Some 144 Turkish mosques in the Netherlands are demanding that Twitter bar any tweets from conservative politician Geert Wilders due to what they alleged are hateful and disparaging comments. As many on this blog know, I hold to a robust view of free speech protections. I tend to oppose censorship through both governmental and private means. This is no exception. It has nothing to do with Wilders’ views. I remain committed to the view that the best way of dealing with bad speech is good speech — not the censorship or criminalization of case.
The Turkish Islamic Cultural Federation (TICF) is seeking the “permanent ban of the Twitter of Mr. Geert Wilders… due to continuous publications on his Twitter account of messages, images and other content which is a display of hateful conduct.”
One of the postings that most outraged the group was a tweet last year where Wilders called Prophet Mohammed a “pedophile, mass murderer, terrorist and madman.” I have previously maintained that such criticism of a religion falls within heart of free speech protections, including the recent decision by the European Court for Human Rights upholding the conviction of an Austrian woman for raising the same issue.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. These prosecutions are part of a new and dangerous attack on free speech. We previously discussed the rise of anti-blasphemy laws around the world, including the increase in prosecutions in the West and the support of the Obama Administration for the prosecution of some anti-religious speech under the controversial Brandenburg standard. The effort by Muslim countries to establish an international blasphemy standard ran into opposition in the West so a new effort to launched to use hate crimes and discrimination law to achieve the purpose.
Europe is plunging headlong into speech criminalization and regulation. This is an effort to expand such speech controls through private companies like Twitter. It would put companies in the position of choosing between speech in barring or allowing speaker based on the content of their postings. If free speech is to survive in the West, the public will have to fight for protections in both the governmental and private arenas.