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Freedom of speech and public access

I had to stop and think about the possibility of my own hypocrisy today…

I have been casually following the story of Dreamhost (full disclosure, I’ve been a happy Dreamhost webhosting customer for many years) fighting attempts by the US government to collect detailed information on visitors to sites organizing protests against Trump.

While I am fine with specific search warrants pulling data about specific criminal acts, I have become more and more concerned about the abuse of broad search warrants being used to cast a wide net and determine later whom to prosecute; and even more so, given the government’s inability to protect it’s own data, what happens to the collected data when it falls into the wrong hands. I have been cheering Dreamhost on for this specific issue because I think this search is too broad.

On the other hand, I have also cheered when Cloudflare (full disclosure, I am employed by a Cloudflare competitor) dumped their customer “Daily-Stormer” a white supremecist’s website, because, like most Americans, I am disgusted by the hate speech and vile rhetoric of NAZI’s and CSA apologists and racists.

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare has an interesting explanation of why they dropped their paying customer, Daily Stormer:

Other tech companies are having this same conundrum:

It’s a tough call to make; once you start moderating or censoring; where do you draw the line? Traditionally most large companies have absolved themselves of decision making and hid behind US legal policy; then tried to push that policy one direction or another via lobbying activity. That process lends itself to corruption, but it also provides a thin layer of something like due diligence via the process of public discussion held before the law makers sign or reject a bill.

I am all for freedom of expression and speech; but hate speech clearly needs to have a cost or consequences… but at what point are we silencing opposition? Who decides what is opposition and what is the incitement of violence?

I’ve been applauding DreamHost for standing up to Trump’s attempts to collect detailed logs on people critical of Trump – but cheered when CloudFlare dumped DailyStormer… does that make me a hypocrite?

I think confusion over what is public and what is private is widespread.

I do not think I am a hypocrite for cheering both the resistance of DreamHost to US Government demands for the data of Trump critics and the decision of Cloudflare to cancel their customer. One is a private transaction, the other is abuse of public power, potentially compounded by the potential for harm if one of the haters gets their hands on the list of Trump critics… We’ve already seen them send death threats to the parents of the victim murdered in Charlottesville; why should we assume good intent for people critical of the president by that president’s supporters?

Who really was guilty in the death of Thomas Becket?

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