In this world we have an on going debate on wether or not Freedom Speech in the internet should be acceptable as the Constitution said it would in real life. The First Amendment in the American Constitution famously guarantees US citizens the right to free speech. In Britain, until a “bill of rights” is established, in the form of the adoption of the European Convention of Human Rights next year, free speech is only defined negatively: we can only speak freely if the laws covering confidentiality, contempt of court, data protection and official secrets aren’t transgressed. Freedom of expression has long been regarded as one of the fundamental principles of modern democracies, in which civil liberties are honoured and regarded as a prerequisite for individual development and fulfilment. Getting the balance between freedom to speak and freedom from fear has troubled democracies and democratic theorists for hundreds of years. The 19th Century philosopher JS Mill, whose On Liberty (1859) remains a potent exposition of the value and limits of liberty, argued that you must distinguish between freedom to speak and freedom to act.
What is the problem with the internet?
Internet speech has potentially far greater impact than speech through ordinary media. It has the potential to be the genuine voice of the grassroots, uncontrolled by any media organisations. It has the potential to communicate in video, audio, pictures and text, as well as reach far more people than the biggest satellite TV station or best-read international newspaper. It also has the potential for people to interact, uniting disparate movements in distant countries or enabling them to add their own information or support.
So, internet speech can facilitate or incite action much more effectively than traditional media. In this way it is an intensification of the problems that come with free speech.
It is likely that the internet will be the arena in which the tense relationship between the freedom to speak and the freedom from fear will be negotiated in modern democracies.
What laws restrict free speech on the internet?
The law is flustered and in flux over the internet. There are no international laws governing internet use. At present different countries’ different laws apply to internet communications and content, although there are problems tracing just who is responsible for sites, particularly when they originate from, and are hosted in, foreign countries. Despite this, most governments are in the process of developing new laws to better monitor and control internet content. Often it is the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the “publishers” who provide web space, who have been held responsible for internet content that individuals are the authors of. The anti-censorship pressure group, Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain, was created in response Scotland Yard’s request to ISPs to censor their news feeds
Can free speech on the internet be stopped by technology?
Technology is used to censor and evade censorship, although it seems likely that censorship tools will grow in sophistication and use as legislators struggle to censor the internet.
Three of the main ways in which free speech on the internet can be curtailed are ratings, PICs and filters.