Internet decentralization shields our freedom of speech

This is part of our casual posts. We aim to give an overview of present-day topics relevant to the BitTube platform and the principles it stands for.

What are the fundamental human rights?

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There is no simple definition of the fundamental human rights and people still ignore them, despite all efforts of the media to make them known. The recognition that every person is “a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity” is the starting point for the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a living document which governs the collaboration between UN member states. Among these inalienable rights, the freedom of speech is maybe one of the most important ones, as it refers to our main intellectual asset: the free will and the right to express our beliefs and convictions (Art. 19).

What does freedom of speech mean?

As Christopher Hitchens so eloquently summarized: freedom is speech is not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is as much the freedom of the other to be able to listen. Were you to take away this freedom, you make yourself a prisoner of your own actions, as you take away your right to be exposed to someone else’s view.

Succinctly put, freedom of speech means having the right to hold opinions and to express them through any media. However, real life is not a black and white canvas. In practice, to manoeuvre within the social landscape, there are gray areas and dangers lurking in the shadows.

Are we actually free to express everything? Do we really exercise this right so easily? — Freedom of speech, censorship, and self-censorship.

Occasionally, in day to day situation, we simply cannot express our opinion. Cultural social conventions can enforce so-called ‘no-go situations’, we all have been there every now and then. From childhood, we have learned that our freedom stops where we trespass the freedom of someone else. These restrictions fall under the umbrella of politeness, where we have learned to self-censor based on mutual respect, and this applies on the Internet as well.

Then we have political restrictions. Freedom of speech and censorship never harmonize well together. Not every government sees with good eyes this individual right. Individuals often live under pressure, being afraid of persecution, or loss of their liberty, and, in extreme cases, of their lives.

It is scary to know that in modern days a journalist faces the jail if he is not complying with the official point of view of the government.

“Turkey is the world leader in jailing journalists and media workers as they face criminal investigations and trials” and “Under the state of emergency in Turkey over 500 lawyers have been jailed pending trial, and over 1,000 prosecuted.” according to the 2017 World Report of the Human Rights.

In Russia, the freedom of online expression and the right to inform and to get informed gained a subversive aura: Alexey Kungurov, the journalist and blogger who dared to criticize Russia’s actions in Syria, has to stay two-and-a-half years in prison for “publicly justifying terrorism.”

In China, the Government has absolute control over the access to any information. “When you have strict censorship of the internet, young students cannot receive a full education. Their view of the world is imbalanced. There can be no true discussion of the issues.” , so Ai Weiwei, the most known Chinese artist, the one who was in house arrest with no official charge for almost three months for having the courage to be critical. China is, after all, the country where a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, has died under high surveillance, after prison and house arrest.

In Saudi Arabia Raif Badawi was condemned in 2012 to prison and 50 lashes for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” In 2014 the sentence was increased to 10 years of prison, 1000 lashes, and a fine. His family had to flee Saudi Arabia; they live now under Canadian protection. Raifs sister, Samar, has been also imprisoned end of July 2018 and Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian Ambassador and recalled its own Ambassador after Canada has protested against this abuse.

Censorship figures which give us the chills.

- 923: number of sites blocked by the Chinese Government.

- 1.72 billion persons affected by internet censorship on any given day.

- 8 of the 30 most visited countries have a censored Internet.

- 61% of internet users live in countries where criticism of the government and military are subject to censorship

- 40% of the content that the Iranian government blocks are political or government websites. It also happens that their own websites get blocked.

- more than 200 journalists were arrested or detained in 2017

- 37 known cases of journalists received death threats in 2017.

- Six journalists lost their lives.

And the list is far from being closed.

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(Courtesy rightsinfo.org)

Censorship and explicit interdiction to access certain content can be brutally exercised, like in North-Korea, China, Russia, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, just to name some of them. Geolocation restrictions, prohibition of access to specific portals or social media — Facebook does not exist for China, Russia forbade LinkedIn in 2016, and in 2017 the access to Telegram was also blocked — all of these are new tools to keep the control over the masses. No wonder that people are reduced to silence in all those countries. Sad, but the self-censorship comes from this direction. A short look at the censorship map makes it clear; after all, censorship is the ultimate available tool on the internet battlefield.

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(Source: here)

“Free speech is the cornerstone to every right we have,”

said the British comedian Mark Thomas and he could not be more right. But nowadays this fundamental truth needs a better definition. The venue and the penetration of the internet and the new media have changed our lives for good. The Internet is a powerful tool, and we have to learn how to use it. It is not an easy task to get informed and to express yourself if one lives in a country where these fundamental rights are not respected.

As long as governments can control what information the masses receive, as long as the digital presence of dissidents continues to be erased by higher administrative instances and obscure interests, there is no freedom.

The latest storm generated by YouTube and others is yet another example of the same servitude of digital giants towards lobbies, politics or double moral principles. By letting a political or commercial entity influence or decide if a piece of information has the right to go live, YouTube failed its own community. Ask all of the YouTubers who have to fight for their (legal and original) content to be monetized, or even remain online.

Beware of confusions.

Freedom of speech is to be exercised with a full conscience. Reflection and respect are required. Restrictions regarding defamation, incitement to violence, harassment or screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater have nothing to do with free speech. The anonymity one can get on the Internet is never an excuse to disrespect others based on their race, religion or social status, although unfortunately, this is often the case.

Freedom of speech and decentralization.

“The Internet treats censorship as a malfunction and routes around it.”

Don’t you just like this statement of John Perry Barlow? At BitTube, we surely do.

Turkey again. April 2017. The Turkish Government has restricted the access to Wikipedia.org by court order because “The government claimed that the website was trying to ‘smear’ the country” and Wikipedia refused to delete the information. Enter the InterPlanetary File System, an open-source peer-to-peer file sharing protocol, that has found a way to re-open access to Wikipedia in Turkey:

“We strongly oppose the censorship of history, of news, of free thought, of discourse, and of compendiums of vital information such as Wikipedia. Free access to information is key to modern human life, to a free society, and to a flourishing culture. We’re alarmed by the erosion of civil liberties wherever it occurs, and we want to help people like the citizens of Turkey preserve freedom of information, even in the face of a tightening iron fist.” — Source: official IFPS website.

Alex Jones and Infowars.

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Watching today’s Infowars podcast, following Alex Jones and trying our hardest to identify a shred of real hate speech. Irrespective of your opinion of Alex Jones, Infowars has recently been unjustly heavily censored. Within 12 hours of each other, Facebook, Spotify and Apple Podcasts have, in a coordinated effort, removed Infowars from their platforms. What preceded this was the termination of his YouTube channel yesterday (August 6th), for not respecting the platform’s ill-defined and arbitrarily enforced guidelines on ‘hate speech’.

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Labeled a conspiracy theory platform, the Infowars YouTube channel was accused of bullying and using hate speech, although such evidence was never provided.

The ban is a clear act of political censorship, as the US midterm elections are coming up in November and Alex Jones’ platform had a reach of over 2 million subscribers. The termination of a communications channel for a journalist is the ultimate cynical act of a government with the powerful tentacles of Google and YouTube. Hearing the YouTube Social Media Content Filtering representative, Mrs. Juniper Downs, explain that a channel or user “gets three strikes and then we terminate the channel” is alarming. The whole community rose against this exercise of power against Infowars. You can easily see it on Alexis Jones Twitter account. For good reason, Matt Bracken asks the algorithms used to curate political speech to be revealed. Paul Joseph Watson points out that we are in need of a Digital Bill of Rights.

What does this have to do with BitTube?

With BitTube there is no content filtering that has to obey to any political tastes, moods or commercial interests. Moreover, the content itself is safe from censorship and is never lost, as BitTube is a portal to a vast decentralized network based on the aforementioned IPFS protocol. We fully understand that one can consider certain opinions offensive or that some facts can be disturbing for some prude eyes and ears. But banning, terminating a channel on political demand (or for that matter, abuses of false DMCA claims): this will never happen on BitTube.

For such situations of clear violations of fundamental human rights, we all need to embrace and support the decentralized Internet. We have to break through current restraints with a true peer-to-peer network, where everyone organically becomes a part of the system, making it stronger as grows. The control of information must not reside in the hands of some lobby or political order. One individual can be silenced, one website can be blocked or shut down, but no one can prevent anymore the access to the information in a true decentralized network such as BitTube.

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BitTube is born to be part of the solution: as a decentralized platform, with no censorship and no arbitrary control over content, or the access to said content. A free-speech friendly platform where everyone has the same rights to get informed and to express oneself. At BitTube we crave for transparency, respectful freedom of speech and we fight against censorship, political righteousness, and above all, support common sense.

Join the BitTube community and embrace freedom!

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