Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wrote to Google CEO Larry Page this week, asking the company to block “terrorist” content from all of their platforms, specifically Blogger, according to a letter obtained by Talking Points Memo. The letter also calls for a “flag” button so that individuals can report what they deem to be terrorist content. In explaining his requests, Lieberman writes,
The private sector plays an important role in protecting our homeland from the preeminent threat of violent Islamist extremism, and Google’s inconsistent standards are adversely affecting our ability to counter Islamist extremism online.
The driving force behind Lieberman’s letter is the recent arrest of Jose Pimentel, who was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism. Lieberman laments Pimentel’s ability to spread “bomb-making instructions links” and “hate-filled writings” on a website created through Google’s Blogger platform. The website was removed shortly after Lieberman’s letter was received. Josh Feldman of Mediaite notes,
These kinds of policy decisions are almost always carried out subjectively, and if Google is given carte blanche to censor material they think could potentially influence terrorists, who knows what Blogger pages they would target.
Notably, although Google is a global company, Lieberman only wants them to censor “violent ideology” directed towards the West. He certainly would not censor his own violent statements openly calling to bomb Iran without any aggressive provocation on their part.
Senator Lieberman may have good intentions to prevent terrorism, but his desire for censorship severely endangers our right to freedom of speech.