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Freedom of Speech

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Freedom of speech is the right of an individual to communicate his ideas, opinions or thoughts. It is a part of the freedom of expression. In the previous centuries, knowledge was identified to be of great importance, and its circulation was a major concern. In the circulation of information, many were faced with the challenge of filtering the information and the people who would access it (Burke & Ornstein, 1995). Although the freedom of speech is a right, it has responsibilities and duties that every person should observe. The freedom of speech consists mainly of the right to express or disseminate, seek, receive, and impart ideas or information. Freedom of speech covers a wide medium: print, the Internet etc.

Everyone upholds their right to the freedom of speech; however, there are boundaries to which the right is exercised out of which the individual would be held responsible as defined in law. The law requires that the right of freedom of speech must not abuse other people’s rights or the nation’s law. The right to the freedom of speech should not amount to libel, slander, obscenity, sedition, privacy or intellectual infringement. The restrictions are to ensure that the national security or the reputation of other individuals is not compromised, and that public order, morals and health is maintained. Therefore, these limitations make the freedom of speech not to be absolute; one may pass ideas or information without regard on the impact of information. The punishment of such infringements varies according to the requirements of law.

Our major concern is the freedom of speech on the Internet. Information over the Internet covers a wide area of subjects ranging from informative to commercial. The information over the Internet takes the form of pictures, videos, music, and written text. The Internet is a large medium where freedom of speech is exercised by a majority of people in various ways, including social websites such as Facebook, Twitter or video streaming sites such as YouTube. The Internet has much information that has created controversy on the capacity of law to restrict the abuse of the freedom of speech. Other conflicts such as who to hold responsible for the information published has risen in the past, especially on the social websites such as YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. For example, according to Sengupta’s Free Speech in the Age of YouTube (2012), different people and nations perceive given data and accountability. In Sengupta’s article, an anti-Islamic video was posted on YouTube which caused terrorism in some countries exercising Islam. On the other hand, some considered it to be of a great importance to have the video posted. The video raised concerns on the protocols used to filter information before being posted and who to hold accountable for such information. Google was faced with the challenge of exercising the freedom of speech, to which it responded that the video did not contain any content amounting to hate the speech. As a result, there is the concern of what content amounts to hate speech and how it is detected and filtered from the Internet.

It is essential to recognise the different cultures and the law governing a group of people to determine what content is harmful in nature or amounts to hate speech. YouTube decided to restrict the access of the video where the culture considered it hate speech such as in Egypt and Libya (Sengupta, 2012). In some countries such as Pakistan, it was decided to censor YouTube as a whole since murder cases related to the clip had been reported. Therefore, the importance of censorship is recognised as mass killings were reduced. If censorship of the given information over the Internet was to be carried out, the corrupt ethics and thoughts of the majority would not be effective in ensuring the morals and order maintained.

Every individual has the choice on which information they should watch as it is in the right of freedom for everyone to receive information. The values of individuals are the determinant of the information they would watch and those they would not. However, some information would make the corrupt morals of majority worse. Hence, censorship by a few is used to maintain order, public health and safety. Self-editing is the evaluation of oneself in knowing self. Self-edit enables individuals to improve their values, hence intensify their relationships.

Technology has overcome many barriers to information and its effect. Through technology, many have been able to post their barriers, turning the world into a global village. Persons separated by long distances and having the same values meet on the Internet and share a lot. For example, the anti-Islam clip brought the values of other people’s culture that, according to some, the information should be left for informative purposes. Everyone has the responsibility to respect other people’s values that are especially rooted in their culture (Burke & Ornstein, 1995). Hence, everyone owes other people’s value system which defines their culture. The power of choice is honoured by those who choose to edit themselves to ensure their morals and principles are maintained to the standards they have prescribed.

Personal responsibility denotes an individual’s value. Therefore, great values determine how people would exercise their rights without abusing the law or other people’s rights and reputation. The values that a person holds determine the information they would filter and the people they associate with and their attitude. Therefore, low values create negative impact while the positive values are productive in nature. The problem affecting other people should be of concern to everyone as the problem of one person may affect their actions and everyone around them, too. For example, the terrorist attacks in Egypt were due to the problem faced by others. 

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