When Misinformation Impedes Free Speech

Professional songwriter, musician and music blogger for The Guardian Helienne Lindvall recently wrote an excellent post about her experience at a debate on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.  Asked to represent the viewpoint of content creators, Helienne did a significant amount of research and preparation for the debate after acknowledging she had her own concerns about the agreement having been told it would impede free speech.  She discovered however that “ACTA would do nothing of the sort.  In fact, it wouldn’t change any existent laws in the EU.”


Helienne went on to say her preparations were mostly in vain, as she was silenced by the moderator due to disruptive comments from the audience.  She also witnessed other pro-ACTA voices being drowned out by the anti-copyright attendees.  She writes “There’s a certain irony in claiming to be a proponent of free speech while actively trying to silence those who don’t agree with you.”

As we noted in an earlier blog post, ACTA is one of several legislative and regulatory proposals that have been painted as the “next SOPA” or “SOPA’s evil twin” despite the fact that those comparisons are wholly inaccurate.   Helienne notes that lack of independent investigation of the facts behind legislative proposals and agreements such as these is harmful to finding solutions to the problems the proposals address:

 “I understand why many people would sign an online petition against Acta if they've been told it's a threat to freedom of speech and privacy. I would have done the same if I hadn't read through the actual agreement. And if I didn't think counterfeit trade in any way impacted on me, it would be even easier to for me to say no without bothering to read it. Maybe that is why so many of the opponents of Acta have never seen a proposal for copyright enforcement that they wouldn't say no to."

As the European Parliament moves to a vote on ACTA this summer, we hope lawmakers and activists alike will take the time to read and think about Helienne's experiences and what they mean for the cause of Free Speech.  Equally important, we hope activists on both sides will take the time to read the agreement, which is available here, so that further debate and discussion on the matter will be based on facts.