Goals for Today understand “free speech” in Internet context understand it as a policy issue in its own right understand some of the arguments on either side AND CONSIDER why it’s become such a big issue for Internet users how this issue fits with the “netizen” outlook
Agenda for Today Brief introduction to freedom of expression Quotation exercise Report back and discussion
Groundrules We are not trying to resolve the free speech debate. Some material we discuss today will be offensive. Focus on identifying the full range of views, not just your own.
Free Speech: Background 1643: poet John Milton publishes Areopagitica Presented arguments in favor of tolerance, including: more information makes for better choices more information helps us use and improve our minds repression doesn’t make ideas go away
Free Speech: Background Later theorists: John Locke John Stuart Mill “classical liberalism”: individuals have certain inalienable rights Rights include freedom of expression
Free Speech: Constitutions Canadian charter of rights and freedoms: Clause 2. “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: …b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” US First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Quotation Exercise • 1 quotation per group • Take notes and • Explain the quotation in your own words. What is the point the author is making? • What free speech issues are raised in this quotation? • Can you identify any problems or weaknesses?
Group 1 • “[T]here is something importantly new about the Internet. It provides, at least potentially, a far more direct and undistorted reflection of social norms, thoughts, prejudices and attitudes than any previous medium has been able to….Internet freedom…is worth defending precisely because it does facilitate that mirroring, even at the cost of giving expression to ‘sociopathic fantasies’. - Newey, pp. 14-15
Group 2 • “[T]he Internet deserves a wider margin of licence than we would be happy to allow in newspapers or on television.” - Newey, p. 15
Group 3 • “[T]he Internet challenges us to revise our notion of censorship itself, by giving the user and reader the power and responsibility to decide what he or she wants to access and what to block.” - Newey, p. 15
Group 4 • “Questions of offence and harm are important questions. Is causing offence sufficient to justify restrictions on freedom of expression, on the Internet or anywhere else? On the one hand, the idea that expression causes actual harm would appear to provide a stronger justification for restricting that expression than mere offence. On the other, it is always going to be harder to prove the existence of actual harm than it is to prove the existence of offence.” - Newey, p. 24
Group 5 • “Speech does not cause sexism, or racism, or homophobia, and nor, in any real sense, does it perpetuate them.” - Newey, p. 26
Group 6 • “The problem remains, however: what kind of self-regulation will be both effective in protecting users from unwanted material while retaining the widest possible scope for free expression on the Internet?” - Newey, p. 36
Group 7 • “CMU casts a long shadow in cyberspace. It was one of the first universities to join the Arpanet (the precursor to the Internet) and the first to wire up its dorms….Using the computer networks to spread the word and muster support, the students quickly organized a ‘Protest for Freedom in Cyberspace’ that drew 350 students and faculty members.” - Elmer-Dewitt, p. 260
Group 8 • “[T]o what extent can the operators of interactive media be held responsible for the material that moves through their systems? Are they common carriers, like the phone companies, which must ignore the content of the messages? Are they like TV stations, whose broadcasts are monitored by the government for fairness and suitability? Or are they like bookstores, which the courts have ruled can’t be expected to review the content of every title on their shelves?” - Elmer-Dewitt, p. 260
Group 9 • 9. “A library free from government control is an essential component of a vibrant university. As technology changes the ways in which we store and access information, it seems beyond dispute that the digital library of the next century will bear far greater resemblance to the Internet than to today’s brick and mortar constructs. As the technology changes, it is essential that we not lose sight of core principles of academic freedom.“ - ACLU Letter to CMU, p. 267