Should professors have more free speech rights than others?

If we engaged in widely publicized hateful or hurtful or vile speech, our employers would likely begin job termination procedures within 24 hours regardless of whether we made such comments in a private capacity or not.

Professors and teachers argue their speech is protected by “academic freedom”, which they assert protects them from sanctions (or as seen below, even criticism by others) for engaging in hate speech. They assert they have greater speech rights than the rest of us. Randa Jarrar  says “I will never be fired” because she says, she has tenure:

While she asserts that her tenure gives her absolute freedom of speech, university officials publicly disagreed with her claim. Further views on that from the Washington Post.

A different Fresno State professor argues, in so many words, that objecting to his speech is wrong – while simultaneously condemning the speech of those criticizing him for his comments.  He asserts that due to academic freedom he has greater free speech rights than the rest of us and that he should be exempt from consequences (Read it: Fresno State’s Castro didn’t defend my free speech– from the title, he demands others defend his speech, thereby desiring to control the speech of others.)

The First Amendment restricts the government from passing laws controlling (most) speech; it does not require employers to embrace your speech nor does it prohibit employers for sanctioning you for your speech.  Nor does it prohibit others from condemning your speech and calling for sanctions. The First Amendment does not call upon others to defend your speech.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says ““Randa Jarrar’s speech is constitutionally protected, and Fresno State cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, discipline her for it”. That protection, however, does not extend to the rest of us, who as noted above, would be quickly fired.

Most expect professors and teachers to engage in civil discourse, based on facts and logic, and to not adopt the methods of propagandists using emotional language, swearing, hurtful and hateful speech, and doxxing a suicide crisis phone line. This is the behavior of middle school students – and not what we expect of professionals.

By creating two classes of free speech – those in a protected class and those who are not in a protected class – we distort public discourse.

For example, in my state all public sector workers are protected by law from retaliation in any form for their political views or activism. Private sector workers in “at will” employment have no protection and can be fired for any reason, including their political views.

This means public sector workers have a greater freedom to influence the political process than do private sector workers, giving public sector workers greater political power than private sector workers. This distorts the public discourse, harming democracy.

This distorted concept of free speech becomes a powerful tool in propaganda messaging. Randa Jarrar used the simple method of Name Calling (Bush is a racist). Academics frequently use the Appeal to Authority argumentative form (or as Jarrar put it, people want to listen to here, she’s a tenured professor and your not) but some also use their unique academic freedom to say what they want knowing that others are gagged. Which is a form of censorship that applies to one class but not the other.

Should some people have a greater right to engage in “free speech” – including hate speech – than others?

Note – my comments have nothing to do with left- versus right-wing faculty, causes, statements or proponents. My comments are about the question of whether some are more entitled to greater free speech rights than others and the effect this has on public discourse. Further, the actions of (presumably) a few faculty tarnish the reputation of the school and diminish the value of degrees earned by students at these schools. How is such nasty discourse helpful to anyone and how does it lead to making everyone’s lives better?

Shooter accused #Youtube of censoring and de-monitizing her videos

Police were notified about the shooter by her family and met with the shooter overnight Tuesday, before she went on a shooting rampage. After police notified the family they had found her, the family called the police back and notified the police they were worried she was going to engage Youtube. A few hours later, she shot up Youtube.

She said she was “filtered” by Youtube and Instagram. The vegan, anti-animal cruelty activist then attempted to murder many Youtube staff.

Much more here.

There is likely more to this story. “De-monitizing” videos refers to Youtube’s practice of turning off ad revenue to some videos including for unclear reasons. A photographer, posting a “how to” video saw his videos switched to de-monitized status as soon as he uploaded some of them. It would take days to have their status changed so that he could earn ad revenue; for many video producers, the first few days of viewing are the most lucrative. He posted a video showing Youtube demonitizing his video, in real time, immediately after he uploaded one. Numerous Youtube content producers have complained that Youtube is doing something odd and does not provide an explanation for what is occurring.

Youtube has its own social media problems independent of surveillance and propaganda.

Some of the problems could be similar to Facebook’s problem – too many users posting too much content to the point that Youtube is collapsing in on itself. It has been widely reported in the past that Youtube has become a “winner take all” market where a small number of users reap most of the rewards and new Youtubers are cut off, both by the reality of their now being too many content producers, and by Youtube policies that have cut new channels out of revenue opportunities. Youtube makes money off content produced by others, most of whom receive no earnings.

This is undoubtedly a complex story. It is one example of how social media has, unfortunately, driven some to violence (for any number of reasons). Youtube stars have been killed. In February, someone drove from New Mexico to Texas, broke into a home of a Youtube star and unsuccessfully tried to kill him and kidnap his wife. A young European maker of funny videos was “doxxed” by hackers, when her name, address, and names, address and phone numbers of her family were posted online. And many more examples.

EU intends to stop social media-based “fake news”

How they will do that is not clear. A great way to avoid social media-based fake news is to avoid social media 🙂

Brussels is preparing to crack down on social media companies who have been accused of spreading “fake news”, issuing a stark warning that scandals such as the Facebook data leak threaten to “subvert our democratic systems”.

Source: EU plans to crack down on ‘fake news’ in social media

Fake news is some times intended as satire but is also used as a form of propaganda messaging. When shared on social media, fake news stories are an effective form of propaganda, quickly reaching large audiences.

On the other hand, some fake news is legitimate satire from publications like The Onion and The Beaverton.

Microsoft to ban “offensive language” and implies they will censor your emails, if necessary

In a March 1 release, Microsoft is warning customers using Office, Xbox, Skype, and other products that the company is prohibiting offensive language and inappropriate content starting on May 1. “Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity),” Microsoft warns in a portion of their new codes of conduct.

Microsoft also added that the company plans on “investigating” users who are accused of violating the new policy and will block content from being sent to other people. “When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue,” the new policy states.

Source: Microsoft To Ban ‘Offensive Language’ And Monitor Your Private Account « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

The implication is that Microsoft will review and censor emails and documents you store in the OneDrive online cloud service.

UPDATE: The actual text of the new privacy agreement reads:

iv. Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).

This implies that the new policy applies to public posts and public sharing, although it is indeed written in a way that Microsoft could be spying on your private content. But I suspect the intended interpretation is “Don’t publicly (display or use the Services)” where the intent is “publicly” … “use the Services”. The “or” makes it possible to interpret the sentence as merely “use the Services” with the wrong content, suggesting private information.

Proof that #Facebook censored the political posts and ads we saw #DeleteFacebook

Last Friday, I hypothesized that I saw only left wing political propaganda on Facebook in 2016 because Facebook had presumably identified me as “Liberal”. This hypothesis is now confirmed. This political attribute was used by Facebook as a filter – I saw left wing click bait ads, and due to Facebook’s news feed filtering, I only saw left wing propaganda posters shared by “friends”.

As a consequence of that, most of the propaganda posters I evaluated on this blog were left wing posters. I did, at times, search for conservative propaganda to examine (but never could find that much). I was mystified as to why I saw only left wing propaganda while the news media was telling us that all social media propaganda was conservative.

Now we know how this occurred – here is the Facebook description of my politics in a single word:

Facebook was deliberately censoring conservative propaganda so I never saw it- and censoring based on a lie. Also, I do not own a Galaxy S6 and never have. Their data base model is garbage.

I posted my politics on the About page. I took an online survey of issues and policies and the survey concluded I should vote for Bernie Sanders or Rand Paul, with equal measure even though the two are nearly opposites!

Thereafter, the list alternated left/right/left/right down the list, showing that characterizing me as left or right was hardly a useful distinction. In fact, was not then a member of any political party and I had not been a party member for decades. However, in the spring of 2017, I joined my state’s Libertarian Party.

Because of this egregious error by Facebook, and my being perplexed by crazy left wing propaganda posters, I started this blog and ended up mostly analyzing (and demolishing) left wing propaganda posters.

This and so much more that we have learned during the past week illustrates that Facebook’s continued operation is dangerous for the safety of the world. Facebook is nothing more than a pure propaganda operation based on global surveillance. Facebook operated in a reckless manner, tearing our society apart and having no regard for what it was doing. I cannot think of a more vile and disgusting organization than Facebook nor a more vile and disgusting individual than the arrogant, narcissistic lying Mark Zuckerberg.

#Facebook is a friction-less platform for illegal discrimination #DeleteFacebook

Facebook’s ad platform enables discrimination based on age, sex, and race. That means, Facebook enables advertisers to display ads only to say, whites, or only to young job applicants or only display nursing jobs to women. It is a sneaky way for firms to discriminate against groups of people – generally without any risk of being caught because the target selector is secret. Thus minorities never see housing ads targeted at whites and will never know that Facebook is a friction-less platform for illegal discrimination.

Facebook is incredibly ugly and they use the data against you.

In 2016, ProPublica discovered that Facebook’s algorithms allowed advertisers to exclude users based on race when posting housing ads, and as recently as the end of last year the company hadn’t changed that. And Roger McNamee, a high-profile, early investor in Facebook, wrote recently that Facebook is essentially an “unguarded platform” and an ideal target for abuse. He offers as an example a firm that was harvesting data on users interested in Black Lives Matter and selling that data to police departments; Facebook didn’t do anything until the news became public, and essentially slapped the firm on the wrist.

Source: Mark Zuckerberg Is Sorry Your Data Was Stolen and Will Actually Try to Keep It Safe Now

This discriminatory use of Facebook was going on as recently as the past few months. The root cause problem is Zuckerberg.

No one should continue using Facebook.

Zuckerberg admits that Artificial Intelligence is not a magic bullet

It still requires human intervention:

“There’s certainly a lot that A.I. can do, we can train classifiers to identify content, but most of what we do is identify things that people should look at.”

Source: Facebook’s Zuckerberg Speaks On Cambridge Analytica Scandal | Time

As pointed out on this blog, the capabilities of AI/machine learning have been significantly over stated. Adding more software is not going to solve these problems. Many problems need new business procedures, not software to automate ineffective business procedures.

NAS, NAE, NAM seek to counter “misinformation” on the Internet

March 20, 2018

Statement by NAS, NAE, and NAM Presidents on Effort to Counter Online Misinformation

We are pleased to announce that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are exploring ways to mobilize our expertise to counter misinformation on the web related to science, engineering, and health. Part of the mission of the National Academies has always been to help ensure that public discourse is informed by the best available evidence. To that end, we are convening Academy members to discuss ways by which we could help verify the integrity and accuracy of content in these fields in a manner that is consistent with our standards for objective, trustworthy, evidence-based information; this exploratory phase will be supported by a grant from Google. We are excited to pursue an effort that aligns with our fundamental principles and that we believe is critically important at a time when misinformation is a threat to sound decision-making and an informed citizenry.

Marcia McNutt

President, National Academy of Sciences

C. D. (Dan) Mote, Jr.

President, National Academy of Engineering

Victor J. Dzau

President, National Academy of Medicine

Source: Statement by NAS, NAE, and NAM Presidents on Effort to Counter Online Misinformation

In theory, this sounds good. On the other hand, we have been led down the path of nutrition science malpractice in the 1980s leading to the obesity and diabetes crises of probably two generations – this could also end up causing harm.


For those not around in the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. government established nutritional guidelines for all of America. They decided all fat was evil and we should strive to eliminate all fat from our diets. We should also eliminate eggs, and at various times, coffee and salt. Sugar, interestingly, was not a problem. The government launched a major propaganda operation to promote the guidelines. This propaganda effort used media, employers and food corporations to promote it.  Almost immediately, average weights in the U.S. began increasing, and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes began increasing.

This led to an ever expanding list of special-case hypotheses insuring us that the government’s guidelines were correct and something else was to blame.

In the early 1980s, my wife worked as a biochemist for a large pharmaceutical company. The company sponsored seminars to promote the new guidelines, and families were invited to attend. Here, professional nutritionists advised us we should get rid of as much fat as possible from our diets. The person behind me raised his hand and asked, “So what your saying is that fat is bad but sugar is okay?”. The response from the professional nutritionists was that we did not need to worry about sugar unless we were diabetic. Oh, and the majority of our diet should consist of grains, which for most people meant ground up wheat.

Face palm moment. Yet for decades, anyone who questioned the scientific establishment was considered a heretic. Today, we now know this advice was bunk. Read any number of books on the subject, or compare the DASH diet of the 1980s with the DASH diet of today – nearly a reversal of what they preached in the 1980s.

The question becomes: how do we avoid this scenario from repeating itself where experts are far too confident in their hypotheses and use their authority (“appeal to authority”) argument to shut down dissenting perspectives?

Google launches program to combat fake news

Of course, it could end up with biases that turn it into yet-another propaganda operation, by flagging legitimate stories that have “wrong public opinion orientation”.

On our own platforms, we’re focused on combating misinformation during breaking news situations.  Bad actors often target breaking news on Google platforms, increasing the likelihood that people are exposed to inaccurate content. So we’ve trained our systems to recognize these events and adjust our signals toward more authoritative content. There are comparable challenges on YouTube, and we’re taking a similar approach, highlighting relevant content from verified news sources in a “Top News” shelf.

But we’re also working directly with news organizations to combat misinformation. We’re launching the Disinfo Lab alongside the First Draft to combat mis- and disinformation during elections and breaking news moments. Finally, to help consumers distinguish fact from fiction online,  we’re teaming up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and the Local Media Association to launch MediaWise, a U.S. project designed to improve digital information literacy for young consumers.

Source: The Google News Initiative: Building a stronger future for news

This initiative will be used, and certainly gamed by many parties, to censor information not coming from approved sources. In other words, this could devolve into quite a propaganda coup.