On the Subject of Liberty

On this day, I of course bring you anime women, but also hopefully some food for thought. For all of the criticisms of the United States, there remains one element of the country which stands beyond reproach: its downright radical interpretation of personal liberty, embodied most perfectly in its approach to free speech. That very liberty is one of the reasons why this site can exist, as some of the content on here – despite being utterly harmless drawings – is deemed illegal in much of the world for one reason or another.

However for some this absence of tyranny is not a virtue, but rather an opportunity in the market. As the world wide web becomes increasingly centralized and our words subject to ever more scrutiny by depression-addled pawns in the employ of major social media companies, we need to remember that freedom of speech is fundamentally a principle. The tolerance of words and ideas is not meant to be reduced to a mere set of laws enforced by the state, but should rather be a guiding star for our behavior in our personal and professional capacities. The myth of the unassailable private company is a pernicious lie peddled by the disingenuous and the misinformed. Even a cursory glance at the thoughts expressed by the founders makes it eminently clear that the USA’s laws prohibiting the policing of speech were not so formulated because they intended to restrain government while giving private enterprises unlimited power to control what can or cannot be said, but simply because it was utterly inconceivable that any entity besides the government could so effectively silence someone,  let alone that any one company could have the power to monitor, collect and analyze the speech of billions.

Our modern landscape is dominated by rootless multinational organizations who have a slavish devotion to ensuring that only speech deemed acceptable can be funded, seen and expressed. They are eagerly supported by those too shortsighted or too ignorant of history to see that the same mechanisms of censorship would have been been used to stifle their expression not too long ago; a different cultural climate may very well result in these useful idiots being crushed underfoot by their own tools in the future, though for everyone’s sake I hope that does not happen. The policies of payment processing companies like PayPal and Stripe seek to restrict the funding of anything they dislike (including pornography, which is particularly relevant to this site) and their wishes trickle downstream to platforms that may otherwise have been open. The laws of every jurisdiction known to man, the policies of other companies and the fleeting opinions of a site’s operators cause platforms to trend towards zero liberty as every petty tyrant whittles away at the user’s freedom. The Internet is far from being the great liberator we envisioned in its youth; the concentration of power in the past decade, coupled with the ability to project that power across the globe in under 500 milliseconds has made the Net a tool for oppression that would make authoritarians of days gone green with envy.

And yet there shines a white light of hope in the darkness: decentralization. Tools like InterPlanetary File System and Substratum potentially offer us the ability to freely publish content across the globe in a way that we no longer have to resign ourselves to the whims of social media platforms or cloud service providers. Truly private cryptocurrencies like Monero enable us to engage in commerce with digital cash, sans the opinionated middlemen. The question always remains whether these project will ever see mass adoption; much useful software gets regulated out of existence or ends up being impenetrable to anyone but the technically inclined. There is however, no better time to learn than now. The restoration of our collective natural liberty depends on us mastering the tools to safeguard ourselves from tyrants both public and private.

About Torsten Ostgard

Posting as StolenTranslations was so impersonal. Just call me Torsten.
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