The Global War on Free Speech

The Global War on Free Speech

Around the world, countries with long histories of freedom, democracy and rule of law are introducing extreme controls on what their citizens can say. Under laws currently going into force you could:

  • Go to jail for life because of something you’ve said;
  • Be placed under house arrest and blocked from going online because the government fears you might say something it disapproves of in the future;
  • Receive a visit from the police because of something you said in your own home in a private conversation;
  • Be denounced to authorities by a “friend,” who could collect a bonus from the government for turning you in.

The last item is perhaps the most startling because it is part of a bill being passed into law in the United States—despite the First Amendment and the world’s most robust protection of free speech.

The House and Senate of Washington State passed a bill earlier this month that will create a hotline where callers can receive up to $2,000 by snitching on “hate speech” of those around them. It’s just awaiting the governor’s signature, which should come soon.

The law will allow the government to “provide compensation to persons targeted or affected by hate crimes and bias incidents.” A “bias incident” includes speech where “criminal investigation or prosecution is impossible or inappropriate.” So you could make a perfectly legal comment but still be reported for a bounty. Is Washington trying to set up its own Stasi?

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced plans to expand her state’s hate crime laws. She also has a phone number and a website to report hate crimes and “bias incidents”—but no bounties are offered yet. Michigan’s House has passed Bill 4474, which would make it a felony to cause someone to “feel terrorized, frightened or threatened.” Misgender someone, and if he says he feels threatened by you, you could face five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In Scotland, it’s worse. Starting on April 1, a comment made in the privacy of your own home could land you in jail. The Hate Crime and Public Order Act fights hatred against protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Advertisements—including one featuring an angry Elmo—encourage citizens to report their neighbors. In case people are intimidated by going to the police, they’ve set up “third-party reporting centers” where people can report hate crimes. These centers include a mushroom farm and sex shop. If you misgender someone or insist that marriage can only be between a man and woman, the Scottish government wants to hear about it.

Ireland also has a hate crime bill well on its way to becoming law that criminalizes the possession of “hate speech.” You can go to jail for something you say—but also if someone writes something “hateful” and gives it to you. If the Trumpet magazine or our e-mail brief is deemed hateful, and you receive them, the Irish government could lock you up for five years.

For Canada, five years is too short. Its new Online Harms Bill, also known as C-63, would enact a life sentence for “incitement to genocide.” According to activists, “misgendering” is violence, and refusing to allow transgender people into the bathroom of their choice is genocide because you’re trying to erase all trans people. Will Canada adopt this definition?

A more standard hate crime—defined as expressing “detestation or vilification” of a protected group—could cost you $20,000 to $40,000 and land you in jail for five years.

If the government thinks you might commit a hate crime in the future, it can put you under house arrest for a year and block your communication—including the Internet. Get around this, and you could go to jail. Canada is legislating against pre-crime and thought crime in one bill.

This bill also applies retroactively. Annoyed with someone? Trawl through her social media, and you might find something that could send her to jail. And she could be forced to pay you $20,000 in compensation for the hate she’s subjected you to.

Overseeing all of this would be the Digital Safety Commission, which can block any content, hold secret hearings, and has no oversight. Unlike police, it doesn’t need a warrant to act. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says this board has the power to “interpret the law, make up new rules, enforce them, and then serve as judge, jury and executioner.”

The justification for this bill is cracking down on online child abuse and child pornography. Yet it is clearly targeting political opponents.

It makes you wonder what the current Canadian knows that we don’t. Under a normal political system where a political party’s rivals could take power in a few years, they’d be insane to pass a law like this. Justin Trudeau has famously dressed in blackface; it won’t be hard to find something he’s said in the past that breaks the law. Yet the left in Canada believes it has permanent control of the government and judiciary. If it can go after anyone who might commit a nebulous hate crime in the future, it’s hard to see how anyone would be safe.

Of all the bills, Canada’s is furthest from becoming law and could be substantially amended. But Canada’s left has spent years pushing in this direction. If it can’t go all the way this time, expect it to try again later.

All of this focuses on English-speaking countries with a long tradition of free speech. In Europe, that tradition is much shorter. In February, the European Union’s Digital Services Act went into force, obliging social media giants to delete anything the EU deems “disinformation.”

To counter the rise of the “far right,” governments are getting much more involved in policing speech. Last month, a 16-year-old German girl was pulled out of chemistry class by three police officers because she shared a Smurf video on TikTok supportive of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Some in the AfD are outright neo-Nazis (we’ve warned about the danger of that party), but this draconian crackdown on speech by those currently in office could be even more dangerous.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said last month, “I would like to treat right-wing extremist networks in the same way as organized crime. Those who mock the state must have to deal with a strong state ….” She wants the government to go after the bank accounts of “right-wing extremists” with a high “potential for action and social influence.” Some of these “right-wing extremists” are genuinely dangerous. Others simply want less migration and climate-change nonsense. Hold the wrong opinions, though, and the government wants to shut you down.

Thomas Haldenwang, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, was at the same event, where he said the government must not allow right-wing “thought and speech patterns to become part of our language.”

At another event, Family Minister Lisa Paus complained about those who spread hate on the Internet that “falls below the threshold of criminal liability.” People “know exactly what is protected by freedom of expression” and speak without breaking the law. They must be stopped, she said.

When even the anti-Nazis in Germany are talking about regulating “thought and speech” patterns, you know you have a problem.

What is behind this widespread attack on free speech?

A key prophecy we’ve focused on in recent years comes from 2 Kings 14. Amos is a book of prophecy. Amos 7 speaks of “King Jeroboam.” This makes the history of King Jeroboam ii in 2 Kings 14 prophetic. This ancient king was a type of a modern leader. 2 Kings 14:26 says that “the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter ….” God used Jeroboam ii, an evil king, to stop this bitter affliction.

It’s a type of the affliction hitting America, Britain, Canada and others today. “With radicals in power, how could anyone complete God’s work of delivering the warnings of Amos to America and its leaders?” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his book America Under Attack.

Modern Christians don’t want to talk much about the very real spirit world, but it is essential to understand this news. There is a devil who wants to stop God’s plan and God’s message. That means restricting what people can say.

“Look at how leftists are now using their power in the media, technology companies and social media to silence anyone who disagrees with them,” writes Mr. Flurry. “They are clamping down on free speech and trampling the supreme law of the land! Our forefathers had to die to secure our freedom of speech and freedom of religion! What kind of people are we dealing with?”

These same prophecies say God will intervene to allow a message to continue to go out one last time. To learn how, read our free book America Under Attack.