So, a few days ago Eric Schmidt wrote a piece in The New York Times were he suggests that leaders and companies should control how other people can use the internet… to help them be better, more informed, and free-minded people. The expression that is getting some traction is the suggestion that we should build tools “sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate”.
It’s a very dangerous thought. There is a huge difference between letting people find their way and preventing people from ever getting lost. In the first case you provide tools that allow them to get where they want to go. In the second case you never allow them to reach unfamiliar places.
Consider the expression “spell-checker […] for hate” and the mindset behind it. A spell checker checks if what you are writing is correct or not. Obviously you are not the one entitled to make that decision. After all, that’s the situation we have now. And hey, if standard spell-checkers come with a centrally defined dictionary, why can’t hate spell-checkers come with a central definition of appropriate language. Once you give that step, you have a thought police somewhere. I doesn’t matter if it’s Google Department for Hate Prevention or the International Office of Customs and Language because, at that moment, someone is trying to prevent you from getting lost.
Today “all Muslims are fucking terrorists” is hateful speech, tomorrow “we demand
elections” is promoting violence, next week “we need a choice” creates unnecessary anxiety. Censorship assumes many forms. We’ll use power over everyone for the common good is one of the most typical sentences of tyrants. Trust us, we’re the good guys their best argument.