Technology and Society: Free Speech and the Internet, Iterum | Perspectives

I wanted to shorten the title and show off my scholarship, so I searched for the phrase “Once Again” to find the Latin equivalent of “Iterum” that turned up (which only resulted in a longer column…).

Since the Internet evolved into the ubiquitous “World Wide Web,” it has become legitimately viewed in society in the same way that we view books and newspapers.

Of course, the internet is not the only way we humans communicate. We also use live speeches, radio and phone calls as well as letters (e.g. USPS) billboards, sky writers (remember?) and many other modes (e.g. smile). None of these models are subject to government regulation. For example, at editorial judgment, the newspaper can print pretty much what it wants. Newspapers generally follow the New York Times’ (slightly modified) credo that “most interesting news is fit for print”.

On the other hand: “Despite the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution, the government does regulate some media. The print media is largely unregulated, and newspapers and magazines can print almost anything as long as they don’t defame anyone. Despite congressional efforts to restrict some media Controversial content, but the internet is also largely unregulated. However, broadcast media is regulated by most governments. Radio and TV broadcasters must obtain a license from the government because under US law, the public owns the airwaves. Issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) These licenses are also responsible for regulating the airwaves. The FCC also acts as a police agency for broadcasting, and it can fine broadcasters for violating standards of public etiquette. In extreme cases, the FCC can even revoke a broadcaster’s license, permanently suspending it. broadcast.” (

The burden of broadcasting

However, the Internet has expanded what “broadcast media” means, which is a one-way path from broadcasters to you. It differs from TV, newspapers and books in that the internet is two-way. Not only can anyone broadcast their opinion, it also allows recipients to respond when they choose. Of course, newspapers and magazines can have a “letter to the editor” section, but the response time between sending and publishing the letter is certainly not instant – it can take days to appear in print. Printed responses are also at the editor’s discretion. If I write a letter that clearly contains lies such as “everybody loves Trump” or “everybody hates Trump” it will probably be rejected and not printed. It gets tricky when this message is limited by the question that matters most to the founders of our Constitution, known as the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall not make any law concerning the establishment of religion, or Its free exercise is prohibited; or its freedom of speech or the press is deprived; or the right of the people to assemble peacefully and to petition the government to resolve grievances.” It protects freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government to resolve grievances.

The questions arise when asked about the precise definition of “freedom of speech,” and they are not trivial.

For example, Wikipedia writes: “Yelling in a crowded theater” is a popular analogy used primarily for panic-inducing words or actions. This sentence is a reference to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in the U.S. Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, which ruled in 1919 that the defendants’ speech against the draft during World War I was not protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of speech. The case was later sued by Brandenburg. Ohio restricted speech in 1969 to those that could incite imminent wrongdoing, such as a riot. “

freedom and consequences

So, in short, the problem is not yelling, but the consequences of yelling. If panic ensues and people get trampled on it, Big Mouth is in big trouble legally. However, if the result is just a bunch of angry customers, the worst-case scenario is that the shouters are banned from the theater in the future. This free speech and censorship problem is not limited to the US – according to an article titled “When Free Speech Is an Excuse for Abuse!” on the UK Lighthouse website ( Exploring the dark side of the internet and arguing, “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. What we say, why we say it, and what are our individual and collective responsibilities.” This illustration is another (somewhat whimsical) way of expressing the issue : Even the question of how to express opinions about free speech and censorship is a tricky one. To save our crumbling society and restore some order, is it time for the federal government to step in and expand the FCC’s reach to include the internet, or will it only exacerbate an already bad situation? Now, there is a tricky question.

No one has ever changed someone’s mind by yelling or otherwise belittling their intentions. If it does, it’s usually because the caller isn’t really being persuaded, but just wants to get out of the unpleasant conversation. Maybe the bottom line is realizing that we’re all in this together, and if we’re going to do that, treating each other with kindness and respect goes a long way. It used to be called “common courtesy”.

Unfettered freedom of speech, when propagated by the ubiquitous internet, is undoubtedly part of the reason for the current contentious political divide between conservatives and liberals. The irony of the situation is even more apparent when both sides claim that the other is “undermining democracy.” Given the intensity of the debate, both sides may be right.

— Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Computer Science at Plattsburgh State University, where he recently retired after 30 years. Before that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer, and consultant for the U.S. Navy and private industry. Send comments and suggestions to his blog with additional text and links. He can also be reached at

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