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.
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?