Internet Community And Freedom Of Speech Media Essay
In various countries around the world, the internet community is struggling to cling to its freedom of speech in internet contrary to efforts of trying to censor or restrictive policies by governments or political groups. Internet as a means of communication supports all forms of information it carries. The ultimate purpose of these censorship efforts is to try to control or block the information contained in the net. However, the focus of their act is the medium itself.
This paper is trying to find out relationship between different forms of government models around the world and the current state concerning internet censorship. A basic feature, it establishes differences between democratic and totalitarian states. First and foremost, it is important that the constitution ensures the rights of citizens of a particular country, especially when it comes to freedom of speech. Secondly, the government needs to define the policies and choose what content may be published or showed.
Currently, it is easy for one to believe that censorship is a competent way for totalitarian regimes to achieve their objectives of controlling the minds of people. Totalitarian philosophy is to manipulate the thoughts of the subjects of the government so as to control their way of life, behavior and the way they read and what they talk about in a manner that rebellion will made impossible. The analogy here is that the internet community is like a glass enclosure where people around it see themselves reflected, sees the surrounding, but cannot see through. However, they can be observed from outside with uncontrolled person who can be very critical (Walske, 2010).
Such systems are far from being exact. Homogeneity according to nature of humans is not perfectly achieved. However, because of this reason, different ideas and voices have come up and the perception is that it is a threat to existence and operations of the system. The free debate of ideas on the other hand is the best means to persuade the other person (Walske, 2010).
Most people believe that in democratic nations, free flow of information and ideas is highly regarded as valuable just like the right to life and to physical and psychological integrity of an individual, thus enjoying strong legal protection. All over the world, legal systems not only take care and guarantee such rights but in territorial perspective of the law, but also strengthen them by signing international agreements on the subject, where they agree to use their local legal systems to fulfill these global agreements. From the moment the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved, freedom of speech is recognized as one of the foremost rights and preserved in the first amendment of American supreme law (Contrada, 2006).
The short-lived “Communication Decency Act” was an example that freedom for one to express himself was highly recognized and constitutionally taken care of. The law said that it is impossible for the lawmaker to go against the wishes of the country’s constitution. In ACLU suit for instance, the force of freedom of expression was confirmed by the court of appeal’s ruling in Philadelphia. When the appeal was done, it was discovered that the law violated the first and the Fifth Amendment by Supreme Court. This landmark ruling was highly essential for the internet community giving a reflection of the necessity of freedom of expression for the medium (Contrada, 2006).
In China, internet access is controlled. Lin Hai was sentenced for two years in prison just because he sent an email address to publication that was perceived as hostile by the Chinese authorities. Cybercafés need to obtain permission license with ISPs registering their customers with relevant authorities. Access to sites carrying information perceived to be pornographic or subversive is blocked by the government. The government justifies such barriers to access on the grounds of national security and political system stability (Bidgoli, 2004).
In New Zealand, the awaiting Technology and Crimes bill would penalize any individual who transmits, communicates, receives or casts through any means, any image or sound that is objectionable to the law without regarding any knowledge about the embattled item. Providers in New Zealand have protested that the real cost of monitoring exactly every bit of information passing trough their sites is likely to force them to close thus effectively breaking the country’s link to the internet (Baase, 2008).
In Canada, the information regarding the infamous Karla Homolka murder trial is still made available via the internet in spite of complete press elimination by the high court judge who presided over the case. The process or routing messages using United Sates and other countries, and by storing the same information outside the country, internet users have taken away all the powers of the Canadian press (Bidgoli, 2004).
In Estonia, until of late apart of the old Soviet Union, new law has wide guarantees of press liberty. The law states that “all persons shall have rights to circulate ideas, beliefs and opinions freely as well as other information by word, print picture and other means there shall be no censorship”. The rule covers all forms of communication including the internet. Those who use the internet in Estonia are free to say and share whatever they want to share trough the net.
In Singapore, internet information control has similar objectives as those of China, to forbid access to information seen by the government as harmful to public with censorship being stronger than that of business users (Walske, 2010).
In Turkey, a chat forum was enough for a young individual to be punished for offending the security force by not agreeing to their actions against protesters. Protesting is believed to be a crime in Turkey. The defense claims of the young man were that the writings were not for the public but for the internet users in that specific meeting (Baase, 2008)
Australia is looking for a way to control internet contents through opposition of ISPs. ISPs need to prevent the distribution of offensive information by using the so called technically executable means and to observe the online material when they are needed to do so. This evaluation not only affects liberty of expression in terms of material publishing but imposes censorship on those using it by restriction executed by the ISP (Baase, 2008).
There is a proposed amendment in South Africa regarding Films and Publications Act, intending to regulate content access by the public. The interception of communication in Britain by police includes internet communications, via the intervention of ISPs (Baase, 2008).
In Malaysia, newsgroups that carry images or discussions that go contrary to the law are not carried. A check of posts in a Malaysian website reveals that discussions in the group can at least be pretty free-ranging and colorful as well. Nonetheless, the acceptable use policy is the main Malaysian internet backbone and states that “members should not use the network for any activities not permitted under any law of the country”. With the Malaysian censors still choosing whether to permit the film known as “Casper” into the country, the future of censorship is high. However, that potential has not been fully utilized yet on the network (Contrada, 2006).
In Egypt, fears of terrorism have led to internet censorship. Increased web surveillance has been boasted by the government especially in the year 2007. Any person is require to give up a lot of private information about himself such as the phone number or ID before connecting to wireless internet in a public areas like the cyber café. This restriction makes it hard for citizens to express themselves in a free manner. During the 2011 protest, the country shut off all the internet communications (Contrada, 2006).
In Korea, a very small population of about 4% of the total population can access the internet. Internet use in Korea is heavily censored by the government. Korea is the major example where communication mediums are controlled by the state according to RFS. The internet is the medium widely used to the service of North Korean federation to basically spread roumours. The country’s network is monitored intensively with only two websites being used under one domain name. All the websites in the country are under the government monitoring just like other modes of communication (Walske, 2010).
In Iran, censorship of internet has been delegated to ISPs who try to filter the information that is critical to the government, political blogs, pornographic sites, online magazines and the women’s right websites. Bloggers have been imprisoned in Iran due to their internet activities. Of late, the government of Iran temporarily blocked access to video upload sites like youtube, twitter, facebook among many others (Contrada, 2006).
In Tunisia, thousands of websites such as Google, mail, online documents and cached pages have been blocked. The Tunisian government has arrested the cyber activist by the name Mohammed Abbou because of his efforts to fight for freedom of expression (Walske, 2010).
In Venezuela, the government passed the law on December 2010 to control the internet content. The parliament signed a law named “Social responsibility in electronic media, television and radio. The law was intended to control harmful information. The law emphasizes that those people who own websites will be responsible for any information published and that there is need for them to come up with a mechanism that could control without wasting time. Individuals breaking the law will be fined 10% of his previous year’s income. The law was met with intense criticism and opposition based on the fact that violation of speech freedom is laid down in the country’s constitution (Baase, 2008).
In Afghanistan, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that the country’s ministry of communication allowed in June 2010 that all Internet Service Providers in the country filter Gmail, Facebook, twitter and youtube among other websites connected to sex and gambling. The country is also trying to raise barriers to websites which are against the traditions of the Afghans and immoral. But the claims by the executives at the country’s ISPs pointed out that this was as a result of mistaken publication by the Ariana Network Service which is a leading ISP in Afghanistan. The executive also claimed that the government has the objectives of censoring pornographic information as well as gambling sites. The email and social sites are not filtered. The country’s enforcement on immoral information was controlled with network executives saying that the government lacked technical capacity to filter the traffic (MacKinnon, 2006).
Internet penetration in Burma is very low due to restrictions on pricing, deliberate lack of infrastructure and facilitation and government restrictions. Electronics Act is used in Burma to control the internet. The Act bans importation and use of modem without the sate permission. The punishment for violation of such rules is the 15 year imprisonment because of the perception that such information damages state security, culture, economy, unity and law and order. The internet usage is however is highly spread in major towns and cities with internet chat rooms and cafes. The network speed is slowed deliberately with a number of websites such as pornographic and political being banned by the relevant governmental authorities (MacKinnon, 2006).
It is very difficult to argue that restrictions such as these match with the approval of international agreements that has provisions to reinforce the importation of these freedoms. Freedom of expression is taken care of by atleast three of highly important world treaties on human rights that are there today. It is very necessary to emphasized that human rights is being addressed here. Freedom of expression that lacks prior censorship is guarded by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the year 1948, 1966 Pact of Civil Rights, Economic Social and Cultural agreement of 1966 as well as the regional American Convention of Human Rights of Costa Rica in 1969 (MacKinnon, 2006).
Member countries are bound to organize the international legislation of each country to achieve objectives of each agreement without ignoring another major principle of global law, which is the peoples right of self-determination. Probably, many governments all over the world that support censorship have not approved these agreements, but this does not compromise general rejection of these policies by such countries. Fortunately, censorship attempts are not clear in Latin America except for strict controls in Cuba and the Chilean initiative.