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Europe's 'Right To Be Forgotten' Threatens Online Free Speech 410

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-rights-fight-rights dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Jeffrey Rosen, Legal Affairs Editor for The New Republic, explains why the E.U.'s proposed data protection regulation known as the right to be forgotten is actually 'the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet in the coming decade.' In the Stanford Law Review Online (there's a shorter version in TNR), he writes: 'The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already. Unless the right is defined more precisely when it is promulgated over the next year or so, it could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet.' According to Rosen, the 'right' goes farther than previously thought, treating 'takedown requests for truthful information posted by others identically to takedown requests for photos I've posted myself that have then been copied by others: both are included in the definition of personal data as "any information relating" to me, regardless of its source.' Examples of previous attempts this might bolster include 'efforts by two Germans convicted of murdering a famous actor to remove their criminal history from the actor's Wikipedia page' and an 'Argentine pop star [who] had posed for racy pictures when she was young, but recently sued Google and Yahoo to take them down.'"
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Europe's 'Right To Be Forgotten' Threatens Online Free Speech

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  • Simple: compromise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:30PM (#39025823)
    Sometimes the right to life threatens the right to free speech (when people want to shout "fire") sometimes the right to free speech threatens the right to free movement (when people set up web sites to track others and become stalkers). What we do is compromise and weigh up one right with another. It's not so complex. Hell it's even built into the European court systems already.
  • by Pluvius (734915) <pluvius3&gmail,com> on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:31PM (#39025833) Journal

    The idea of a "right to be forgotten" is just stupid on the face of it. What are you going to do about people who know the thing in question that you're trying to get them to forget? Electroshock? Room 101, maybe?

    Rob

  • by stereoroid (234317) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:32PM (#39025863) Homepage Journal

    Facebook et al have been warned about their misuse of users' data for years now, and have shown no signs that they take privacy seriously. So it's going to take regulation to rein them in. I'm not sure how I feel about this, , but my opinion wouldn't change anything, and the "free speech" argument is spurious. Was speech somehow artificially "restricted" years ago, just because the Internet hadn't been invented? "Social networking" could go away tomorrow, and we'd all survive just fine.

  • by saikou (211301) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:36PM (#39025917) Homepage

    One aspect that doesn't seem to be obviously stated in the article, that in order to be certain what is related to the person who wants to be forgotten, online systems have to implement a rather tight tracking of this information. So if someone re-post picture on the Facebook, Facebook would have to check it against hashes of all other FB-hosted images to know where the origin is from (and re-share tags for all depicted users).
    If I can't find something related to you -- I can't remove it.

    And bonus -- multi-user content. If user A wants to be forgotten, but photo contains also users B and C, removing it might violate rights of other users (unless there's going to be a little digital eraser applied to the tagged face)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:38PM (#39025949)

    Unless the right is defined more precisely when it is promulgated over the next year or so, it could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet.

    Speaking as an American, I want the European version of privacy and the American version of Free Speech.

    In other words, I don't want some motherfucking marketing firm tracking me to sell me their shit - and it's always shit - and sell my information to the Government because they want to track "terrorists" or whatever to justify they're existence.

    Which implies the desire for European privacy. They don't need to know who the fuck I am. WTF? Speaking as an atheist in the Bible Belt, I can tell you, anonymity is a goddamn blessing.

    Otherwise, I'd need a god given machine gun to defend myself against these Goddamn Jesus freaks who think they need to kill me for not believing in their Sky God.

    God Damn Motherfuckers!

  • Wow. bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:39PM (#39025973) Homepage Journal

    right to be forgotten exists in offline-world, and it did not cause any free speech issues. something which is personal information, is not something that is related to free speech. your ideas expressed, public posts made, public statements, discussions may be considered free speech. but, photographs of your son and daughter, can not.

    what im i saying. taking this shit seriously : the real issue is google, facebook and similar going deprived of 2% of their annual income. that's the whole point of this anxiety.

    well. we, the people dont give two shits about google or facebook's 2% annual income. they can lose it, and still sit pretty.

    and, this does not have any kind of effect on the 90-100% of the rest of the internet, where content is created by small people or businesses - they are not making money selling people's personal information to megacorporations anyway. (ads are not relevant - small sites cant run all encompassing tracking networks like facebook )

  • Eraser to the Mind (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LionKimbro (200000) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:41PM (#39025991) Homepage

    You have a right to be forgotten; You do NOT have a right to make me forget!

  • Re:Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:45PM (#39026047)

    Thats actually pretty cheap as far as tax rates go. I wish my local sales tax was only 2 percent, or my income tax was only 2 percent.

  • by Stormthirst (66538) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:46PM (#39026071)

    There's a difference between people knowing stuff now, and in 10 years a prospective employer looking at stuff that's on FB or Google now. What is relevant now might not be relevant later. But I know a few HR drones who wouldn't distinguish between me now and me 10 years ago.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:47PM (#39026083) Homepage Journal

    You know,

    I would be totally cool wit the idea of re-setting the entire planet to, like, 1977.

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:53PM (#39026151)

    So don't post your life story on Facebook you nitwit. Those of us that refuse to use that damn privacy breaching POS know just like you do that in 10 years you ARE going to regret something YOU voluntarily put up there that is going to come back and haunt you. Making it a law that you can demand companies delete all information you not only posted freely, but that you voluntarily signed a contract allowing them to keep the data forever is just plain stupid. If you are dumb enough to post all that personal information to Facebook you shouldn't be surprised when it comes back to haunt you, nor should you have a legal right to request it's removal.

    All this bill would do is ensure that Google, Facebook and others completely shutdown all local European presence. That means all those local jobs go away and all legal recourse is gone while at the same time everyone keeps using it. Unless of course you're willing to implement the great firewall of Europe and join China in a world where the powers that be can decide to rewrite history.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:54PM (#39026175)

    in a nutshell, it means that as a civilian, you have the right to ask a company to delete your data. That's actually a good thing in that it gives power to the consumer. And I wouldn't object if Google or FB invested that 2% into a good mechanism for deleting user data.

    That differs from 'free speech' dramatically. TFA blurs this distinction. It's not "free speech" when FB or Google sits on user data and is not legally required to delete it, when the user asks for it.

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Monday February 13, 2012 @05:57PM (#39026211) Homepage

    The right to be forgotten? What about the responsibility to keep one's own private information private?

    I have no problem with regulating the dissemination of private information held in confidence by online services, but information published by users or by people not affiliated with the online services in question should not receive any such protection in all but a few special cases (medical and financial information, for example).

    When privacy and free speech are in conflict and there's no urgent and compelling reason to keep information private, free speech should always trump privacy.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:08PM (#39026311)
    You're broadly right, but you're missing the fact that some of the information about you is gnoing to show up without you having posted it yourself. There might be both true and false statements made by others about you, or even made by others impersonating you. There should be laws that allow you to correct that if you find out, because like you say, in 10 years time that prank statement about you that someone else made will still be around and look like the honest truth.
  • by jcrb (187104) <jcrb@yCURIEahoo.com minus physicist> on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:10PM (#39026329) Homepage

    So I followed the links down to the actual EU document, at which point the problem becomes clear. All the other issues aside, if it takes you 117 pages to explain a "basic right" then it seems to me that....

    You're Not Doing It Right

  • by OldHawk777 (19923) * <adelovantNO@SPAMverizon.net> on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:13PM (#39026363) Journal

    Human foolishness has historical value for teaching values to the young, naive, and possibly stupid.

    Invoking Anti-Darwin will protect the rich, politicians, popes, mullahs ..., but endanger the public from a lack of information that could save their lives from idiots being leaders. Yes, George Bush is the poster child for Anti-Darwin rights. Fight Anti-Darwin rights/laws and protect US and EU from drunken idiots in politics.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:22PM (#39026463) Homepage

    mankind's inalienable rights, the ones the US founding fathers identified

    This is precisely the problem that the rest of the world has with US and Americans.

  • by jamstar7 (694492) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:22PM (#39026465)
    Compared to Ronny RayGun, the Bush Bandits, and Slick Willy, Jimmy Carter was a breath of fresh air. And of course, who could resist the tales of his brother Billy? The 'bubbah' was a train wreck, but amusing as hell.
  • by Experiment 626 (698257) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:24PM (#39026487)

    Speaking as an atheist in the Bible Belt, I can tell you, anonymity is a goddamn blessing. Otherwise, I'd need a god given machine gun to defend myself against these Goddamn Jesus freaks who think they need to kill me for not believing in their Sky God. God Damn Motherfuckers!

    Have you ever considered that the difficulty getting along with the more spiritually-inclined might have less to do with them prying into your affairs and more to do with how you can't even get through a post on a completely unrelated topic without a profanity-laden bashing of their religion?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:28PM (#39026525)

    You never know how the law or society turns out in the future. About 15 years ago it would have been kinda funny to dress as a suicide bomber for Halloween. Think it might be taken the wrong way if seen today?

    All it takes is something you say or do and take a picture of is somehow being connected to some kind of criminal (or worse) behavior. Imagine the whole bull about "violent games" gaining traction again and you posting a pic of you playing some FPS game. Today, certainly no problem. But how's it going to work out in 5 years or 10? Maybe someone won't employ you because you're connected to "violent behavior".

    How about letting the whole fat food craze go overboard as it usually does when people get hyped up? Consider yourself being shunned for that pic showing you wolfing down that Big Mac.

    Or how about the worst case scenario, where you're in a picture with someone who later commits some kind of horrible crime? You didn't know about it, for you it was just some guy you knew, but now you're the guy who is very obviously a close buddy of a pedo. Here, I have the pic to prove it.

    "Don't post an incriminating or embarrassing picture" is easily said, but you don't know today what will happen tomorrow. You don't know what pictures might come back to haunt you. So we may only post those crappy "please say cheese" lifeless pics that have been cleaned of any kind of background so they cannot, under any circumstances, be taken the wrong way?

  • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:40PM (#39026637)

    Demand to have him extradited!

    At least the US feels that as long as the 'wronged' party is in a jurdiction that they control, they have the right to have foreign citizens extradited. Just look at the case of the UK hacker Gary McKinnon. Let's just hope Europe will be just as determined to have those evil foreigners punished.

  • by Gonoff (88518) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:42PM (#39026655)
    Why should I be restricted by you? My right to privacy should exceed corporate "rights" to maximise future profit.
  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:47PM (#39026703) Homepage

    So don't post your life story on Facebook you nitwit.

    So if someone makes a relatively small mistake they should be forced to pay for it for the rest of their lives? Society doesn't work like that, even quite nasty criminals are eventually forgiven and don't have to declare their crimes when applying for jobs and the like any more. Getting a bit drunk and posting some stupid pics on Facebook is a fairly minor indiscretion in comparison.

    People, especially young people, make mistakes. It doesn't make them nitwits, it makes them human.

    but that you voluntarily signed a contract allowing them to keep the data forever is just plain stupid.

    Well apparently people signing unfair and stupid contracts is so common we had to invent consumer protection laws and contract law to protect them. There is also the fact that if a company breeches a contract your only option is to sue them which is expensive and risky, so for stuff that is blatantly abusive we legislate against it as a kind of mass civil legal action by society.

    You will get modded up for ranting against all the morons living in their idiocrasy, but the need for legal protections is well established and understood.

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:04PM (#39026841) Homepage

    "The EU is talking about human rights, so stuff like copyright is trumped. That has always been the case."

    Absolute privacy is not a human right. Construed as a human right, there's no such thing as a right to be forgotten.

  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:04PM (#39026845) Journal

    Sorry, I think a bigger risk is at stake.

    You're right in the "coldly rational" sense that the old Economists used to go by. The problem is that there are a couple of smart evil critters at senior manager positions in these companies, who discovered that 20 billion dollars of influence can create the greatest Social Hack of the last 25 years. America forgot that the chief problem of small insular towns with only 200 people in them was that you could never escape The Day That You Insulted Mrs. Chadwick, because Nobody Insults Mrs. Chadwick.

    With the advent of city conditions, people became too busy working to worry about The Disgraceful Remark. In a Post Insult-To-Mrs. Chadwick World, the world ... in a city... would be ... the same!

    Now with the social services, the search engines are creating a passive version of that Long Memory, that does nothing for you when you behave, (mostly), but records forever when you don't.

    Combined with outright malicious abuse by both the companies and the government, people aren't "just choosing" anymore. They need a little help.

  • by Dan541 (1032000) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:07PM (#39026873) Homepage

    However it's still a historical fact. If someone writes about you on a blog, truthfully (I don't advocate the publishing of inaccuracies) then what right to you have to censor them in 10 years time?

    This seems like it's set to become the next DMCA. Don't like what someone wrote; censor them.

  • by russotto (537200) on Monday February 13, 2012 @07:17PM (#39026959) Journal

    Once you compromise on fundamentals, you're compromised. As the "shouting fire" case you allude to demonstrated; it upheld the conviction of a person whose offense was distributing pamphlets alleging that the US military draft was a violation of the 13th amendment (forbidding slavery and involuntary servitude).

    So no, compromise is not always the answer. Compromise brought us from free movement to metal detectors to the TSA virtual strip search. Compromise brought us from free assembly to "free speech zones". Compromise brought us from "you have the right to remain silent" to "turn over that password". Compromise has gotten an undeserved good reputation.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday February 13, 2012 @08:35PM (#39027685)

    This is one good reason to just not put up information to these sites. If you're drunk do not turn on the computer. It's really going to hit the fan when all these naive "what's privacy?" kids get old enough to get a job or run for political office. If anything this law should be called the "I was stupid and regret it now" law.

    Do people have a right to control info about themselves? I don't think so. Sure it'd be nice if all companies voluntarily would remove naked pictures of you that you regret, but to enshrine this service into law is a very bad precedent. What if you want the phone company to erase all records of bills you've ever paid? Or your bad credit history could be expunged just by calling up the mortgage company? Can you have your awful picture removed permanently from the yearbook?

    The guideline that has been around since before language was invented is "if you do something stupid then you live with the consequences".

  • by bky1701 (979071) on Monday February 13, 2012 @08:37PM (#39027703) Homepage
    I am pretty much tired of hearing about shouting fire, and how that is a legitimate reason to support censorship. There are two major issues with this. First, yelling fire causes a rather urgent problem. If there really is a fire, there is no proper time to go and question the matter. This does not apply to slander and libel. Slander and libel laws are violations of free speech. Please do not use the analogy to support those (many, many people have... and been wrong).

    Second problem: why is it never the fault of the people trampling others, or the organizers who set the situation up to be dangerous to begin with? Of course, it would be quite annoying if people constantly were yelling fire... yet, false fire alarms are actually pretty common. False security lock downs, too. Essentially, at what point is it the fault of the people listening to the guy yelling fire and trampling someone? I'd say, from the moment it happens. Consider if there actually was a fire - how does the situation change? Where does the fault go for someone being trampled if it was really a fire and it happened? If it can't rest with the person raising the alarm, where is it? Was it there all along?

    Your idiotic rhetoric about some speech not being protected is why, lo and behold, less and less speech is being protected, despite nearly every developed country recognizing free speech as a human right. I think you can take your "fire in a theater" excuse and shove it you know where.
  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday February 13, 2012 @09:09PM (#39027961) Homepage
    If I am misunderstanding you, please feel free to correct my mistaken assumptions.

    Sure, it's a good thing to ask a company to delete profile data, posts, etc. that you have submitted in your user account information. The problem, however, is with search engines. In that case, Google acts as an index to information that is *already somewhere on the Internet.* There's a world of difference between me asking Google to delete a photo that I posted on picasaweb.google.com and asking Google not to index any references to me in their search algorithm. The correct way to deal with web sites that have data about me on the web is to ask them -- not Google or Yahoo or Bing or ${Random_Search_Engine} -- to remove any information about me. I mean think about it for more than half a second...just because Google has agreed not to index me doesn't mean that that information no longer exists on the web. If shadywebsite.com has embarrassing or revealing (ugh!) photos of me, people can still link to that even if Google doesn't list those photos on its search engine. It may be a bit harder to find, but it's still there! I'd rather be able to Google my own name and deal with web sites myself than have Google delete the indexes, but have the data still exist.

    And honestly, I have a bit of a problem with forcing a web site to remove information about me just because I don't like what they are saying about me. The example in TFA about the convicted criminals wanting references to their crimes removed is a good example. My wife ran a business where one of her employees was skimming cash payments from the till. The employee was caught and convicted of stealing the money. Since she now has a documented criminal history, future employers will know that this person has a history of theft, and IF they choose to hire her anyway, they can at least keep an eye on her so they don't get ripped off, too. IMHO, that's a good thing -- but that's exactly the kind of "privacy" that this bill will "protect." Guess what, people? Actions have consequences. Sometimes it sucks to have to deal with the consequences of your actions, but sometimes it sucks to have to deal with the consequences of other peoples' actions too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2012 @09:28PM (#39028095)

    The other point is that you don't even have to post the information yourself. I don't use Facebook, but my partner does, everytime she says 'we' went to a party or to dinner she is posting information about me. By now there is probably quite a lot of it, but none of it was posted by me, and some of it I might later disagree with or think was factually incorrect.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:17AM (#39029175)

    Please. Rosen is acting as a proxy for Google et al who can't be seen going up against this for PR reasons.

    I am not saying in its present form it's workable, but the idea that somehow the right to be forgotten is at odds with free speech is total bullshit.

    At least it will create a set of significant disincentives to people who want to come forward with this material, who can expect to be prosecuted for doing so, and that's a good thing.

    Why are these two rights even being compared when the more obvious comparison is between the right to be forgotten and the threat of being blackmailed, manipulated , artificially limited and determined by your youthful mistakes and bad judgement before your brain had even finished maturing?

    I know that Slashdot is filled with techie types and programmers and a supernormal number of those are people who have varying degrees of Asperger's Syndrome and therefore will voice comments like "meh. They made their bed. Let them lie in it". The whole POINT of the EU decision is to prevent that type of attitude from doing the damage it would do. Such "tough luck" attitudes represent nothing but an abysmal lack of insight into human character and the calculus of human relations.

    Never before in human history have people been unable to walk away from truly youthful indiscretions. The consequences of this are far reaching and it's a brilliant insight on the part of the EU to recognize the potential for destructive and malignant power plays and the potential for people who would otherwise make real, vital contributions to society to exclude themselves from the public scrutiny that accomplishment would necessarily bring if a woman thought that the picture of the . of herself with the banana would inevitably surface one day.

    This is something completely new- a forever memory machine focused in on you from the time of your birth, relentlessly taking pictures recording thoughts and documenting events. No creative person can survive that unscathed.

    Now please, let the "fuck them, tough luck" commenters take the floor. ... but before they do, please, give generously:

    http://www.autismspeaks.org/ [autismspeaks.org]

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:18AM (#39029183) Journal

    The yelling "fire" in a theatre scenario is an example of speech having negative physical consequences, contrary to those who claim that free speech is harmless. Actually, free speech is definitely not harmless, and that is one of the reasons we enshrine it so. It is a powerful weapon against corruption and conspiracy. It damages corrupt governments and other organisations. It is precisely because it is so powerful that we find it necessary in our society. But I digress. Let's get back to your issues.

    First, yelling fire causes a rather urgent problem. If there really is a fire, there is no proper time to go and question the matter. This does not apply to slander and libel. Slander and libel laws are violations of free speech. Please do not use the analogy to support those (many, many people have... and been wrong).

    I agree that this analogy alone cannot justify slander/libel. The situations are functionally quite different. Like I said, the fire scenario is more supposed to be an example of negative consequences from speech, not to justify specific censorship laws. At most, it should be used to open the table up to discussion about censorship laws in general, now that it has been established that there can be significant trade-offs to having absolutely free speech. To justify slander/libel, another argument, specific to these laws, is needed. Specifically, does spreading lies about a person deliberately harm that person, and does the harm from this outweigh any chilling effects that this law would cause? I think the answer to the first question is an easy "yes", but the second question is a lot harder to answer.

    Second problem: why is it never the fault of the people trampling others, or the organizers who set the situation up to be dangerous to begin with? Of course, it would be quite annoying if people constantly were yelling fire... yet, false fire alarms are actually pretty common. False security lock downs, too. Essentially, at what point is it the fault of the people listening to the guy yelling fire and trampling someone? I'd say, from the moment it happens. Consider if there actually was a fire - how does the situation change? Where does the fault go for someone being trampled if it was really a fire and it happened? If it can't rest with the person raising the alarm, where is it? Was it there all along?

    Fault often cannot be ascribed to a specific party. Sometimes the independent actions of several people are all causally relevant to some kind of detrimental event occurring. Sometimes there is no fault at all. As such, it's not really valid reasoning to deduce fault by eliminating various parties.

    In the case of people being trampled without a fire, I would blame (in no specific order) the person who called fire, the people who trampled the victim (or who otherwise behaved in a reckless manner), the theatre for not having sufficient fire exits (if that's an issue), and the victim if there was any stupid behaviour that caused him specifically to be trampled. With a fire, I would also blame the fire (and whoever caused it), and blame the guy who called "fire" significantly less. The person who calls fire simply unleashes the inherent danger of the situation, but this does not make him blameless. His choices and corresponding actions caused the situation to be such that someone dies. Without that action, that person would have lived.

    Perhaps we need a better example. Let's say I ring a very large hospital, and claim that there are several high-powered explosives hidden about the building, and that I'm going to detonate them in exactly 30 minutes. There are no explosives, but they don't know this. They proceed to evacuate the building, costing them many, many thousands of dollars, and possibly causing some of their sicker patients to deteriorate (maybe if they're in quarantine, or something like that). Where does the fault lie? It's not going to be the hospital staff for believing me. They must tak

  • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:36AM (#39029599)

    It's really going to hit the fan when all these naive "what's privacy?" kids get old enough to get a job or run for political office.

    Maybe at that point we can start to drop this ludicrous "OMG he got drunk once!" puritanism. It's repellant.

    I know, unlikely.

  • by isorox (205688) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @03:59AM (#39030259) Homepage Journal

    i can't f'ing believe this crap .. is it ever going to end??
    i have a worrisome feeling that mankind's inalienable rights, the ones the US founding fathers identified, will eventually be completely squished under a boot of tyranny. I mean every year there's a relentless assault on it. It's starting to feel like we're all huddled inside the Alamo. Except there's no Texian Army to avenge it.

    You are an american, and you believe that mankind has specific inalienable rights. That's fine. The rest of the world may disagree, or broadly agree, but disagree to some parts (the right to bear arms for example). I'm certain that the rest of the world couldn't give a monkeys about the 10th amendment for example, but are much more concerned about the right not to be owned -- something that your founding fathers didn't identify.

    Your precious founding fathers didn't enshrine a right to privacy. Doesn't mean it's not an inalienable right. Perhaps people in Europe have different opinions.

    Your constitution isn't perfect.

  • by snowgirl (978879) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @06:11AM (#39030883) Journal

    Your argument is similar to arguing that you can murder someone by shooting them repeatedly in the chest and face in the middle of the busy city centre.

    No, it's not.

    Sure, you can. But it's illegal. So is shouting "fire" in the theatre.

    In the United States, no, shouting "fire" in a crowded theater is NOT illegal, or criminal. So, let me rephrase, "In the United States, one may shout 'fire' in a crowded theater."

    You'll just be liable for damages. Just like with the fire shouting.

    You can always be held liable for damages that you cause. Whether the action were criminal or illegal. As long as you were the proximal cause of the injury, and the other side can show negligence, recklessness, or intent to commit the act or omission, then you can be held liable for the damages.

    Dropping flour barrels out of the top floor of your warehouse is neither illegal nor criminal. However, if it hits someone, you're going to be responsible for the harm caused. Selling coffee so hot that it can cause 3rd degree burns in 5 seconds is neither illegal nor criminal. However, if it does cause 3rd degree burns upon contacting someone's skin, you're going to be responsible for the harm caused.

  • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @06:43AM (#39031013)

    Your argument is based on the premise that it's more important to be able to distribute pamphlets complaining about US military draft than it is to avoid being crushed to death because some jackass thought it'd be funny to shout fire.

    Both make me sick in the mouth, but you've based your argument on an assumption that I do not think necessarily holds true.

    Ultimately in a world where we have compromise your life can be unfairly destroyed by government taking things too far, but in your world of absolute free speech your life can equally be unfairly destroyed, whether it's by someone getting you crushed to death by shouting fire in a crowded theatre, someone causing you to lose your job or worse by slandering you by for example publicly labelling you as a paedophile with no recourse to clear your name because suing for slander would breach their right to free speech, or not having any mitigating circumstance in court for for example punching someone for getting in your face and repeatedly making insulting, perhaps for example racist comments.

    The reality is you believe not compromising and having free speech as an absolute would be some magical cure for all the problems of government abuse, but really all you're doing is trading abuse of the status quo by government for abuse by private citizens.

    So personally I think it is actually about compromise, the only difficulty is getting the compromise right, because a world with absolute free speech causes just as many problems as one with compromised limits to free speech.

    Fundamentally though in your last paragraph, you're not actually complaining about compromise anyway, you're complaining about failure to compromise - the laws to which you refer weren't born of compromise, they were born of governments not being introduced in the will of the populace. Ultimately this is a fault born more of terrible government, and the pitfalls of a two party state with little to separate them than an inherent problem with compromise- of course the compromising wont go to well when both ruling parties want the same things, but the solution to that is a healthier democracy and in many countries they have this by having electoral systems that support multi-party coalition governments and so forth where compromise is essential to staying in power.

    It's the same here in the UK - when David Cameron said he likes First Past the Post because it provides strong governments, what he really means is "I like First Past the Post because when we inevitably get back into power in this two party state because the other party fucked up so bad the electorate have no choice but to switch to us instead I can do whatever the hell I want, even if I only got the support of less than a 1/3rd of the voting population". Weak governments are the best type of governments for the people, because as soon as they stop serving the people, they can trivially be toppled.

    Really, absolutes in politics are rarely ever the best solution, they're really best left to the fantasies of wingnuts who just haven't thought things through. You may dislike the current situation, but the solution is to fix your government, not become even more militant and start demanding absolutes - polarising the debate with extreme viewpoints that have equally many flaws only makes things even worse again as your opposition strengthen their stance against you even further, and are even given the ammunition of the flaws in your plan to better do so.

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