Freedom of Speech and the Internet

Freedom of Speech and the Internet

The saying is that actions speak louder than words, but what does this really mean in light of technological advancements in society today? We live in a place in which all of our daily interactions are often published for the world to see. Not only do we use the Internet, and social media specifically to connect with our family and friends, but also we use it as a forum to express our feelings, expectations, and desires. It is a daily occurrence for someone to log onto an online network such as Facebook or Twitter and see a post by someone explaining the intricate details of their life to their audience of “friends,” most of whom would not know such personal information without access to such a forum, or by even talking to this individual on a face to face basis. In addition to these types of revelations, social media has become a diary for individuals to express their thoughts and emotions through lyrics, quotes, photographs, and videos.

For the most part, people across the world find this to be the benefit of social media, they have an online diary in which they can instantaneously post what they want and get a reaction from those they connect with. However, a problem occurs when these networks are used in a reckless and demeaning manner.

For example, the internet has become a large source of shaming, in which people who do not agree with others’ behavior can take to the internet to broadcast such actions and seek a reaction from others leading to the overall “shaming” of the original persons’ behavior. This action has led to a number of individuals losing their jobs, facing demotion, or even limiting their choice of schools in the future. Although shaming can be detrimental in a number of ways, the worst acts on these social forums are those done by individuals who seek to threaten, bully, or even harm those who their words, videos, lyrics, and overall actions on these forums are directed at. Thus, the issue then occurs when these “threats” are brought to light and an individual who is put in fear as a result of these threats seeks to bring action against the “cyber-bully.” Specifically, officers, prosecutors, judges, and juries are often unable to tell what is simply an online rant by an angered or upset individual when compared to that which is a true threat against a specific individual.

The court system has been called to address the issue of inappropriate language and behavior on the internet time and time again, and to decipher the line between online ramblings aimed toward a specific person, and an actual intent to harm an individual immediately or in the near future. Not only must judges and juries decide what is meant by the post but also, they must decide whether this is the type of language and action protected by the First Amendment.

Although we as individuals have the right to freedom of speech, society as a whole must be cautious in what we post on the internet and how our posts will be read by others. The law is catching up on these technological advancements and therefore, one should think before they speak – or in this case, post! 

The saying is that actions speak louder than words, but what does this really mean in light of technological advancements in society today? Erica Cross explains.