A short story of 500 words, written for the Frightmare Contest, January 2021.
| (500 words)
Freedom Of...? No Way!
“Everything’s ready to go on your say so, Sir.”
The two men stood side by side. One of them was clearly in charge; everything about him said so, from the way his feet were spread apart to the way he jutted out his chin. The other assumed a stance of subservience; hands clasped together in front of him, head slightly bowed.
The room was fitted out with two rows of monitors, and in front of each one sat a state-of-the-art robot. The fingers of every one of them were poised above the keys, just waiting for the order to get to work.
“So, just give me a recap of what these guys are going to do for me. And for the entire country, of course.”
“Yes, Sir, that goes without saying. Anything good for you has to be good for the country.” There was a pause as though the man was waiting for a pat on the head, but he had to content himself with a beaming smile.
“And... Come on, I want to know how all this is going to shut up the trouble-makers.”
With a nod, the subordinate filled in the details. “Every single message or comment made on any of the social media platforms will find itself diverted here before appearing. The AI will scan the contents before allowing them to continue on their way to their intended destination.”
“They have been programmed to filter out and isolate anything detrimental to your good self, Sir. Clearly that is not acceptable, and free speech or not, should not be allowed to be viewed.”
The big man nodded, a brief frown crossing his face at the very idea of criticism of himself or the policies he stood for. “Won’t someone notice? We can’t have too many questions being asked.”
“That’s where the additional programming comes in, Sir. Once an infringement has been identified, the culprit will be dealt with.”
“These robots simply have to touch the designated key and a signal will be sent directly to the sender. This signal will prove lethal to the person at whatever device the offending content originated.”
“Nice,” the big man said, but then he thought some more. “Are you sure that there will be no comeback?”
“Positive. Once that signal has been sent, the AI will ensure that some rather, shall we say disturbing content will be visible. Bad enough to have induced a coronary attack which unfortunately will be a lethal one.”
“Instead of the detrimental content, the AI will reword the original content to present you in a much more positive light, Sir.”
“Oh, I like the sound of this. And no one will ever be able to say I am taking away freedom of speech and the right to criticize?”
“You’ve got it, Sir. And by the time we’ve finished, everyone, and I do mean everyone, will come to realize that your way is the RIGHT way, the ONLY way, for our splendid nation.”