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Posts Tagged ‘Unconstrained Expression’


Hate, it is a cruel thing in our world that unfortunately is here to stay for awhile; unless we do something drastic to change it. McMasters in his article, Must a Civil Society Be a Censored Society?, says that “most Americans want to do something about the hate” (McMasters, 1999, p.2). However, wanting to do something and actually doing something is very different.

Bullies exist in our society at every age. There will always be someone who hits a nerve with us and just annoys and bothers us. The extent to which they bully us varies however when it comes down to it they affect us all the same because they hurt a part of us. When we have someone annoying us a common thing for others to say is to just ignore them, however it is much easier said than done.

The Internet, with the World Wide Web, has been bombarded with hate since its beginning. Activists have tried to eliminate these bullies by “using the Internet to give the lie to hate speech, to monitor hate groups, and to highlight the problems of hate” (McMasters, 1999, p.1). This hate that I am speaking about is speech that “offers, threatens, or insults groups based on race, [colour], religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, [etc.]” (McMasters, 1999, p.1). Activists have also started drafting proposals to eliminate this hate speech. Their proposals basically come down to saying that “words can and do harm the targets of hate in painfully real ways; hate speech silences the member of victim groups and denies them their rightful standing in society” (McMasters, 1999, p.1).

The goal of these activist groups is to “silence individual members of victim groups if the speech against others falls within the definition of hate speech or if individuals within the group are only allowed to represent that group in their speech” (McMasters, 1999, p.2). However to silence these individuals and groups is very hard. Codifying a law is a very difficult process. It must go through a series of steps and many important people. Even if the concept is beneficial it must be determined that it is beneficial for the greatest amount of people and for those it is not helping it is not completely minimizing their rights.

The end hope is that by censoring some things these ‘haters’ will realize the impact they are having on people and will start changing these negative claims to positive ones or if they can’t do that than just don’t say them at all. American likes to feel that it “has room for everyone” and that it is a place of “tolerance, equality, and justice” (McMasters, 1999, p.1) so hopefully by censoring these speeches it will start becoming the kind of place it claims to be.

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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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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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Facebook is the fastest growing social networking internet website in the world. According to the ‘Facebook Press Room’ there are more than 400 million active Facebook users and 70% of those users live outside of the United States of America. Facebook allows people all over the world to connect and share personal messages, information, pictures and videos with each other. Ted Janusz author of Marketing on Social Networks: Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook Demystified states, “with over a billion photos and over 14 million added each day, Facebook is the number one photo-sharing site on the Internet” (Janusz, 2009, 124-125). These numbers show how much Facebook is valued in today’s society and the importance it holds to it’s subscribers. In some cases Facebook has become extremely addicting to people and some people because of it’s addicting ways have lost jobs because of it. A website called ‘How to Avoid Getting Fired By Facebook’ gives it’s readers tips and tricks to use in order to avoid losing your job because of Facebook. The website states, “people are losing their jobs over this. Take the Goldman Sachs trader Charlie Barrow for instance. He became addicted and got fired for spending too much of his time prattling. He went as far as adding a warning letter from his employer on his profile.” People need to realize there is a consequence for everything you put on the internet about yourself and that others (including your employer) do have access to this information. Although it may seem harmless to write next to your Facebook profile name ‘Wow, I hate my job!’ or ‘My boss is a tyrant!’ these messages can be taken very personally and people are losing their positions everyday because of what they do, say or post on Facebook.

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The chance for escapism is explained in Michael Strangelove’s book titled The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and The Anti-Capitalist Movement; “while one is never truly free, in cyberspace the individual experiences a greater degree of expressive freedom than is otherwise made available in the meatspaces of capitalism’s social orders” (Strangelove, 1962, p.22). Since there are so many constraints in today’s world, it can be justified why so many people have the need to create an out for themselves. These online audiences now have more “communicative freedoms not previously available within the confines of twentieth-century media” (Strangelove, 1962, p.22) making it very appealing to the mass.

W. Russell Neuman believed that “audiences prefer to not have to interact with the media;” (Strangelove, 1962, p.4) however, 15 years later audiences were very active and not passive when it comes to participating with the media. The masses are no longer watching the commercials during the television breaks but flipping to another channel and watching parts of a different show. The opportunity to express oneself is not given through commercial media but rather over the internet; but through this example, of viewers making the conscious decision to choose what they would like to do and see, we can see that a change is occurring – individuals are taking matters into their own hands.

There are two sides to every coin; therefore it is always in constant debate whether or not this unconstrained expression will be beneficial or harmful to the community. The term, unconstrained expression, is used to describe “a lack of corporate and state control over the production of online content and disclosure;” however, there is not total freedom to express everything that one means because it “is limited by prior socializations, but it is also freed from institutional constraints” (Strangelove, 1962, p.22). Some researchers believe that this unconstrained expression will not last long because the “Internet community will diminish in significance as control is gradually re-established by state and market forces” (Strangelove, 1962, p.10) and therefore it is ok to allow this expression for now. However, the other side believes that the Internet community has been observed for long enough to “safely conclude that it is indeed very difficult to sensor” (Strangelove, 1962, p.10). The difference in opinion is where we will find difficulties in determining what should and should not be expressed and even if that is established, will society to able to enforce this believe onto the whole mass population.

Over the next month we will be discussing both the benefits and weaknesses of allowing the mass the opportunity to express their own opinions over the internet. We shall determine whether or not this is aiding society to grow as a whole or further discontinuing the unity of the masses.

A completed documentary will be enclosed on the Documentary page.

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