Now this is an interesting and complex question.
Far too big a subject to be addressed by my comparatively little brain or written about in a few hundred words. However we all know that stifling free expression is counterproductive.
So is Freedom of expression still a universal human right?
Is it the lynch pin of democracy?
The Internet is by its very nature border less, but it is still intimately connected to the physical world, and as such to the territories of sovereign nation states.
Therefore, states can significantly influence the free flow of information, expression and free speech.
An open and free Internet is a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly. However, these freedoms in our present world cannot on one hand be absolute and on the other they have to be absolute.
Freedom of information is a fundamental element of freedom of expression, with the Internet a key instrument for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
This is the Quandary.
Because when you turn to Google with a question, the search engine must decide, at that moment, what “answers” to give, and in what order to put those answers.
Is it commercializes something that is not commerceable? And if so is there a compelling argument that computerized decisions should be considered speech?
Computers as you know make trillions of invisible decisions each day.
Gone are the days of waiting for the evening news to present events occurring on the battlefield. Gone are the days of relying on professional journalists, or embedded reporters, to paint the day-to-day picture of the world.
Gone are the days that the Internet was merely an alternative communicative channel.
What will its impact be on free speech?
I believe in the long run it is going to be the down fall of free speech and expression.
Cyberspace today is an important part of living as a private and public individual in the modern world. It is a way of speaking and listening; an essential part of being human, but is it turning into a privatized “wild west”, where individuals’ expressions and information retrieval is not subject to arbitrary restrictions with no judicial review or democratic legitimacy.
Should non human or automated choices be granted the full protection of Free Speech?
Is it time for states to grant these expressions the same protection, which we apply to expressions in the physical world ?
Self-regulation is a dangerous path when applied to public sphere communication.
My answer is – No Cyberspace should not be allocated such a high status.
Because Extremists –often claim to speak for whole communities.
Because if we are not careful the potential result is that we get a homogenised, sanitised universal culture that either gives offense to none or is controlled by the most vocal and powerful group whatever the rest of the populace may want or believe.
In July 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee confirmed the central role of freedom of expression in human rights, making it clear that it can only be limited in the most exceptional circumstances, and calling for the first time for unrestricted public access to official information.
Now we all know that there cannot be a democratic society without the fundamental right to freedom of expression but the internet is allowing new means for humans to express themselves. Hong Kong as I write is expressing all over social net works its unwillingness to have Beijing puppets put up for election.
Because in today’s world, we have delegated many of our daily decisions to computers. On the drive to work, a GPS device suggests the best route; at your desk, Microsoft Word guesses at your misspellings, and Facebook recommends new friends.
In the past few years, the suggestion has been made that when computers make such choices they are “speaking,” and should enjoy the protections of the First Amendment. Free Speech.
Because the internet connectives which the internet provides to humans today makes it possible for soldiers in Iraq to post their thoughts and reflections regarding an upcoming or recently accomplished mission, to include pictures and video, on a blog in Iraq and within seconds this news from the front can be read by thousands if not millions of people world-wide.
Everyone has the right to associate freely through and on the Internet, for social, political, cultural or other purposes. There are efforts by a number of states including Russia, China and Iran to increase state control of the internet within their territories.
The Internet is a space for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights and the advancement of social justice. While governments have an important obligation in protecting and furthering internet freedom, the very nature of the Internet means that civil society, the private sector and academia also need to be involved in discussions on internet governance not just Governments.
Free speech is essential to a free society because, when you deny people ‘an opportunity to act like normal political parties’, there’s nothing left for them to do but punch your lights out. Just look at what is happening with a culture like ISIS that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity. It is a barbarous society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast if left alone.
Another growing causes for concern is that diverse voices of the non-religious are either not being heard or are not equally valued: Religious voices are claiming their right to freedom of expression but at the cost of non-religious voices being silenced.
The ability to freely speak your mind is widely seen as a natural right, in other words a government (or any other institution) can’t grant you this right, only take it away. A liberal society is one which is content to call ‘true’ (or ‘right’ or ‘just’) whatever the outcome of undistorted communication happens to be, whatever view wins in a free and open encounter.
If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all.
We live, in ‘interesting’ times, from Islam and Israel to global warming and gay marriage.
Within the EU,internet there is no specific (foreign) policy agenda for internet freedom.
So the question I started out with might sound like a fanciful question, a matter of philosophy or science fiction but a world where real, primal, universal rights — like freedom of expression is where I want to live.
Everyone has the duty to respect the human rights of all others in the online environment.
How about You!