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The Internet and Free Speech

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Text Preview The Internet and Free Speech
Business Law I

Abstract
The Internet offers extraordinary opportunities for “speakers,” broadly defined. Political candidates, cultural critics, anyone who wants to express an opinion about anything can make their thought available to a world-wide audience far more easily than has ever been possible before. Some observers find the resultant outpouring of speech exhilarating. They see in it nothing less than the revival of democracy and the restoration of community. Other observers find the amount and above all the kind of speech that the Internet has stimulated offensive or frightening. Pornography, hate speech, lurid threats. This has provoked various efforts to limit the kind of speech in which one may engage on the Internet or to develop systems to “filter out” the more offensive material. Oddly for a medium that was supposed to reduce censorship by limiting government control it has become one of the most widely censored mediums there is. This is true even in countries that do not censor other forms of communication.

The First Amendment to the Constitution (1791) protects free speech, and that includes these postings, and worse which have appeared on Internet message boards and blogs, as upsetting as they may be, they are protected as free speech under the First Amendment so long as they don’t violate some other law.

As the United Nations has said (The New York Times, 2011), access to the Internet is a human right. A report by the U.N’s special rapporteur presented to the Human Rights council in Geneva warns that this right is being threatened by governments around the world, democracies included. * China jails bloggers, blocks Web sites and filters the Internet to eradicate words, including “democracy,” from the conversation. * In Italy, a court convicted Google executives because a user uploaded a video on YouTube depicting cruelty to a disabled teenager, even though Google quickly removed the offending... Show More

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