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Samoa vs anti-vaxxers

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Samoa is currently in a state of emergency with the country on lock down from the measles epidemic sweeping the country. The death toll has passed 70, mostly the very young. 

Into this disaster the anti-vax community has waded in trying to convince people not to get the emergency vaccines being rushed out. 

The vaccination rate was believed to have dropped as low as 30% in large part due to the anti-vax message via social media. The Samoan government passed an emergency law outlawing anyone trying to block the vaccinations and have prosecuted a guy for doing just that: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/anti-vaxxer-appears-in-samoa-court-first-person-charged-under-emergency-laws-amid-measles-epidemic

 

This has raised a discussion on free speech, as whether speech causing direct public harm should be curtailed. The consideration here is also whether us, safe in western society, should be saying things to second and third world countries that can directly lead to death? A similar subject would be blocking condoms to aids ravaged nations or the people stopping starving people getting food cos of the risk of GMOs. 

These countries have poor or even no education, so a westerner telling them "facts" will have a great impact. Free speech within our own nations is one thing, but externally is more of a grey area and policing social media is a huge undertaking. But if these companies believe they can block terrorists, bomb making, neo-nazis and similar subjects, should health risk issues be added to the list?

 

The uneducated don't have the resources to confirm the facts, so should we be protecting them from bad ideas or is that a slippery slope to blocking more and more speech? 

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     Anti-vaxxers can suck it.  They have no evidence of anything they assert so they lose.  Unless a person has an actual medical reason for exemption then they should be vaccinated for these diseases.  It would be nice if draconian, authoritarian, measures didn't have to be taken but "free speech" can't be the umbrella these folks hide under because they're afraid all the while their decisions are actively causing harm.

 

          mwc

 

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Free speech is not absolute; it is all a matter of where you draw the line.  Falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, harassment, libel, bomb threats, and now even urging someone to commit suicide are not protected.  If a country has a measles epidemic that is killing people, I do not see a problem if their government decides that anti-vax speech is not free; it’s like telling people to walk across a crowded freeway.  The same would go for blocking the shipment or discouraging the use of condoms in an aids-ravaged country.  Someone has to make those decisions, and you always hope that they will do it rationally, and not block things like political ads for their opponents, or revelations of corruption; but of course it may happen.

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I think every freedom has to be weighed up against potential harm caused. (This is one of my issues with drug law reform and how to tackle drug use. Fundamentally I think each person should be able to put whatever shit they want in their bodies. But I also understand that thee is a significant social cost to allowing people to do this. If we could figure out a way to limit the social cost while allowing the freedom to take drugs I'd be all ears.)

 

Of that aside - certain speech clearly has devastating effects - anti vaxxers is a prime example. Where as flat earther's, and to an extent creationists are just morons, their beliefs don't do significant damage. Anti vaxxers, neo Nazis, Islamic terrorism on the other hand cause significant damage and therefore shouldn't be protected by free speech.

 

Basically if the speech is likely to lead to real world physical harm its not free speech. I'm a little more dubious about including mental harm in there, but if someone is clearly trying to harm a person psychologically then that's not free speech either.

 

Of course this topic is fraught with danger so nuanced discussion is important.

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