“Corporate censorship might be the most overlooked online threat because so much of our speech is already taking place on these platforms.”
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) defends civil liberties in the digital world. They build tools, pursue policy and legal change, and do international and domestic advocacy work.
“My focus recently has been Internet censorship. We try to show that censorship, like what we see on Facebook, not only exists, but we also try to encourage companies to be more transparent and accountable about it,” explained Jillian York, Director of International Freedom of Expression Issues at EFF. “We believe there’s a lot of over-censorship happening.”
“Corporate censorship might be the most overlooked online threat because so much of our speech is already taking place on these platforms,” noted York, “but, globally speaking government censorship is the biggest threat.” Governments, especially oppressive regimes, take to a variety of tactics like DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, which use Internet traffic to take sites offline. These attacks are often launched by government supported entities or even governments themselves . The issue is that major publications work with these regimes to get their content published, but allow it to be censored. “In some countries, if you’re a newspaper and are supportive of the government then you probably get some sort of kickback, unlike the publications that are trying to publish the truth and get attacked,” York commented.
Society places limitations on physical actions, but it’s difficult to negotiate rules on intangible or virtual speech. “Well who can we trust to be the censor?” York challenged. “I’m not so much a fight to the death for your right to say it kind of person, but I believe very strongly in counter speech and combatting ideas; Tackling things on a societal level rather than censoring them. There’s a difference between actions and ideas. There’s a reason we have restrictions on inciting mobs: It’s reasonable to restrict violence because these aren’t words, and these aren’t criticisms, these are dangerous actions.”
Partnering with Project Galileo
EFF is a small organization that relies on outside support to fulfill their mission, and their mission involves a lot of people relying on them for protection.
“A lot of our international work falls under the rubric of individual advocacy,” York explained. “If somebody is in prison for their online speech, they often times rely on EFF for assistance. Project Galileo helps us because we can directly protect these individuals and keep their content online.”
EFF was instrumental in getting Project Galileo off the ground and was outwardly supportive of the mission when it launched. “In 2011 we did a guide to preventing DDoS attacks,” York noted, “and at the time there was really only one service that worked in the way that Project Galileo does. They were small and non-profit, so Project Galileo was great because it offered a broader option with more resources for people that needed it.”