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Freedom of Speech, Term Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 930

Term Paper

Freedom of speech is among the constitutional guarantees of radical democracy. In the United States, the right is protected under the First Amendment of the constitution. The law grants all Americans the freedom to access information and make their own judgments without interference from the government or other stakeholders. Censorship, on the contrary, refers to the act of imposing direct or indirect checks by different stakeholders, including the government, on an individual’s freedom of speech. Censorship differs from content moderation since the latter applies at a business level where organizations employ pre-defined rules to filter user-generated content. Different actors have raised conflicting concerns regarding the practice of censorship. Apparently, most of them perceive it as a denial of an individual’s basic rights to liberty. However, censorship can be viewed as a necessary evil that places limitations on some of the people’s basic human rights to protect the community’s human rights. The main purpose of censorship is to maintain public social decency and protect the public from undesirable social effects. The paper addresses the issue of hate speech and how censorship helps address the problem.

Currently, no legal definition of the term hate speech exists. However, the term refers to different forms of expression in which the speaker humiliates, vilifies, or perpetrates hatred against an individual or a group of individuals based on their gender identity, religion, ethnic background, national origin, disability, or sexual identity. Hate speech propagates quickly via social media platforms. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of attacks on immigrants and many other minorities. The attacks raise concern regarding the prevalence of hate speech online. Further, hate crimes emanate from various digital platforms. Experts claim that a greater percentage of people inclined towards homophobia, racism, and misogyny find niches online and use the various spaces to publicize their perceptions. In the U.S., supremacist attacks circulate among racist communities online. For instance, the White shooter who killed worshippers and clergymen at Charleston Church in 2015 underwent a learning process online and ultimately concluded that white supremacy involved violence. Additionally, the shooter in the Pittsburgh synagogue was a member of the Gab social media network that attracted extremists banned from other known platforms. Therefore, the presence of digital technologies and networks creates spaces for hate speech to circulate.

Various stakeholders exist that determine the laws to be applied to the area of speech across different jurisdictions. One of the main stakeholders includes the various social media network organizations. The entities have developed algorithms that assess user information to eliminate any forms of hate speech (Baase and Henry 154). They also place infringements to prevent conspiracies and false information from reaching audiences. For instance, Facebook developed global regulations to develop data standards, baseline content, privacy, and electoral integrity that governs all users globally. The second group of actors includes countries or democracies. However, different countries have varying approaches to censorship and content moderation. In the U.S., the constitution protects free speech, including hate speech. However, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act offers protections for providers of interactive computer services against legal liability for censoring certain content that has a negative impact on society (Lessig 7). For instance, the law allows social network companies to undertake “Good Samaritan blocking” of content that is supposedly harmful to the public. The law also expresses the vision of Congress to make online platforms a space for diversity in political ideologies. Consequently, the law in the U.S. allows companies to censor speeches that may perpetuate violence against minorities.

Effective application of values and assumptions on the issue of censorship, moderation, and free speech helps to establish a fairground upon which to base decisions and actions. When developing policies and laws to enact the First Amendment law while protecting the public from harmful content, it is important for actors to exercise fairness and justice. Social media platforms that act to prevent the publication of potentially negative speech should use uniform measures across all users, including governments and individual users. Second, the various actors should consider the basic purpose with which the internet was created. The assumption is that the internet should be an open platform to foster human expression and innovation (Wheeler nd). Consequently, when developing censorship and moderation laws, it is necessary not to deprive it of its initial goal.

Based on the above values and assumptions, I would suggest that the government establishes a law that directly addresses the issues that relate to free speech, such as hate speech, political ideologies, and conspiracy theories. The law should establish guidelines that ensure all digital media platforms have positive impacts on the general population. The action will protect the public against harmful content and violence that is bred through social media. However, the action may limit the ability of users to freely express themselves via digital media. The second action would be the development of policies that are applicable across all digital networks. The policies would promote fairness and allow for free expression. However, they may not achieve the intended protections against hate speech. Other topics that require analysis under the concept of free speech include the influence of social media on the U.S. presidential elections and the propagation of conspiracy theories on digital media networks.

Work Cited

Baase, Sara and Henry, Timothy. “A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing Technology.” 2017

Lessig, Larry. “The Laws of CyberspaceOpens in a new window.” 1998.

Wheeler, Tom. “This is how we will ensure net neutralityOpens in a new window.” Wired.com. 2015.

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