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August 15, 2017

Freedom of Speech, Terms & Conditions, and your Right to Privacy

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. The Daily Stormer, a White Supremacist site is now homeless on the internet after GoDaddy terminated their hosting and then Google denied a request to host their domain as well. At the same time, the White House is trying to subpoena Dreamhost for the IP Addresses of people who visited a site designed to coordinate protests against 45.

The response to all of this has been… a lot. I’ve seen a lot of confusion about why I could support Daily Stormer being without a home, while standing up for Freedom of Speech.

What exactly is Freedom of Speech?

As laid out in the Bill of Rights, the Freedom of Speech states that the government cannot censor your opinions. The First Amendment also gives you the right to assemble to protest, too. But there are limitations – it says that the government can’t stop you, but says nothing about private companies.

It also doesn’t stop you from reaping the consequences of speaking your mind.

Which is where I’m going with the Daily Stormer. When you sign up for a domain name or web hosting, you agree to follow that company’s policies. I guarantee that in those terms and conditions, there is something in there that you won’t be using that site to incite violence or commit crimes against others. The reason a lot of hate/fringe groups have websites is that they’re generally cautious not to cross the line of actually inciting violence. It’s all theoretical. (It’s gross, but that’s what happens) So, this particular site crossed a line and companies are saying no.

As they should.

The Trump Administration’s Response

Should we be terrified that the Administration is going after people who want to protest 45? Absolutely. One of the fundamental rights that we have in the US is the First Amendment. That we are allowed to speak out against the president, we are allowed to assemble, to protest. It’s part of our political freedom. And so long as people aren’t actively using that site to incite violence against the President and his Administration – they are legally protected.

You’ll notice, nobody’s subpoenaed for lists of white supremacists who visited certain websites. Yes, people have been posting pictures of people who were at Charlottesville hoping that they’ll be identified. Because these were men who showed up, showed their faces… and believed they were bulletproof enough to be able to go back to work after revealing themselves to be white supremacists/Nazis.

Compare that to people who protested Michael Brown’s shooting, and marched knowing that they would be arrested and possibly blacklisted from their work.

Aren’t the the same?

There’s a big difference there. I’ve seen some people try to compare my reaction to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville it with my defense of Black Lives Matters protests – but there’s a marked difference. A huge difference. The people in Charlottesville were there to express their hate, to terrify others into silence. People at Black Lives Matter protests just want for Black people to be respected and be given the same protection that white citizens get. Free speech comes with caveats. You aren’t allowed to say things that could bring harm to others – it’s why you can sue someone for libel. Because saying whatever you want can harm someone else. (And if you cannot see that the BLM protests were about protection – you need to re-examine your own personal biases)

Hate speech is not protected under the First Amendment. And spouting off Nazi rhetoric certainly qualifies as hate speech.

This is likely a rambly post, but I hope it at least clarifies what does/doesn’t count as protected. Which is why you should be terrified at what the White House is attempting right now.

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