Freedom of speech is one of the most important factors of a free society. The ability to say unpopular things is essential. After all, abolition was once an unpopular thing to talk about. So was civil rights. Questioning the government regarding the Vietnam War wasn’t always a popular thing either.
In the realm of ideas, you typically have a free market. Good ideas will grown, while bad ideas die a horrible, painful death given enough time. Not always (see communism, for example), but this is how it works most of the time. Most free nations understand that. However, Australia has apparently forgotten that little tidbit:
Australian MPs have started to call for legislative powers to compel social networks to swiftly remove offensive content, after Facebook failed to act decisively to remove a page containing numerous racist stereotypes of Australian aboriginals.
Facebook initially did nothing about the page, which disappeared briefly and then resurfaced marked as “controversial humour”.
The Social Network TM made some noises about freedom of speech, which apparently allows controversial humour even if it includes hate speech. At this point in the saga Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said he felt the page was inappropriate and should be removed.
Facebook seems to have finally done so as it became apparent the page contravened Australia’s racial discrimination laws. Controversy over the page also exploded into mainstream media. Australia’s media regulator and Racial Discrimination Commissioner are both looking into the incident.