RT: Government Wishes to Define Google and Facebook as ‘Media Outlets’, Impose Tougher Regulation

This shows how desperate the government is about people getting news from alternative media and the internet, news and opinion that very definitely isn’t approved by Tory Central Office and the shills for big business. In this short video, RT reports that the government is considering defining Facebook and Google as ‘media outlets’, as this would allow them to impose the same kind of tough regulations imposed on broadcasters. The programme’s host talks to Neil Wallis, described as a ‘media commenter’, and a spokesman for the Christian advocacy group, Christian Voice, for their views.

Wallis states that this is a gross intrusion into freedom of speech, and states that it is unworkable, and cannot and should not work. He admits that there have been ‘gross excesses’ on Google and Facebook, and that the two should be doing more to crack down on dubious content like fake news or terrorism. However, the legislation goes too far in threatening to impose censorship. He also makes the point that such regulations would be extremely difficult to impose. He states that he makes dozens of Tweets during the day, often retweeting stories. Each of these would constitute under the kind of legislation the government is proposing a new publication, and someone would have to monitor them. In short, it would simply be too cumbersome and difficult to monitor and regulate the sheer amount of online posting.

The spokesman from Christian Voice states that there should be greater regulation, because too often material is posted on the web by anonymous individuals, of whom nothing is known. He also makes the point that people posting in haste may make far more extreme statements than they would otherwise do face to face. He therefore thinks it is fair to pass legislation that would require people using the two companies only to post the type of comments that they would make in a face-to-face conversation.

He is, however, concerned by the government’s statement that they wish to examine particularly the issue of religion on the Net, and LGBTQ rights and issues. The spokesman states that if this means limiting what can be said about Islam or homosexuality, then it is an infringement of free speech.

This looks very much like the Tories getting worried about people passing on uncensored and unspun news over the internet, bypassing the censorship and bias of the mainstream broadcasters and the rightwing press. And in order to justify their censorship, they’re trying to use the pretext yet again of protecting people from cyberbullying, online radicalisation by Islamist terror groups, and, I would assume, the threat to children from online pornography. The report doesn’t mention the last, but that’s been one of the major concerns that has been used to justify previous attempts to regulate content on the internet, such as that imposed by David Cameron’s wretched government.

The Neil Wallis interviewed by RT has the same name as the former editor of the News of the Screws, Neil ‘Wolfman’ Wallis, who used to turn up regularly along with the sordid little rag he edited in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column. If that’s the case, then Wallis probably isn’t the best spokesman for press freedom, on the grounds that his publication regularly abused it to invade the privacy of various celebs and other, more ordinary people, whose private lives should have been no concern of anybody except themselves. The most egregious example of this spectacular lack of journalistic ethics and integrity was the phone-hacking scandal, but the Screws had been at the bottom end of the journalistic barrel doing pretty much the same type of pointless muckraking for most of its existence. Think of Mahmoud Mazher, the ‘Fake Sheikh’, who went around trying to get celebrities and politicians to make indiscreet comments or otherwise catch them out. In his guise as an Arab dignitary, he tried to get George Galloway to say something vile in support of the Holocaust. Galloway was wise to him, having recognised Mazher’s 7 ft tall driver and bodyguard, nicknamed ‘Jaws’ because of his immense height and mouthful of gold teeth. Galloway’s an ardent critic of Israel and its barbarous oppression of the Palestinians, but he’s not an anti-Semite. When Mazher tried prompting him into praising the Shoah, Galloway replied instead that the Holocaust was an horrific crime against humanity. And so the ‘Fake Sheikh’ went off unsatisfied.

But even if it the same Neil Wallis, he still has a point, despite his own and his former newspaper’s squalid and sensationalist brand of journalism. Such regulation would be a further, damaging attack on freedom of speech.

It’s clear that the spokesman for Christian Voice is in general far more supportive of such legislation, except where it touches what can be said about Islam and homosexuality. This probably reflects his own bigoted views against a competing religion and same-sex attraction. However, even there he has a point. A few years ago, it was reported that Christianity had overtaken Judaism as the most persecuted religion in the world. And very many of the countries that persecute Christianity, especially severely, are Muslim. With the increase in Islamphobia and racism in the West, there is a need to protect Muslims and their religion from bigotry and prejudice. However, this should not be used to limit reasonable criticism, including rejection of Islam, or any other religion or ideology.

The same should be true of any discussion of homosexuality. Prejudice against homosexuals should be condemned, as should any attempts to encourage discrimination or violence towards them. But people should be allowed to object to homosexuality as a simple matter of free speech.

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