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The Issue of Censoring Speech in the Online Space

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If you were to ask ten people if and how we should censor speech in the online space, you would get ten different answers. We in the United States are able to freely express anything that we want to without fear of repercussion. This is something that we have had since the drafting of the Constitution. The question is whether or not this freedom should be extended to the online space, and if so, how far. The answer should be simple, but is not for many people focused on spreading their own agenda. Everyone would like a world in which people agreed with the ideals that they hold, but this is not the world we live in. Therefore, we should be free to express any idea in any form that we want online without censorship or banning on the legal level other than in the case of sexual content and minors. Minors should be protected from bullying as well, but that should be done on a social level and not a legal level. If harmful or dangerous content is uploaded in a manner intended for adults, it should also be up to the public to exert social pressure on the poster if the populus wants it down, never government officials. Our freedom of speech is what makes our country one where people can live freely without fear of misspeaking and receiving legal repercussions. This allows us to speak out against or for any ideal that we hold as individuals.

Many countries have banned certain forms of personal expression in the name of national security in order to keep their hold on their people. Egypt is one that is doing it currently. “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified the law, officially called the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, on August 18. The law, which ostensibly aims to combat extremism and terrorism, allows authorities to block websites that are considered “a threat to national security” or to the “national economy. ” Individuals who visit these websites can face steep fines and penalties. ” This act that Egypt is enforcing is disallowing the citizens to ban together and fight the things that matter to them most due to a fear of saying something that will end up resulting in legal repercussions. This however is not the only way that government agencies are using censorship.

In many countries like Germany and South Korea, censorship is used to hide things that happened in the past that are an embarrassment to themselves like the war crimes that germany committed. This makes it impossible for people to learn from the mistakes made in the past because they have a tainted knowledge of the past. “Germany’s case of the neo-Natzis frames the problem best. In January 1996, German phone company Deutsche Telekom blocked users of its computer network from accessing the Website of Ernst Zundel, a German-born activist. . . Given the history of Germany, such a response is perhaps understandable. ” This shows some obvious reasons why censorship can be harmful to people, but not all areas are as black and white.

Everyone wants to protect the youth from the world to allow them to develop properly. This can pose a problem when it comes to the online space. With things like pornography and bullying around every corner, one needs to find ways to allow them to keep their innocence for just at least a little while. Adults can choose to view things of a sexual nature at will and can deal with online bullying without many repercussions, but children cannot. Students get bullied at school every day. There are procedures in place to help keep it from getting to far, but online it can be a different story. Many times cyberbullying is not caught until the damage is already done, but when it is caught, something should be done. “Adolescents who are bullied experience a range of physical problems, including sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal concerns, and headaches. ” We should find ways to combat this, but not legally. It is up to the populus to exert pressure on the companies that own the websites that this is happening on to take down or block certain users from interacting with each other. If we allow legal institutions to get involved, a kid that is just getting some anger out through words could get a juvenile record for something they might not have even realized was truly hurting someone due to their own lack of mental development. With all of this, it can be hard to see where the line is for many. While most everyone would agree that pornographic and sexual content should be censored from minors due to the fact that they are not developmentally ready to see and experience that content, some people would say that “hate speech” should be silenced by the government as well. They would not be the only ones.

Many European countries have passed laws that aid in the censoring of content that might be offensive to an individual or group. This is a slippery slope however, due to the fact that it is hard to draw the line between what is permissible and what isn’t. This could lead to someone saying something that they didn’t find offensive being punished legally when their intentions may have been harmless. It also can lead to religious groups being unable to practice the way that they believe they need to due to the fact that they fear government punishment for doing so. It is not yet enforced very well and there are not many people that have been punished yet, but with the law in place, it would be easy for government officials with a crooked agenda to use this law to force through unethical changes in government since the law is so vague. Australia has also made laws enforcing censorship. “Australia already has laws dealing with online bullying. S474. 17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 applies a penalty of three years imprisonment for using a carriage service to “menace, harass or cause offence”. ” This law seems like one that would be a benefit to society as it protects people from others that would intend to cause them emotional harm, but if you look at the last part of it in which it states “cause offence, ” it could easily be used to wrongfully punish someone that had no ill intentions when posting.

All of this is a lot to consider when deciding whether or not censorship is good or bad, but what remains is the fact that a people with a voice are a people that are not controlled. If censorship and banning of certain materials begins to creep into a nation, it is not long before it is used by those seeking power, wealth, or status to use censorship as a way to isolate the people that would stand for the protection of those that might not be able to protect themselves. It is the first step in creating a scenario in which the populus no longer has control over their daily lives. While we all agree that certain things just shouldn’t be said, it is better to fight these words and ideals socially rather than institutionally.

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