The Westminster Declaration

138 journalists, artists, authors, activists, and public intellectuals (listed) call for ending censorship in the new "Westminster Declaration".
We write as journalists, artists, authors, activists, technologists, and academics to warn of increasing international censorship that threatens to erode centuries-old democratic norms.

Coming from the left, right, and centre, we are united by our commitment to universal human rights and freedom of speech, and we are all deeply concerned about attempts to label protected speech as ‘misinformation,’ ‘disinformation,’ and other ill-defined terms.

This abuse of these terms has resulted in the censorship of ordinary people, journalists, and dissidents in countries all over the world.

Such interference with the right to free speech suppresses valid discussion about matters of urgent public interest, and undermines the foundational principles of representative democracy.

Across the globe, government actors, social media companies, universities, and NGOs are increasingly working to monitor citizens and rob them of their voices. These large-scale coordinated efforts are sometimes referred to as the ‘Censorship-Industrial Complex.’

This complex often operates through direct government policies. Authorities in India[1] and Turkey[2] have seized the power to remove political content from social media. The legislature in Germany[3] and the Supreme Court in Brazil[4] are criminalising political speech. In other countries, measures such as Ireland’s ‘Hate Speech’ Bill[5], Scotland’s Hate Crime Act[6], the UK’s Online Safety Bill[7], and Australia’s ‘Misinformation’ Bill[8] threaten to severely restrict expression and create a chilling effect.

But the Censorship Industrial Complex operates through more subtle methods. These include visibility filtering, labelling, and manipulation of search engine results. Through deplatforming and flagging, social media censors have already silenced lawful opinions on topics of national and geopolitical importance. They have done so with the full support of ‘disinformation experts’ and ‘fact-checkers’ in the mainstream media, who have abandoned the journalistic values of debate and intellectual inquiry.

The full text of the Westminster Declaration (with list of 138 distinguished signatories) is here


Footnotes

[1] Pahwa, Nitish. 'Twitter Blocked a Country.' Slate Magazine, 1 Apr. 2023, slate.com/technology/2023/04/twitter-blocked-pakistan-india-modi-musk-khalistan-gandhi.html.

[2] Stein, Perry. 'Twitter Says It Will Restrict Access to Some Tweets before Turkey's Election.' The Washington Post, 15 May 2023, www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/05/13/turkey-twitter-musk-erdogan/.

[3] Hänel, Lisa. 'Germany criminalizes denying war crimes, genocide.' Deutsche Welle, 25 Nov. 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/germany-criminalizes-denying-war-crimes-genocide/a-63834791

[4] Savarese, Mauricio, and Joshua Goodman. 'Crusading Judge Tests Boundaries of Free Speech in Brazil.' AP News, 26 Jan. 2023, apnews.com/article/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-government-af5987e833a681e6f056fe63789ca375.

[5] Nanu, Maighna. 'Irish People Could Be Jailed for “Hate Speech”, Critics of Proposed Law Warn.' The Telegraph, 17 June 2023, www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/06/1 7/irish-people-jailed-hate-speech-new-law/?WT.mc_id=tmgoff_psc_ppc_us_news_dsa_generalnews.

[6] The Economist Newspaper. (n.d.). Scotland’s new hate crime act will have a chilling effect on free speech. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/the-world-ahead/2021/11/08/scotlands-new-hate-crime-act-will-have-a-chilling-effect-on-free-speech

[7] Lomas, Natasha. 'Security Researchers Latest to Blast UK's Online Safety Bill as Encryption Risk.' TechCrunch, 5 July 2023, techcrunch.com/2023/07/05/uk-online-safety-bill-risks-e2ee/.

[8] Al-Nashar, Nabil. 'Millions of Dollars in Fines to Punish Online Misinformation under New Draft Bill.' ABC News, 25 June 2023, www.abc.net.au/news/2023-06-25/fines-to-punish-online-misinformation-under-new-draft-bill/102521500.


Serendipity Home Page