Social media and Free speech: Where to take a stand.
You’ve heard it or have seen it posted…Someone saying they can say whatever they want, post whatever they want and no-one can do anything to them. As if the First Amendment is their sword and shield, and you can’t do anything about it.That’s what is meant in freedom of speech, one of the basic human rights is implied in main international human rights documents: Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides: “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.”(Halkort,2017).
There is no doubt that freedom of speech plays an important role in the process of democratization for at least three reasons.First of all, we must have the right to the freedom of expression because it maintains diversity of opinions, which is the main requirement of a democratic society. Second,the majority of democratic governments require a free open circle of trade in which everyone must participate in sharing their diverse opinions to inhale decision-making process including the process of constituting laws. Finally, freedom of speech is the main instrument of communicating our thoughts where democracy implies by Descartes’s statement : “je pense, alore je suis”which is translated as “I think, therefore I am”. Nowadays, social media provides us with many advantages as well as disadvantages. Media platforms are like an open book for all to read and learn about different traditions,cultures,personalities and attitude of people. With the social media’s discussion sites, the freedom of speech and expression is smashed under the issue of the protection of these rights in the form of fundamental human rights.Therefore, Data protection in social media is undermining the right to freedom of expression in the name of human rights. So how do you create rules and policies that don’t invade another’s rights while still managing the overall experience?
Free speech has a cooperate relationship with civic liberties. The right to speak freely is a necessary part of every individual’s right in order to achieve self-improvement and self-satisfaction. Restriction on what we are allowed to say and write or to hear and read will bring down our personality and its growth, so freedom of speech helps an individual to attain self-fulfillment and self-improvement.For example, if i post something that happened with me today that i personally thought it’s interesting to share and posted it on any social media platform, this action is considered as free speech and its related to self-satisfaction since it relieved me and the post itself had a lot of impressions which brought me higher self-confidence and improvement.Also, freedom of speech provides opportunity to express one’s belief and show political attitudes, and it ultimately results in beneficial aspects for the society and state. Thus, freedom of speech provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change.Of course, democratic participation is also the most important feature of today’s world and freedom of speech is there to protect the right of all citizens to understand political issues so that they can participate and feel the democracy. Thus, freedom of speech strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision-making. For example, in Lebanon many people disagreed Lebanese politicians for not taking any serious decision in the garbage crisis file so they protested online by building a campaign over all social media platforms, this campaign is called:“Tol3et Ri7etkom” in addition to offline protests, and it actually worked and helped in decision-making which points out that Lebanon is a democratic country that allows free speech.
The latest Tweets from طلعت ريحتكم (@Tol3et_Re7etkom). الصفحة الرسمية// نشكركم على حبكم و على حب الوطن//. beiruttwitter.com
Moreover,The media scene has significantly changed over the past decade, with conventional media ( daily papers, TV,…) now supplemented by web-based social networking ( web journals, talk discussions,blogs,…). Although social media networking are more used nowadays but traditional media remains a trusted source for information. When it comes to the news, there is no substitute for a truthful and balanced story as traditional media. And while it’s true that more people are discovering news of the day through Facebook and other social media, such sites deliver information in headlines and sound bites. More often than not, those seeking the deeper story click on links to traditional news media websites. But like any media outlet, conventional media betrayed free speech principles for example let’s take the Lebanese case, according to Word press freedom index (2016),Lebanese media are blunt and relies on freedom of speech but if they actually look deeper they will see that traditional media in lebanon are extremely politicized and polarized which sheds the light that even a democratic country that has newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels serve as the mouthpieces of political parties or businessmen.This example shows the betrayal of conventional media.Also, All countries have TV channels that make jokes, and try to get someone’s face/personality, especially known(famous) people such as, politicians, actors,… So, these channel or more specifically these programs try to turn others faces into ridiculous ones in order to make the audience laugh so that they can make money in this way because this is their job. This example is “similar” with the newspaper of Charlie Hebdo. Should these TV channels be banned or stopped? Imagine your life without having/ making fun? It would be like a black & white , without colors. People should have the right to make fun with themselves and others, but they should try to not offend them. There must have a limit on the freedom of speech but not directly, “Free speech does not mean that speech is free from regulation.” (Boss, 2013).In the last decade free speech was being taken advantage of, free speech is a main component in any media platform“ But no expression of opinion should be suppressed because the opinion itself is considered false, heretical, harmful or subversive.” (Boss, 2013).
The Internet and media posture new difficulties for freedom of speech, yet they are really similar issues we’ve seen since the appearance of human rights law: governments trying to limit the flow of information, not allowing criticism, and track citizens. However, we often unknowingly sacrifice our privacy and personal information to governments and companies.This also sheds the light on both encryption and anonymity, which are fundamental to creating the privacy and security necessary for free thought and expression. But too often they are described as tools used by criminals and terrorists. In order to limit social media’s intervention in what to show and what not to show, Self regulation or “ Social Responsibility Theory” (Ward, 2011) should be applied on each one of us. Self regulation is a combination of standards setting out the appropriate behaviors for the media that are necessary to support freedom of expression, and process how those behaviors will be monitored or held to account. The benefit of self regulation is that it preserves independence of the media and protects it from any governmental interference.For example some countries, like North Korea, Iran, China, Pakistan, and Turkey, have completely blocked their citizens’ access to social media sites as a way to ward off the problem. They operate under the theory that if you take away the cause, you won’t have to worry about it. This is not just about banning social media platforms, it’s actually about banning freedom of expression.
Today Facebook celebrates its 10th anniversary. The social networking giant now has over 1.23 billion users, but there…www.indexoncensorship.org
Moreover, citizens should point out that Freedom of speech helps the world to change. Without this kind of expression, the world wouldn’t be aware of all the problems we have, and wouldn’t help to change them. For example, with the Charlie Hebdo problem going around, the world and France got aware of the problem of religion, as well as Malala or Nelson Mandela. Those kind of person broke the limit of speech and it helped to change life positively.Below is a french citizen that tweeted: “ Thank you Charlie Hebdo for making us realize and be aware more about religion, others like eljueves wouldn’t do the same.
In conclusion,Free speech is the corner stone of a free society. Social media platforms don’t have the right to shut what they don’t want unless its blackmailing or anything that’s related to physical harm. In order to prevent social media’s intervention, self regulation and showing positive aspects of change are the key and should be considered by everyone. All ideas must be heard no matter how crazy and all ideas must be criticized. If we start burning books because we find it offensive; it means anyone can shot down dissent by saying they are offended.It is important that we realize that saying this can be censorship should never be used to combat bad ideas. If our ideology is so much better then the person we wish to censor; we should have no such problem disprove their theories; because even if we believe that the person we want to censor is a complete monster:Social media platforms denying anyone their basic human rights turns them into monsters.
Halkort, M.(2017), freedom of speech , slide 2.
Boss, J (2013) ‘Freedom of Speech’ in Analysing Moral Issues, New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 509 .
Ward, 2011, ‘Approaches to Media Ethics’ in Ethics and the Media, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 67