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Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

Revolving Door: Google Enjoys Privileged Position within the US Government

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Revolving Door: Google Enjoys Privileged Position within the US Government

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Putting an end to the revolving door used to be one of the issues presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared to be most passionate about. In December of 2007, then Senator Obama vowed to close the “revolving door … [in other words] the pattern of people going from industry to agency, back to industry,” as soon as he entered the White House. But by 2016, Franklin Center’s reports, the practice couldn’t get more popular.

GoogleSince 2009, more than 250 people moved between Google and other related firms and the federal government. According to the results produced by Campaign for Accountability’s Google Transparency Project, there have been 258 revolving door instances associated with Google employees and other related firms. In many cases, these individuals were either involved with national political campaigns or with federal government agencies and Congress.

But according to, one of the most eye-catching discoveries is that “[m]uch of that revolving door activity took place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where 22 former White House officials went to work for Google and 31 executives from Google and related firms went to work at the White House.”

In many of these cases, the Obama administration appointed these individuals directly.

Many of the Google employees who left the tech giant and its associated firms ended up in the President’s Council on Science and Technology and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, two boards responsible for regulating programs that directly impact Google as a company.

When the other end of the revolving door is analyzed, we also learn that 25 government officials involved with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, or national security have joined the Silicon Valley giant in the past few years. And at least 18 former State Department officials embraced new positions with Google as well, while five Google staffers were hired by the State Department, and at least three Google executives switched jobs, moving their desks to the DOD headquarters.

According to the general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, Scott Amey, the number of people moving between the government and Google is high, raising concerns among anti-revolving door activists. Amey says that precisely because information concerning the quantity of people involved in this revolving-door game is hard to find, the actual scope of this mass migration may not be easy to grasp at the moment. Nevertheless, 250 individuals involved in this activity is “a very significant number.”

Amey told that, if individuals working inside the government “have access to information on competitors and they go to Google … then you have to wonder if Google is getting an unfair advantage over others in their market.” Interestingly enough, Amey’s comment serves as the perfect example of why crony capitalism or, in other words, the marriage of the state and private special interests, is bad.

Without a government setting the rules, winners are only picked by the market, not the privileged few.

Before You Click “Share”

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Oops! Was my face red!

Last week I saw a fascinating article on Facebook. It was entitled “Amazing things you didn’t know your cell phone could do.”

Wow! I had no idea cell phones could do all that. I immediately shared it with my Facebook friends.Don't Believe Everything You Read On the Internet - Abraham Lincoln

Bad move. I was quickly informed that the article was almost totally bogus. (I’m sorry to inform you that you can’t use your cell phone to unlock your car — unless, as a friend pointed out, you throw it through the window.)

Normally I check such things out before forwarding them. But this time my enthusiasm got the best of me — such amazing and useful information! — and I made the classic Internet mistake of forwarding info I hadn’t checked out. Ouch!

In this particular case, the consequences weren’t dire. I wasted a bit of my friends’ time and made myself look silly.

But sharing false political information can have much more serious consequences. Especially for libertarians.

When we send something around that turns out to be false, people may wonder: “Are libertarians just stupid — or are they trying to deceive me?”

They may think, “This libertarian has sent me something I know isn’t true. So I can’t trust anything he or other libertarians say.”

Those aren’t reactions we want from our social media outreach.

This is a serious problem. The web is clogged with fascinating facts, mesmerizing memes, compelling quotes and startling stories — that are not true.

So before you hit that “Share” button on Facebook or the “Forward” button in your email, take a moment confirm the validity of the material.

Note, this doesn’t mean you have to verify everything you share. Jokes, fables, cartoons, cat videos… fire away.

But before sending a quote or a fact, take a moment and fact-check it.

It’s easy. Type it wholly or in part into Google. See if it can be verified at a reliable source. Something like “” (I just made that up) isn’t sufficient. A legitimate online thesaurus, book, scholarly site, or reputable newspaper or magazine source is needed.

You can also use Google Books to instantly search millions of books to see if the quote or fact shows up in a reputable book.

Does this sound like too much trouble? Do you just “know” your quote is accurate, because it just “sounds right”? I invite you to try it on a few anyway. You will be shocked how many false quotes are attributed to the Founders, to Ron Paul, to various presidents, and the like.

The more amazing the fact or quote, the more it confirms your prejudices… the more likely it needs to be vetted. “Eighty percent of U.S. tax dollars goes to foreign aid” might sound plausible to some people, but check it out and you might be surprised. If you can’t verify it at a legitimate source (newspaper, magazine, think tank, book, etc.) don’t send it out.

If a story sounds too good to be true, that’s a warning sign. Check out or a similar site to see if it’s one of the thousands of phony tales mugging truth-seekers on the web. (I know, has its own biases, but it’s a great place to start.)

Once you’ve pushed the “Share” button, it’s hard to take it back. Some people will never see your retraction, and many of your friends will have already forwarded it to dozens or hundreds of others. In one irreversible moment, you’ve helped contribute to the ignorance of the human race. Not good.

As ambassadors for libertarian ideas, we need to make sure we always display integrity. As seekers of the truth, we must always be truthful in the information we share with others in making our case for liberty.

As Liberator Online columnist Michael Cloud is fond of saying, “The facts are friendly to freedom.”

We’ve got the truth on our side. Falsehoods and bad information only hurts our cause.