Is Sony’s crackdown a bigger threat to western free speech than North Korea?

Trevor Timm writes: After a pre-Christmas week full of massive backlash for caving to a vague and unsubstantiated threat by hackers supposedly from North Korea, Sony has reversed course and decided it will allow The Interview to be shown after all – thus all but ending what Senator John McCain absurdly called “the greatest blow to free speech that I’ve seen in my lifetime probably”.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s unequivocally good news that North Korea (or whoever hacked Sony) won’t succeed in invoking a ludicrous heckler’s veto over a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen, but there are far greater threats to our freedom of speech here in the United States. For example, Sony itself.

Lost in the will-they-or-won’t-they controversy over Sony’s potential release of The Interview has been the outright viciousness that Sony has unleashed on some of the biggest social-media sites and news outlets in the world. For the past two weeks, the studio has been trying to bully these publishing platforms into stopping the release of newsworthy stories or outright censoring already-public information contained in the hacked emails, despite a clear First Amendment right to the contrary.

On top of Sony’s worrying and legally dubious threats, the most explosive and under-read story inside the hacked trove involves Sony and its close allies at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) attempting to censor the internet on a much larger scale, by reviving a re-tooled version of a highly controversial bill known as Sopa that was scuttled back in 2011 because of widespread fears that it would destroy online free speech as we know it. [Continue reading…]

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