Cutting Through the Gordian Knot Pt II: The Bill of Digital Rights and Legislation
Last I left off, we had brought up the necessity of free association and the fact that making political opinions a protected class was not only a difficult pill to swallow, but one that would no doubt cause far more trouble than it solved. As such, I come to you today with more ideas in this giant Gordian knot of a problem that we call free speech, the first and foremost being the “digital bill of rights”, as some have taken to naming it, (though I prefer bill of digital rights, personally, considering the implications of the first can be taken in another way, but I digress). Let me first outline the virtues of this suggestion, before getting into the problems it presents, as with all things, I believe it is important to give the devil his due.
Were a bill of digital rights to be passed, either in theorem or in practice, it would, ideally, provide protections to all end-users such that no company could persecute or discriminate against them for an exercise of their speech not deemed illegal, nor any purchase or transaction, and this protection would theoretically extend across all of cyberspace; and therein immediately lies the first problem; the scope of the thing. The amount of sites available to people is limited only by the possible combinations of alphanumeric characters that can be rendered in whatever language a bit-value can be assigned to, which is to say a number too high to possibly calculate by any human means, especially if we account for the fact that people can simply code new languages out of new human languages that are developed out of new shapes if they so desire, which makes the possibility theoretically infinite.
Putting the theoretical aside however, even approaching the issue in a less broad modern day scope, we can see that the limits involved in such a bill would require every website provider to be beholden to and arbitrate on behalf of this bill. That is a non-insignificant amount of website providers from several countries the world over, all with differing laws and ideas on what constitutes legal and illegal activity. To be frank, there is a reason why there are rings of child pornographers and human traffickers in third world countries, while such things are strictly outlawed in places more civilized. What is to stop one country from choosing not to uphold the bill? What is to prevent end users in one country from being disallowed access to content in another country? Are we willing to start wars and trade embargoes over internet rights? The way I have heard this supposed bill described so far is that it is meant to be unilateral, so therefore, who enforces it? Is it meant to be civil enforcement? National enforcement? Will it be a penal crime to deny someone their rights online?
I feel as though this entire endeavour as it has been presented thus far is an exercise of putting the cart before the horse. More than this, I think those clamouring for it the loudest are the ones who have the most to lose in the immediate future should this continual censure of influencers continue. The Sargon of Akkads, the Styxhexenhammers, people who have made careers out of their political commentary will most likely find themselves on the chopping block, and thus, they reluctantly have come to demand that the government protect their interests so that they can continue doing their work. It is no secret that many of these people subsist off of donations through services like Patreon or PayPal, and with Jones being denied service through PayPal, it sparks fears of a ripple effect of more partisanship being played to censor anyone who disagrees with the socialist political climate in the west of late.
I do not begrudge these folks their well-earned dollars, but I find their desire to go whole hog into the regulation of the internet in such a blind way to be short-sighted, as I earlier outlined, and question their motives necessarily. If this thing is to be done, it must be done properly, and not in a rush or without due attention given to the creeping influence that government has over anything it touches. If we give any power to them, it must be the necessary amount and no more than that, lest we risk giving the government the means to enforce the very hell we sought to prevent to begin with.
As it currently stands, centrist and conservative media providers are largely seeking to leave places like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms that are involved in muting them to the public, and a large number have taken up with the likes of Gab.ai, Minds.com, and Bitchute, in the hopes of finding an alternative to their current situation, which shows that the free market is, at least, functional in some capacity. Much like “New Media” has been busy killing “Old Media”, much like Kronos castrating Uranus, we see a new Zeus already in the making. But then, if the market was enough to sustain these ideas and a new platform could swoop in and scoop the bottom out of the market, wouldn’t that be enough to stop the issues we find ourselves faced with?
And therein lies the true pain of this matter. The answer to that question is no, because the providers in question are beset on all sides by wolves who want their blood, and no matter how much they grow, they will eventually be bought up by the likes of Amazon, or Alphabet, or one of these other companies, and forced to kowtow to the same set of rules that YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter have inevitably been made to. This is the tyranny of the market we live in, where so much power is accumulated at the top of the oligarchy that those in control can simply assimilate and kill their competition. The fight with Silicon Valley is a fight against the Progressive Borg, and if you don’t assimilate, you will be destroyed by vulture capitalism, one way or another.
So where are we then? We cannot possibly enforce a digital bill of rights globally, but the protections are needed to stave off stagnation and censorship. Political ideologies cannot be made a protected class, but ideas deserve the right to be stated so as to prevent an absolute mono-culture. What steps can we take to prevent corporate censorship while also preventing government censorship? These questions are hard ones, but I think I have some reasonable suggestions that I have accrued from discussing the topic with others, and I would like to outline them here.
Firstly: Legislation must be passed to ensure that all domain registrars which are owned or operated in part or in full within the United States (GoDaddy, HostPapa, Bluehost, HostGator, etc. et all) CANNOT deny service to a user for anything that is not strictly illegal under US law. This would ensure that no site hosted in the US can be stricken over a “hate-speech” violation, which would prevent this social justice tide of hurt feelings from keeping people from making or hosting websites.
Second: Anti-trust legislation must be drafted to ensure that no company or conglomerate that is owned or operated in part or in full within the United States can own more than a set amount of the market share of social media sites. This share should be judged by concurrent weekly user traffic. The amount in question is not an amount I am currently able to give a definitive figure on, but I personally believe 15% would be a reasonable starting point, and can be lowered or raised depending on necessity as determined by people more intimately familiar with these details than I.
Third: Legislation must be passed to ensure that no bank or money transfer service owned or operated in part or in full within the United States, can prevent a user from using that service for any reason that is not strictly illegal under US Law. This will prevent political censure from the likes of PayPal, MasterCard, or Patreon in the future.
Finally: These laws should be used as a model for other countries, who should likewise adopt a standard similar to the United States in regards to freedom of speech, following which they should attempt to pass similar legislation in their own countries, not unilaterally, but through reason, because these ideas are valuable and might serve as a necessary building block at current to ensure free speech can be protected.
I do not believe it is right to start with a worldwide precedent. We must start small-scale and then prove the worth of these ideas. That was the very nature by which the internet started, and the nature by which this legislation should follow. The arguments are sound, I believe, and if not, I would be happy to hear arguments and other, potentially better suggestions from others. If you think you can come up with better, by all means try. I do not pretend to be a legislator, I’m just a man trying to be reasonable in an increasingly unreasonable world.