas may benefit. But overall it poses a major risk, especially considering the huge and expanding human population and the need to feed everyone.

However we should not, must not close down arguments against climate change, or for natural climate change, or against doing anything. For a start, a basic premise of science is that it be continually questioned and challenged, no matter how strong the evidence is one way or another.

And there is a lot to debate about what we should be doing in response to our impact on the planet.

So censoring one side of a debate is a major concern to me. There are whacky extremes on both sides of the arguments. Why target just one side with censorship?

From The Standard: Stuff is banning climate change deniers from articles and comments

Congratulations to Stuff.  Instead of the endless on the one hand but on the other hand reporting, where on the other hand is nothing more than incomprehensible babble from the anti science right, they have adopted this policy:

Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

The change in policy is accompanied by the announcement of a new series of stories and opinion pieces under the title of Quick! Save the planet which is described in this way:

Quick! Save the Planet – a long-term Stuff project launching today – aims to disturb our collective complacency. With insistent, inconvenient coverage, we intend to make the realities of climate change feel tangible – and unignorable.

This project accepts a statement that shouldn’t be controversial but somehow still is: climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

There were 268 comments to the editorial written by Editor in Chief Patrick Crewdson, mostly supportive, but a few were clearly testing the boundaries.

Well done Stuff.

It is great that the tide of opinion is flowing towards accepting climate change as a reality and working out what needs to be done.  The question will be is this too little too late.

Maybe, but it is not great to see a banning of opposing views. That is bad for debate, bad for democracy, and bad for science.

This is just one of a number of very concerning developments in trying to shut down free speech that are happening right now.

Two contrasting comments early in the Standard discussion:

Robert Guyton:

Stuff’s sidelining of deniers is bold and decisive – good on them. I made this point at our regional council meeting yesterday, with any closet deniers who might be sitting around the table, in mind. There was a squirm 🙂

Chris T:

Totally and utterly disagree.

Deniers of climate change are blind, but to censor differing views that are being put foward (that aren’t breaking swearing rules etc), no matter how stupid they are, or no matter how they may differ from yours, on topics that are as contentious as this, is ridiculous.

There is another argument currently about whether media should provide ‘balance’ by giving a voice to whacky extremes, or at least whether they should provide a forum for minority views with significant slants – Bob McCoskrie comes to mind.

Media articles should be balanced towards factual and scientifically backed information. They shouldn’t give anyone a voice who wants to spout nonsense, or extreme views. Media can choose what they publish.

But when they start to censor comments – free speech – I think they are getting into worrying territory.

Chris T: Is there a master list of topics people aren’t allowed to disagree with or do we just make it up as we go along?

mickysavage: Claiming that climate science is a Soros funded attempt at world government would be a start, saying that scientists are engaged in scare mongering for money is another and claiming that ice cover is actually increasing and that temperature increases have stalled for years is a third topic.

Wayne: Your list, especially the last two, looks indistinguishable from censorship.

Banning arguments against “ice cover is actually increasing” is a particular worry.

Ice cover actually increases every winter. Obviously it decreases in summer. It always varies with seasons. Most science generally suggests that ice cover is decreasing overall, but even with climate change (warming) it can increase in some areas.