#rpEUROPE Speaker Jillian York on Hate Speech

May we present: Our #rpEUROPE speakers! The next speaker we’d like to introduce is the American activist Jillian York. She is the Director for International Freedom of Expression at EFF. Her work examines state and corporate censorship and its impact on culture and human rights. She is currently working on several projects, including Surveillance Self-Defence and Onlinecensorship.org. Jillian's writing has been featured in Motherboard, the Guardian, Quartz, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, among others. At #rpDUB & #rpTHE, she will be talking about hate speech and will also be holding a cypto boat session. But why not find out more in our short interview? 

What challenges is Europe currently facing and how can the digital society help manage them?
As a foreigner, I find it difficult to really answer the first part of the question, but what I would like to do is caution Europeans against techno-determinism or the idea that technology can solve our problems. Recent developments, such as the hate speech law that requires private companies to litigate speech, aren't the way forward; we need to maintain the rule of law, and privatizing enforcement is not the way to do that.

What is your main line of work?
My work covers two main areas: Freedom of expression and digital security. For almost a decade now, I've been observing the role of private companies in regulating our speech. So many of us use social media now, but few of us think of what it means for these private, American companies to make and enforce the rules about what we can and cannot say or share. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are imposing their own values on the world, and in some cases, censoring important speech. My project, Onlinecensorship.org, seeks to hold companies accountable for the decisions they make to regulate speech. We would like to see these companies be more transparent about how they enforce their rules, and provide due process to users.

What can visitors expect from your #rpEUROPE talk about hate speech?
I'm frustrated by "both sides" of the hate speech debate. On the one hand, I think that politicians are too quick to assign blame and responsibility to technology platforms...Facebook didn't cause hate speech, and censoring it there without doing anything else isn't going to solve the problem. On the other hand, especially in the United States, there seems to be an idea that free speech means that all speech should be treated equally, and I don't agree with that. Although I am a firm believer that the state should not interfere with or censor speech, I also believe that we have to fight hate speech in every other way possible. And that's what this talk will address - how hate speech impacts different communities, why censorship is ineffective and perhaps even counterproductive, and what are the other options we have for fighting hate speech in our communities.


Thanks Jillian, see you at #rpEUROPE!

Photo credit: private