2020 is the year of the unexpected, the scary, the great and the sad. Most likely this year will go down in history as the year of Covid-19 as it is a global event.
Something however has been happening in the background for quite some time and it’s very, very scary. Slowly but surely voices everywhere are being silenced giving rise to “Cancel Culture”, allowing censorship to become a more widely accepted occurrence. Freedom of Speech is taking a hit and every one of us — whether we openly admit it, believe it, or not — is losing a basic human right.
Slowly but surely our freedom of speech and expression is being eroded and taken away.
Why is this so scary?
The right to express opinions without fear of criminal prosecution is an ideal that can be traced as far back as ancient Greece, the land of the fathers of democratic ideals.
Parrhesia, commonly translated to “free speech” or more accurately “to speak candidly”, became a fundamental part of Classical Athens’ democracy as far back as the 5th century BC.
In 1689 the English Bill of Rights ensured freedom of speech and debate were allowed in Parliament.
In 1998, Article 10 of the Human Rights Act stated:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”¹
In the United States of America, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and it states:
“The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”²
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we can clearly read:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”³
Around the world democratic countries have measures in place to protect freedom of speech, and of course there are some limitations to this to protect the people, national security, public safety etc.
But, something has been slowly changing. In the last 20 years the grounds for overriding the right to free speech have broadened quite alarmingly with nasty consequences.
What is happening now to undermine freedom of speech, expression and thought?
Criminalising the incitement of violence, obscene material and defamation are seen as justifiable reasons to curb freedom of speech as the context of such speech has manifestations that go beyond words and opinions.
The problem today arises from the need to curb all non-conforming views, to eradicate debate, to silence any opposition and from the criminalisation of mildly unpleasant language with vague outlines of what constitutes ‘hate speech’. This is effectively legalising cancel-culture and curbing freedom of speech. When the dialogue does not match the mainstream media or the “official” narrative, there is censorship.
In 2012 famed actor Rowan Atkinson said:
“The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult.” ⁴
Mr Atkinson said he hoped the repeal of Section 5 (of the Public Order Act 1986) would pave the way for a move to “rewind the culture of censoriousness” and take on the “outrage industry — self-appointed arbiters of the public good encouraging outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react”.
The “Reform Section 5” campaign succeeded in its aim to amend Section 5. The change is now incorporated in Section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which came into force on 1 February 2014.
In 2018, Professor Nadine Strossen released a book titled: “Hate: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, not Censorship”. In it, the professor made the case that hateful and extremist speech is most effectively undermined by counter-speech.
However, things don’t seem to stay the way they are for long.
An example of how freedom of speech is at risk is currently taking place in Scotland where a free speech row has broken out over a new hate-crime bill.
In this case, the outlines of what constitutes a hate crime are so loose that although well-intentioned, it leaves everyone unsure of what exactly could see them facing a prison sentence.
Debate (something that soon could become a thing of the past) has started over what this could really mean for people.
Comedy has historically helped us cope with life and hardship, helped us live through good times and bad times, some maintain it has therapeutic value and I am sure most of us agree it helps us laugh in the face of despair and it helps us be bold in the face of danger.
This bill, if passed as currently drafted, could toll the death knell for comedy. Comedians could be too scared to make jokes that touch upon any subject anyone may find even remotely offensive if there are no clear definitions to what is actually considered a hate-crime, or abusive, threatening, insulting words or behaviour.
The president of the Law Society of Scotland, Amanda Millar, said it was right for laws to provide a message that hatred should have no place in our society.
“However, we have significant reservations regarding a number of the bill’s provisions and the lack of clarity, which could in effect lead to restrictions in freedom of expression, one of the foundations of a democratic society.
We have real concerns that certain behaviour, views expressed or even an actor’s performance, which might well be deemed insulting or offensive, could result in a criminal conviction under the terms of the bill as currently drafted.” ⁵
While the Scottish government says it is prepared to consider making changes to the bill before it is passed by parliament, this is all terrifying.
Speech should not be censored based on its content, but rather only based on its context with clear guidelines in place.
Social media platforms and news outlets are also contributing to this climate of censorship and “Cancel Culture”. So many people have been silenced on social media that to list examples would be a lengthy affair.
Sure, private platforms have their own set of rules and as such can and do choose to ban / delete / silence / deplatform / demonetise anyone they want to, however, where does that leave the person who has been silenced because their point of view or opinions differ from those of the people in charge of such platforms?
Where is the opportunity for healthy debate between those who agree with the person who now has no platform, and the “enlightened” masses?
Debate should not be mistaken for trolling, threatening behaviour, abuse or violence. Intelligent debate is the way forward and people have known this since the 5th century BC!
For freedom of speech to continue catapulting humanity into the future, we need debate and to make the most out of debate we most certainly need freedom of speech.
So… the Libertas Project, what is it and how does it tie into this?
The Libertas Project was born out of passion for free speech. It’s a labour of love. It’s a way to allow people to have a platform and a voice, without fear of being deleted, banned, deplatformed, demonetised or treated like pariahs.
Libertas is building a platform dedicated to decentralising the spoken word, to allow freedom of speech to continue unhindered, to help those who have lost their voice reclaim it, to stop censorship from becoming a way of life.
Anyone (big or small) will be able to upload their podcast and it cannot be taken down due to the immutable nature of the blockchain. Anyone from any country, including countries where freedom of speech is not protected and is not recognised as a right, will be able to have their voice heard across the globe, no more censorship.
Content creators will be able to earn tips from the audience, or they can choose subscription models further down the line.
The Libertas network will facilitate the token transfers between the Ethereum main chain and the content creators via the use of smart contracts, our bespoke infrastructure and making use of DeFi⁶ functionalities to remove the middle man thus effectively removing the extortionate fees taken by large corporations for the use of their platforms and from advertising revenue.
The use of the Libertas token to tip content creators (with our first DAPP) or to pay for subscriptions to their shows (future releases) ensures that users of the platform can still earn a living through their content even if their bank accounts, bank cards or PayPal accounts are terminated — as has been the case for a few high-profile podcasters in the most recent years — because of their opinions.
With blockchain technology content will be immune to DDoS (Denial of Service) attacks and other malicious behaviour.
Content creators will no longer need to host their own streams and incur costs such as hosting, maintenance, engineering, development or even deal with outages etc.
In 2019 Dave Rubin announced he was leaving the YouTube platform and was creating his own platform as a backup (centralised). The costs of this kind of move are unaffordable to the majority of people.
We, at Libertas, are offering a complete infrastructure for everyone to use whether they are into cryptocurrency or not. We offer an alternative to everyone who wants one or needs one. We are here to help YOU!
You can find out more about the project here:
Working Demo: https://libertas.network/demo.html