The Twitter censorship policy announced in January this year has now been enacted. Not in China, Russia or some Middle East dictatorship, but in Germany. Twitter has blocked the account for the Nazi organization Besseres Hannover (A Better Hanover).
Does Twitter really have to comply with local laws? I don’t know. But I know this much – Germany has a serious problem with free speech. This fundamental human right can’t be confined to certain opinions that please those in power. Because that kind of free speech was provided by Hitler and every dictator throughout history.
We need to stop assuming that lack of free speech is a problem for China, Russia, or countries in Africa or the Middle East. Germany, as well as other European countries, is more permissive, sure, but the principal is exactly the same – if the government doesn’t like your political opinion they will shut you up, sometimes put you in jail and freeze your assets. How is it even possible that this can go on without any significant protests?
I think the answer is that they target such a small and disliked part of the population. Most people don’t react until something happens to them personally. But this lazy attitude is dangerous in that it creates a slippery slope. If the government can shut Nazis up, then they can shut up fascists, terrorists, maybe activists, communists or anyone they feel lacks the popular support needed to create some form of organized resistance.
To ensure free speech it needs to be what it is – free. And it needs to be a part of the constitution as it is in America. This is what Germany and Europe needs to learn. We can’t complain about Muslims going crazy about cartoons of the prophet Muhammad and then pretend that prosecuting Nazis for speaking their mind isn’t hypocrisy. Germany, or any other country which prosecutes people for expressing their political opinions, is not part of the free world.
Thankfully, I think the internet will erode this oppression to pieces. The idea of putting “reality bubbles” over entire nations is ludicrous and it will never work. The cat is out of the bag, the flow of information can’t be controlled anymore. The sad part is however that this is only due to the nature of the internet and social media, a happy coincidence, and not due to civil courage or any form of active citizenship.