Is there such thing as too much ‘freedom of speech’?

For the final blog, I thought I should come full circle and go back to week one as I believe the topic ‘the history of the Internet’ underpinned the whole module. One of the subtopics discussed during week one was ‘freedom of speech’ which refers to the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental consequences. It is something we take for granted in the West as it is something that normally comes hand in hand with democracy and liberty.

Last year, in Saudi Arabia, a blogger called Raif Badawi received a 1,000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment sentence due to opening a website which encouraged fellow Saudis to discuss governmental reforms. He is meant to receive 50 lashes every Friday until the full sentence has been carried out. Global petitions such as by ‘Amnesty’ have delayed his lashes however have not helped overturn his sentence. His family have fled to Canada.

raif-badawi

It’s easy by looking at this case study to conclude that freedom of speech should be legalised everywhere but this is not true. You have to factor in the negatives.

Freedom of speech means that it is much easier to be exposed to dangerous ideas such as when individuals or terrorists groups promote dangerous activities online and encourage others to follow in their steps. This can lead to crimes, self-harm or terrorism.

It is easier to learn how to make a nuclear bomb, grow weed at home, make explosions or crystal meth. These instructions are not only on the ‘World Wide Web’ but are particularly found on the ‘Deep web’ (an alternative Internet which only discusses illegal activities). It was even rumoured that North Korea got their instructions on production of nuclear weapons from online.

It is also easier to promote unethical ideas such as racist, sexist, fascist and apartheid thoughts or to misuse the ‘freedom’ such as when a mischievous teenager may call an airport to create a bomb scare.

So the last thing I want to leave you with is this – do you think freedom of speech is entirely positive and should be embraced without a second thought? Why?

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2 Comments

  1. You definitely bring up some surprising and shocking examples and aspects of freedom of speech, as I personally don’t always associate the term with negative connotations. I believe that without a conversation (which inevitably always ends up offending one or the other) progress and reforms can never be made, which becomes obvious in the case of Saudi’s government. Because I think that no idea is above criticism and people could do much worse than have a discussion, I generally believe in the liberal notion of freedom of speech. However, with the internet enabling people to access dangerous information and commit actual crime, I don’t think online free speech is a matter of black and white. Censorship that removes western ideas from communist and fascist countries definitely fuels extremism, as can the lack of censorship in western countries which makes these precise sites available. I think a balance needs to be found in which the most illegal things are removed, but at the same time it is obvious that whatever information wants to be accessed from anywhere in the world will inevitably be dug up.

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  2. I think your post is very interesting because you start with an intense example that freedom of speech is necessary, but then put the other point of view across. In my mind, freedom of speech is the ability for people to be able to communicate their thoughts in the hope that they bring positive change. Therefore, terrorist ideas should not be allowed under freedom of speech as these people are usually trying to influence vulnerable people to believe in extremist ideologies that result in large scale trauma. In terms of sexist or racist opinions being freedom of speech, they too are persecuting a group of people. Therefore I believe in censorship and regulation – if someone believed something I posted online to be offensive to them or others (which of course has never happened) then I think that content should be reported or removed.

    Liked by 1 person

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