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Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

On January 25th, I wrote about Bill White, a neo-Nazi extremist with a habit for posting cruel blogs in particular regard to Jewish people.  I would like to follow up on this with the recent developments in his case.

As of December 6th, 2008 White was being held in the Metropolitan Correction Center in Chicago, Illinois. He remained there a year until the trial back in December 2009. At this trial, he was convicted of on four counts for crimes he has committed. In recent developments, the charges were dropped regarding an incident with Ottawa Lawyer, Richard Warman. Three counts still remain on the table and his sentencing is due to take place on April 14th. If all these charges stick, he faces up to 30 years in prison (Hammack, 2008).

The reason I bring this up again is because I want to emphasize the point that even though the internet is not a physical entity, what you say on it may have lasting consequences. Whether it be via Facebook, Twitter, a public blog, a text message or an MSN conversation all these forms of communication can potentially be a channel for hate speech and a breach of our rights. I believe that Bill White breaches section 2B of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian equivalent to the American first amendment. He breaches the free speech barrier and stands by his own rules, the “offend –as- many- people- as- you- can- with- your- personal- opinions” mantra.

My mother raised me in such a way that if I didn’t have something nice to say, then I shouldn’t say it. Perhaps, hate speech bloggers should take a lesson from my childhood and seriously consider what is happening to Bill White for his actions.

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Time of Change

There are many people in the world that put their freedom of speech to good use and bring a positive atmosphere and sometimes a positive outcome for a city, country or even world. Unfortunately, not everyone puts their right of speech to a good use. Hate speech; is any type of speech that is hurtful, discriminatory, racist, etc. and is sadly very common. These people are abusing their freedom to speech and can almost be considered as harassment since their main goal is to put a negative message across. Fortunately, small steps are being made to lower the rate of hate speech; “many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation”(American Civil Liberties Union). Universities and other public places that are adopting these steps are helping obtain a more positive society. Hopefully, if more people were to follow in these steps, there would be less depression in the world, or a lower rate of suicide and negativity in the world.    

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When Barack Obama was announced as the 44th president of the United States – and the first African-American – on the 20th of January 2009, a lot of people believed that the U.S. would change forever more. This is exactly what President Obama did, brought a positive change all over the United States. He was brought in to “a global economic recession, two on-going foreign wars; and the lowest international favorability rating for the United States ever” (Bio True Story). So, fortunately, he began his presidency with change; “he campaigned on a ambitious agenda of financial reform, alternative energy, and reinventing education and health care – al while bringing down the national debt”(Bio True Story). Due to the positive change’s the Obama was making for the country, many American’s we’re starting to have a more positive outlook on life and wanting to change themselves and the world for the best. If it weren’t for Obama speaking out to the world during his campaign, letting the American’s know that he could bring positive change for them, the U.S. might still be in time of crisis. Obama had another problem at hand, if we won the election, he would be the first African-American President, and for people to take that first step is a lot to ask for. It was through his use of free speech and talking about his concerns from his heart, with no limits that convinced the people that he would fit the part. Therefore, there can be many positive outcomes through the use of free speech and I think that people should continue to speak out in positive ways so they too can bring out the best in themselves and others.

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Is this a slogan we want to grow up with? Whatever an individual posts online, whether through what they write or broadcast, is protected under the First Amendment, in the United States. This means that they are protected by the law to say whatever comes to mind on the internet and therefore feel that they have found a “safe-haven in the United States from which to launch their hateful messages” (Henry, 2009, p.1). It is such a controversial topic because yes, it is great to have the right to be able to express oneself without being criticized, but many are doing it to bring about hate towards certain groups. When people being to use this right to hurt instead of help that is when problems begin.

There are some Non-Governmental organizations in the United States that are working with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to “enforce terms of service contracts (TOS) against hate-based website” (Henry, 2009, p.1). Some of these groups include Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Together they have “adopted innovative approaches to hate on the internet. For instance, the ADL tracks and monitors hate-based websites, identifies hate trends, works cooperatively with law enforcement, notifies potentially impacted communities about relevant hate activities, and responds with training, educational curricula and counter-messages. It also has taken a novel, free-enterprise approach to encouraging ISP regulation of hate-speech on the Internet” (Henry, 2009, p.1).

The work these groups have done has been taken notice of by the government. They have taken notice of this and can better see how important this issue is to the majority. To thank these organizations the US Government has twice passed laws regulating the content of the Internet speech. In the 1990s the results have been mixed. The first law passed was the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) which tries to protect minors from explicit material on the Internet by stating that anyone under 18 is not to be a recipient of any obscene or indecent messages (Henry, 2009, p.2). The second law, Child Online Prevention Act (COPA) was passed in 1998 which attempted to shield children from harmful material on the Internet (Henry, 2009, p.2).

Both of these laws were fought right away. Obviously children are still viewing this explicit content and therefore these laws are not working to their full extent. The amount of exposure though has been lowered. Whether this is because of the law or that parents are trying their best to prevent this, it is happening. If certain people and/or groups do not want to be exposed to something than that should not happen. Exposure which allows people to better understand their world, for example, is a good thing, but when the information they are being exposed to doesn’t help them in any way, they should have the choice to say no, or else just not have to be exposed to it in the first place. Enabling this may be hard, but I think it is something that we as a community should work towards. Everyone has their own views and that should be respected no matter who the person is.

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Free speech is a given right to any citizen of the United States of America and Canada. Where an individual can untimely say whatever they want about anything they would like to talk about. Irene Nemes published an article called, Regulating Hate Speech in Cyberspace: Issues of Desirability and Efficacy, where she discuss a scenario regarding what could happen to Americans if the right against free speech is not controlled. Her article circulates around the very tragic event that occurred September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Towers collapsed because of a terrorist attack. Nemes articulates on how many people have negative views regarding American citizens and there are websites available on the internet that are solely directed to promote hate towards Americans,”Some web sites
openly praise the events of 11 September 2001, and express disappointment that only 3,000 Americans were killed. They sprout slogans such as ‘Osama should have killed more’, ‘Americans are vermin’ and ‘Americans conspire to control the world’” (Nemes, 2002, p 194). These words are very degrading and hurtful but they are protected by the laws that are issued by America itself. Nemes continues on to say how deeply upsetting many Americans find these hate words and they feel as though they are being victimized by the people conducting these websites.

I believe that there should be limits to what should and should not be said on the internet. The internet allows people to access and information and people who read these hate messages are getting false impressions of Americans, whom they may not ever have met. On the flip side free speech is a constiuent of American society and it would be very challenging to limit people’s speech rights while still trying to support a ‘free country’. It is important for people who write spiteful words on the internet understand that their words can be very hurtful and that what they say does come at a price.

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Unfortunately our lives aren’t free from struggle. Everyone is in constant struggle forcing them to need an escape. For many people, the escape they need exists through venting over the internet. Since the internet is an open area, an area where no one necessarily knows who they are, they feel that they cannot be judged. The internet is therefore the one area where he or she cannot be judged. Facebook is one area in which people can vent how they are feeling. On Facebook however an individual does not usually lie about their identity. Of course this is not the case in all situations. The individuals can either vent through their status or they can write on someone else’s wall directly.

An article titled Expulsion Feeds Debate on Online Rights discusses how a teen vented on Facebook and the consequences from it. Since Facebook is usually an open thing, anyone can access what the individual is venting about. If the wrong person gains access to this profile and reads it, the individual whose profile it was will have more problems than what he or she was venting about in the first place.

In Nashville, Taylor Cummings, 17, had not been getting along with his coaches. Later that day he logged onto Facebook at home and wrote certain some hateful things. One of these statements included “I’ma kill em all”. This statement caused the following consequences, suspension and then later expulsion (Bazar & Sarrio, 2010, p.1).

This escape is supposed to be something away from school and therefore allowed. These children do not expect to get into trouble with an activity that was done away from the school. The school boards are now deciding whether or not they have the right to do this, since it was off school grounds.

It is not healthy to keep feelings vent up inside. If we take away this venting source there will be a great number of people disadvantaged. I don’t think this space will ever be taken away. With the internet so vast there will always be places an individual can go to that a school board will not be able to find, especially if the individual does not reveal their identity.

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I don’t think we really realize how big of an issue freedom of speech is and the impact it has on people until it is properly analyzed. It is not a battle that is taking place in only certain areas, but all over the world. “Nine members of the European Parliament launched their campaign for global Internet freedom on Facebook today [April 16, 2009]”(Aliance of Liberals and Democrates for Europe). The campaign was created to prevent the censorship of the Internet and protect online freedom worldwide. Their main goal was to raise awareness that countries all around the world are taking control over the Internet and have been progressing their efforts ever more. The members of the European Parliament came up with a list of proposals for European Internet freedom. Among other things, their main concerns include:

  1. Annual naming and shaming of Internet restricting countries.
  2. Corporate standards for Internet businesses operating in authoritarian states.
  3. Development and distribution of anti-censorship tools and services.
  4. Human Rights Impact Assessments for exports to Internet restricting countries.
  5. Treat Internet censorship as an international barrier to trade.

 This group of people demonstrate how hard our society needs to fight to keep our privilege of having a freedom of speech and being able to use it in any way, either on paper, Internet, verbally, etc. Their determination is an example for everyone to follow and to step up and realize the importance of our right to speech.  One of their goals is to “make sure that Internet companies promote an open Internet and will not limit the freedom people have online”(Aliance of Liberals and Democrates for Europe). The people need to show the Internet companies how bad they want this and what kind of a fight they will put up to keep their freedom of speech.

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