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CLICS

Page 8

 

Censorship and Freedom of Speech

The issue of censorship versus freedom of speech has always been a hotly contested topic. The advent of the Internet and increased use of electronic and social media for the dissemination of information has raised many new, complex questions over First Amendment rights and the extent to which online information needs to be regulated.

Thorny issues such as what to do about extremist groups using the Internet to organize and recruit members, what responsibility social media companies have to fact-check and moderate their users, and how best to protect minors from pornography and obscenity are just some of the many issues we're navigating today. 

There are no easy answers to these challenges. Here are some of the organizations dealing with freedom, censorship, and related issues:

Pro Free Speech
 
Pro Internet Regulation

The Center for Democracy and Technology promotes "the future of the First Amendment and free expression in the Information age." 
(www.cdt.org/)

The goal of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is to protect rights and freedom in the electronic environment. 
(www.eff.org/)

 

American Family Association advocates filtering internet access in libraries to prevent children from accessing sexually explicit material. 
(www.afa.net/)

Enough is Enough aims to protect children and families from "illegal Internet pornography." 
(www.enough.org/)

 

The First Amendment protects speech of the minority, whether verbal, written, or artistic expression. That means we all have a right to our opinion and expressing our opinion, no matter how popular or unpopular. That is one of the things which helps make our country free. So whether someone advocates for world peace or for hatred toward a minority, it is all allowed, even though it may not be popular, pleasant, or even true.

Much of the attempted censorship on the Web has been an attempt to protect children. Some court battles have involved child pornography, others have involved protecting children from access to pornography in public places, such as libraries. The laws and court cases are continuing, so the outcome is not yet clear. The basic issues are those of the First Amendment rights of adults to full access to information versus the rights of those protecting children which may infringe on the rights of adults. Currently, the Internet protection software which exists to protect children, blocks out many legitimate sites with much good information for both children and adults. As technology becomes more sophisticated, there may be better solutions for both interests to be preserved in the future.

The Internet is a true free speech, First Amendment forum. Anyone can say or publish anything, and they do! It may be fact, opinion, falsehoods, hatred, pornography, fake Web sites, satire, selling you everything and anything, or it may be as mundane as a family photo album. It is all on the internet, and unless it violates a law like child pornography, it is all allowed. 

Chapter 9 — Page 8