Freedom of Speech in the Age of Internet and Social Media

Today we’ll be taking a look at the concept of freedom of speech and how it has evolved over the ages from the time of the Greeks to present-day social media age.

The Historical Perspective

Until the seventeenth century, freedom of speech was not legalized. An early advocate of free speech was Socrates but he did not live that long to see it transforming into a permissible right. In 1698, freedom of speech was granted in the parliament by the British Bill of rights, it was the first time in history that respect of free communication of opinions and thoughts was realized by the western world.

Today in developed as well as developing states, liberal democracies and societies struggle hard to gain access to freedom of speech all around the world. It is crucial to have liberty of speech because it is fundamental for all human beings and it supports many other rights, allowing them to flourish.

For a healthy development of a society it is essential that people must speak their mind freely on important issues. Barriers and limited access to freedom of speech block the voices of marginalized people about their ideas, opinions, concerns and needs.

Internet and Social Media Has Brought New Issues into Focus

The right of freedom of speech gives people the opportunity to speak their minds and if it is done in a peaceful manner, it produces extremely positive impacts. At one point of history, freedom of speech was dependent solely through microphones and radio broadcasting. At that time, leaders and activists used to stand up in front of crowds in order to bring a revolution by fighting with their words. But now with the introduction of internet, individuals have been empowered with new means of communicating information.

Internet has emerged as a new communicative sphere for private entities, regulations and commercialization. It is being utilized by many human rights activists, revolutionists and minority groups to get their voices heard globally. Blogs and social media are new trend that has forced people to voice their opinions online allowing interaction between people to agree or disagree on issues of poverty, discrimination, cultural pressures and political processes.

The Internet through social media has proven to be an awesome tool for providing a medium through which individuals get together for influencing government and bringing a revolution by breaking the psychological barriers.

Should there be Limits?

Freedom of speech produces positive results when it is applied at the right place and for the right reasons but while technology provides us with opportunities, there are some risks and challenges as well.

We need to understand the issues of speech on the internet and the limitations regarding internet and social media. We must be aware of the fact that all the information that is given on these platforms is not correct because currently there is no worldwide program that regulates the information that is uploaded by the users on the internet.

Due to the ever increasing use of internet and social media, governments are responding to its issues globally. They are adopting many various censorship measures and filtering mechanisms in order to respect the rights of other people, protect national security and maintain public order. Pakistan for instance is seeing the use of digital platforms explode, leading the state to adopt various security measures (blocking of YouTube is one such example).

A Challenge and An Opportunity

Internet and social media has created an exceptional opportunity for free speech for human rights activists, journalists and leaders but this platform should be used to enable people to communicate in a respectful and responsible manner. Individuals, companies and governments need to ensure that user’s privacy is preserved and protected. In this way, internet and social media can play a great role for bringing a social and political change and enable people to defend their basic rights.

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