Thursday, May 2, 2013

Freedom of Speech ? Freedom of Expression ?

Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen o...
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal...
Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Misunderstood Concept

 The freedom of Speech is one of the greatest Liberties our forefathers gave their Life for.
Concepts for the Freedom of speech can be found throughout early human mankind, probably the first Law's or Bills created in modern times were  England’s Bill of Rights 1689  granted it in Parliament and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution in 1789, which specifically affirmed freedom of speech as an inalienable right.

The Declaration provides for freedom of expression in Article 11, which states that:

"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."
It is safe to say, that the above declaration is probably the forefather of most other Freedom of Speech Laws and Concepts and that it also lead to the more recent
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, which states that:
"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."

So far so good, but those Rights are also probably also the most misunderstood and abused rights.

Most people, although taught in School, seem to have either forgotten or misunderstood them in the first Place.

This appears to me after reading through thousands of pages and Publications in the past Years in the Internet.So I will mention them again and elaborate a little.

Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas using one's body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them.

It is mostly confused with the freedom of expression which often get mentioned synonymously, but that includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. (Such as this article !)
In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as there are libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of personal, company or govermental information that is classified and so on.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice".
Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "for respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "for the protection of national security or of public order (or the public), or of public health or morals".
Probably this last Paragraphs is not read closely enough.

The Internet Users have apparently overlooked something here

For over 2 years the Autor has followed Internet Publications, participated in various Forums and bulletin boards only to discover, that the majority of its Operators and users have no clue (or do not want to have a clue ?) about the above Rights.

Even relatively serious bulletin boards are full with defamations, libellous or slanderous remarks and  stunningly represent a foul language that one normally would alone be subject to censoring even in the most liberal societies around the Globe.
The Moderators or Administartors of those boards to often hide, when asked or complained to, behind the so called "Freedom of Speech", and include anything typed in their forums in this. How wrong they are !
Because even in the most liberal Nation in the matter of Freedom of Speech, the USA, it is NOT allowed to defame People or harm them otherwise.
Libel and Slander is simply NOT a Human right, it is a crime.
In the US just the costs for Litigation are scaring affected Persons away.
But also some Companies seem to have made it a business to publish unchecked 'Customer Information" about Products, and then will NOT remove those remarks except when paid a hefty sum for dubious 'Investigation and Corrective Changes". Yes, a company may can Counteract with their statements against the defamations, but how effective is this in the eyes of an innocent consumer ? In Reality this is often used by competitors to damage the products of the Competitor. The grind their teeth, pay the demanded Sum and sometimes retaliate in the same way. The self declared "Consumer Advocate Company" laughs and cashes in.

The Internet User need more self control and education of it's users

Before, as has already happened in some Nations around the Globe , the Governments take care of the problem and implements stricter laws, often really restricting the Freedom of expression or making it too difficult for Publishers, the Users and responsible Companies should maybe Introduce a Global wide 'Internetiquette" or "Charta of allowed Usage" of what can and should be acceptable.
Thus could be done by the Leaders and most interested ISP such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft in collaboration with the Universities Worldwide and the lawmakers.
The Other Media then could start to promote the 'responsible and self controlled" Use of the Internet, as well as the Public School system definitely need a Subject or Internet Class.

We should act before it is too late

If this will not be done in a reasonable time frame I predict a dark future for the freedom of speech or expression via the internet.
Registered User Licenses, a Big Brother Surveillance without Court orders, Harsher Penalties and forced mandatory Censorship are the price to be paid for undicisplined users.
Trolls, Defamers, Stalkers, Mobber and other social misfits just add to the problem, already now large parts of the Population in Western Countries complain about harassment online.
The statistical figure of at least 5 % of the Worlds population having more or less been diagnosed with mental disorders does not leave much space for Optimism.
Those can add to the already existing Army of Trolls in the near future or become candidates for them and add to the wave of suicides caused by Online Harassment.

The Internet grew fast, faster than any government or democracy can handle, only its users can make it a safe and better place.

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  2. intelligent, thoughtful, and wise. Hopefully more people become more aware.