The Wiltshire Police in the United Kingdom have had it with incivility on social media platforms. (Honestly, who hasn't?) Last week, they posted a threat against people who are writing offensive tweets. Yes, really:
People were immediately taken aback -- do Brits really want their cops to be deciding what is and what is not offensive on Twitter? Is it rational to hand that sort of power over to the government? After the outcry, however, the police force doubled down:
Sheesh. The answer to bad speech is not to silence the bad speech. An article over at The American Prospect explains this very well:
We are dealing here with bad ideas, not physical blows or the absence of ideas. For that problem John Stuart Mill had the right answer long ago in his famous essay "On Liberty." He said that we must allow for the expression of bad ideas -- whether opinions or alleged statements of fact -- because they may contain some grain of truth that corrects the conventional wisdom or, lacking that, provide a challenge to accepted beliefs, without which those beliefs in the long run become mere prejudices. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis advised, in his famous Whitney v. California opinion in 1927, "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."
Yes, it would be really nice to have a hate-speech free internet, but it would come at a very high cost: freedom.
Image Credit: By Southbanksteve from London, UK, via Wikimedia Commons