Internet and Freedom

Topics: Freedom of speech, Human rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights Pages: 13 (3999 words) Published: April 8, 2008

Freedom of expression has always been a great source of contention. It is a concept that lawmakers have grappled with over the centuries as new methods of communication such as print , radio and television bring with them new scenarios that push the rights of the communicators even further. In this same regard new responsibilities are also created as these methods become more technologically advanced and instant. It is in this context that this assignment examines the current dynamic of freedom of expression on the internet, arguably “ the greatest advance in technology of the media since Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century. “

Our first issue requires us to define freedom of expression. It is defined in different ways under different jurisdictions but contains the same key characteristics. In Ireland for example, under Article 40.6.1 of the Irish constitution, the state guarantees liberty to exercise the right of its citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions subject to public order , morality and security of the state . One can express themselves “freely” providing that they simultaneously respect other significant fundamental human rights. This deems freedom of expression as a qualified right , not an absolute right. As a consequence problems arise as the legislation passed to protect freedom of expression and the legislation used to qualify it such as defamation laws are constantly vying for the court’s ears.It is the battle between what we are entitled to say versus what other interested parties do not want to publicised.Frequently it involves issues such as race, colour, creed, politics (as in the case of censorship in China), crime, sex, pornography and the simple matter of being entitled to express an opinion. Increasingly archaic laws are certainly no match for these advances and most laws are reactive in nature. To mitigate these difficulties, The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), has encorporated the rights of the media in Article 10 of the convention essentially acknowledging the value and role the media must play in a democratic society. The United Nations Declaration upholds these principles globally in Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

So while freedom of expression is clarified and slightly updated for new technological developments, there is a lack of uniformity regarding regulation. Exemplary case law is also scarce if at all existent due to this rapid expanse and development of the cyberspace era. The speed and capacity of data uploaded at any one time can also be difficult to monitor . This assigment examines which realms of law, both nationally and internationally either benefit or hinder the“freedom of speech” under the aupices of world wide web. Trouble-shooting areas containing these inconsistencies include defamation, internet security, censorship, blashemy and discrimination.

2. Freedom of Expression on Internet.

Defamation by its very nature has always been a complex area of law. It traditionally divides slurring of a person’s character into two offences; that of slander where the offence is caused when the comments are spoken to a third party and libel where the comments are written or published. As the internet can be regarded as a mixed medium both of these crimes can , in theory occur. Take for example the case of a video or audio excerpt that is posted on a broadcast website; as soon as the comments are muttered by the defamer a slander has taken place and once they are “published “ or uploaded the offence becomes an issue of libel. This is just one of the problems concerning defamation on the internet. Another contentious issue that has arisen is the area of publication of the offence by a...
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