Free speech is becoming more and more significant in the digital era as a result of the growth of the Internet and the globalization of information exchange. People now have a huge platform to freely express their ideas and thoughts because to the growth of the Internet. Free speech, however, has been significantly impacted by the institutionalization and regulation of the Internet, leading to a contentious discussion about how to balance free speech, regulators, and Internet institution and governance. Censorship of Content on Social Media Platforms The focus of content filtering is on the material shared on platforms and the material of feedback (such as videos and comments on Jieyin, etc.). However, the discussion on free speech has been sparked by platforms’ censorship of material. Contrarily, legislation can be a powerful tool in the fight against hate speech, terrorist propaganda, and misinformation in order to defend public interest, social order, and national security. This essay examines how Internet institutions and governance affect citizens’ freedom of expression and examines the pros and cons of each to show how they might be balanced to preserve societal harmony.
A fundamental value known as “freedom of expression” encourages people and communities to speak out.
When it comes to whether or not the law should impose restrictions on what a person can say in public, Australians are similarly divided: 44% of respondents think that occasionally some legal restrictions are necessary, while 47% think that the law should not do so (Kurti and Prasser, 2023).In accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), “everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive, and share information and ideas of all kinds without regard to borders, whether orally, in writing or print, in art, or through any other medium of his choosing” (1996).” People may easily obtain information and expertise thanks to the internet. In addition, more people can join in political and social discussions online, regardless of their location or social standing. Public policy debates and societal change have benefited from this. The failure of platforms to curtail online harassment, abuse, and hate speech as well as to halt the propagation of terrorism has also drawn harsh criticism. Concerns about the unregulated nature of these platforms and their political, social, and cultural ramifications were first expressed as a result of “public shock” (Flew et al., 2019).
The application of free speech has become more contentious as the digital era progresses due to the emergence of new communication channels and limitations.
The right to free speech and expression, however, is not always unrestricted. Typical restrictions on this right include those against defamation, hate speech, copyright violations, the disclosure of trade secrets, and others. The application of free speech has become more contentious as the digital era progresses due to the emergence of new communication channels and limitations, such as the Golden Shield program launched by the Chinese government’s Ministry of Public Security. The Public Information and Cybersecurity Surveillance Bureau is managed by the Golden Shield program, which is intended to weed out possibly harmful and illegal material from other nations. A database that functions in part as a monitoring network is the Golden Shield program’s art (2014). It is in charge of, “access control, anti-hacking, communications security, computer accessories and software, decryption and encryption, e-commerce security, extranet and intranet security, firewalls, network communications, network security and management, operational security, smart card security, system security, virus detection, and IT-related services (2014).”
Along with the rise of digital tools that enable easily disseminated false information, hateful content online has grown significantly. To maintain social order and legal conformity, regulation may place limitations on a given category of content. These include battling misinformation, terrorist propaganda, and hate speech. Hate speech and terrorist propaganda may incite violence, endanger social cohesion, and encourage violent behavior. Hate speech is not explicitly prohibited on the Platform, and the Platform is not liable for user-posted content. False information and fake news have the potential to mislead the public, have an impact on judgment, and undermine confidence. Online hate speech has the ability to reach a variety of global audiences in real time and is easier to manufacture and distribute than traditional media. For instance, Radio RTLM urged people to take part in the atrocities during the Rwandan genocide (2011). According to research, both organized and civilian violence surged by 77% in areas with complete radio coverage (Ldow, 2011). A total of 45 000 Tutsi killings, or approximately 9% of all genocide deaths, were attributed to RTLM radio-inspired violence. This fact highlights the ability of risky discourse to turn words into deeds, which can have disastrous results for people who live in hostile situations. The danger that hate speech poses to individual and social security is that it may motivate or incite hate crimes and violent attacks. Therefore, regulation is required for free speech. The importance of free speech highlights everyone’s freedom to express their ideas and thoughts without unjustified limitations. Regulation exists to strike a balance between the right to free speech and other social values. Media policy has historically included content regulation (Flew et al., 2019). Platforms differ in their regulation, which refers to the effects on users and how they should be governed. The website and app Parler guarantee online speech freedom.Hate speech and false material that is prohibited on Twitter and Facebook have found a home on Parler. Many Trump supporters use the website to promote rumors that the 2020 presidential election will be rigged.
Regulation in these areas must be carefully implemented in order to avoid unwarranted restrictions on freedom of expression.
To prevent needless limitations on freedom of expression, regulation in these areas must be carefully implemented. There is some arbitrariness in the application of rules because platforms control content on a “ad hoc” basis (Gillespie, 2017). Regulating while preserving free expression is a difficult task that calls for taking into account a variety of elements, including legal rights and interests, social values, and technical viability. Therefore, while maintaining social safety and the general interest, regulation should respect freedom of expression and conform with applicable laws and regulations. To find a balance, this typically calls for the combined efforts of governments, Internet platforms, and the community. To preserve social order or national security, some governments and Internet service providers may try to limit or filter some information. This could result in the suppression of dissenting voices or possibly the violation of the right to free expression. In order to improve user experience and foster a positive environment for platforms where user-generated content and advertising coexist, such as social media platforms, moderate content is necessary and essential to platforms. Governance is at the core of platforms, so it is necessary and essential to platforms.
The right to free speech is a fundamental democratic value that is crucial to modern countries since it protects citizens’ rights and serves as a catalyst for societal advancement and creativity. To ensure that freedom of expression is achieved without jeopardizing other societal interests, it must be protected and balanced. Positive and negative effects on free speech are caused by several aspects of internet governance and systems. It’s crucial to think about how to maintain free expression while balancing other cultural norms. The public is free to express their opinions and ideas, but only in ways that are legal and respect boundaries. In order to ensure that the public has access to reliable information, regulation may mandate platforms to take action to curb the spread of misinformation. By abiding by national rules and regulations and refusing to permit the transmission of illicit content, regulation can ensure that Internet platforms carry out their legal and social obligations.
Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. (2014 March 7).China: The Public Security Bureau (PSB) Golden Shield Project, including implementation and effectiveness; Policenet, including areas of operation; level and effectiveness of information sharing by the authorities (2010-February 2014).
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Flew, T., Martin, F., & Suzor, N. (2019). Internet regulation as media policy: Rethinking the question of digital communication platform governance. Journal of Digital Media & Policy, 10(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1386/jdmp.10.1.33_1
Gillespie, Tarleton. (2018). Governance by and through Platforms. The SAGE handbook of social media (pp.254-289). SAGE Publications.
Heilweil, Rebecca. (2021 January 11). Parler, the “free speech” social network, explained. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/11/24/21579357/parler-app-trump-twitter-facebook-censorship
International Covenant on civil and Political Rights(1996). Freedom of information, opinion and expression.
International Covenant on civil and Political Rights(1996). Freedom of information, opinion and expression. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/freedom-information-opinion-and-expression
Kurti, P and Prasser, S. (2023, April 20). Free to Speak and Free to Believe? What Australians think about freedom of speech. https://www.cis.org.au/publication/free-to-speak-and-free-to-believe-what-australians-think-about-freedom-of-speech/
Ldow, A. (2011, August 7).When does hate speech become dangerous speech? Consider Kenya and Rwanda. https://freespeechdebate.com/discuss/when-does-hate-speech-become-dangerous-the-link-between-words-and-violence-in-rwanda-and-kenya/