Bestselling author and radio host Mark Steyn believes the biggest threat to freedom of speech is the alliance between big tech corporations and maligned governments.
In a House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa, Canada, Steyn raised concerns about allowing governments to arbitrate what one is allowed to say online.
“Ultimately free speech is hate speech and hate speech is free speech,” Steyn stated, before adding: “It’s for the speech you hate, the speech you revile.
“The alternative to free speech is approved speech. And that necessarily means approved by whom?”
“Once [free speech] becomes speech approved by the state and speech approved by formal bodies, it effectively means the speech approved by the powerful.”
Steyn referenced the meeting between tech giants and political leaders from around the world following the the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 to clampdown on online hate speech.
“The biggest threat to free speech at the moment is a malign alliance between governments and big tech,” Steyn stated.
“The photograph that sums it up is the one of [Canadian Prime Minister] Mr. Trudeau with [former UK Prime Minister] Mrs. May, and [New Zealand Prime Minister] Miss Ardern and [French] President Macron in Paris the other day sitting across the table from the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple.
“Six woke billionaires who presume to regulate the opinions of all seven billion people on this planet.
“That is far more of a threat than some pimply 17-year-old neo-Nazi tweeting in his mother’s basement somewhere out on the Prairies. And that issue is the real threat to genuine liberty in our society,” he stated.
While the tragic and hate-fuelled attacks such as the one seen in New Zealand must indeed provoke discussions on possible solutions to prevent future such cases, the rush from governments to use major incidents as a justification to implement broader and more invasive measures on online speech must be scrutinized.
The regulation of certain kinds of speech stems comes from good intentions, far more so in the aftermath of tragedy, but when that responsibility falls into the hands of ideologically driven tech companies and power-hungry governments, we become susceptible to unnecessarily stringent and bias speech regulation.