Should We Be Policing The Internet For Content About Guns?

Now that Google and Facebook are finally admitting what we always knew, namely, that they sell personal user information to any quick-buck scam artist selling on the web, just about every organization which uses those sites for communicating with their membership is jumping on the bandwagon to make sure that nothing offensive, illegal or immoral is allowed to move through the cloud.

armed citizen            The latest effort in this respect by Gun-control Nation was a decision last week by a Federal judge to suspend the go-ahead received from the State Department by Cody Wilson to upload the plans of his 3D gun (which doesn’t work, btw) and issue an injunction preventing any website from hosting the plans.

The internet has always been a sore spot for Gun-control Nation ever since Bloomberg’s gun-control group first began talking about how easy it was for criminals, nut jobs and other bad guys to buy guns over the web. The fact that the same ads for private gun transfers on the internet can be found in the classifieds of just about every weekly shopper published throughout the United States is never mentioned by Bloomberg because those weekly shopping publications don’t circulate in New York. But because of pressure by Bloomberg and others, websites like Amazon, Craigslist, eBay and other online shopping sites began to police and remove advertisements for guns.  Okay, fair enough.

The problem with going beyond gun advertisements per se and trying to eliminate gun-related content, as opposed to selling an actual gun, is that the ox could be gored both ways. Let me give you an example which I happen to know very well.

I currently sell a book on Amazon entitled The Myth of the Armed Citizen. The book discusses in detail the argument about whether guns are a risk as opposed to protecting us from violence and crime. I come down very clearly on the former; i.e., gun ownership is definitely less of a benefit and more of a risk.  How much of a risk remains to be understood, but this book in no way promotes concealed or open carry of guns. And believe me when I say that I have received God knows how many nasty emails from members of Gun-nut Nation who accuse me of actually promoting violence because I believe that people shouldn’t be able to defend themselves with guns.

Now what would happen if a whole bunch of pro-gun folks would send a message to Facebook telling them that my book promotes violence and should be removed? How would this be any different from Gun-control Nation spamming Google or Facebook and telling them that they have found various pro-gun content that should be taken down? Here’s the official statement from YouTube on what they allow and don’t allow in search terms: “we want to help you get to the information you are looking for as quickly as possible, but we also want to be careful not to show potentially upsetting content when you haven’t asked for it. For these features, we have developed policies to exclude things like porn, hate speech or violence from appearing.”

And who is to say whose definition of ‘violence’ we are going to accept? I happen to share many of the goals and objectives of Gun-control Nation and have promoted those goals and objectives in  the daily columns that I write. I also happen to be the co-founder of a national, gun buyback organization which connects buybacks to medical centers so that medical residents can get first-hand exposure to discussions with community residents about their guns. So I don’t need to justify my views about guns or gun violence to anyone at all.

Be that as it may, I’m still not persuaded that anyone should have veto power over any content that I or anyone else puts out online. I’m sorry, but I’m somewhat of an old-fashioned guy, and I want to decide for myself whether something I am reading is hurtful, or wrong, or even worse.

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2 thoughts on “Should We Be Policing The Internet For Content About Guns?

  1. Hear, hear.

    There has been quite a bit of bandwidth on the Cody Wilson/Defense Distributed issue. Not being a lawyer, I will just say that I am unconvinced that the current TRO is a justifiable case of using prior restraint. No one to my knowledge has demonstrated that our streets are awash with Liberators blowing up in people’s hands, even though the plans were released in 2013 even though the Feds later blocked them on ITAR (International Trafficking in Arms Regulations) grounds. I think the “clear and present danger” of this issue is that Democrats sound shrill and foolish. There is plenty of time to work on this as additive manufacturing technologies progress.

    The First Amendment is a delicate thing. As Mike so clearly demonstrates, one person’s good idea is another person’s blasphemy. That’s why a long series of SCOTUS cases have increasingly and explicitly said that even hate speech is protected and that speech that can theoretically promote violence is protected. Only speech directly and imminently inciting violence can be blocked. So having a set of codes to make a 3D gun is a far cry from shooting up the neighborhood.

    That said, the best analysis I saw of the Cody Wilson kerfufflem (cody is being represented by Heller v DC’s Alan Gura and law prof/lawyer Josh Blackman) was written by Eugene Volokh, a conservative, i.e., not exactly a member of gun control nation. He asks whether Cody’s plans are protectable speech or if they are merely part of a machine that can make a gun. Its over on Reason dot com somewhere.

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