15 March 2011

Sites Like Twitter Absent From Free Speech Pact


2008 several large American internet companies including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft signed the global code of conduct. This code promised to offer better protection for online speech and privacy in restrictive countries. At the same time, the debate over censorship in China had gotten into full swing, (for unaware readers, China has a history refusing freedom on the internet) and those American companies who had complied with the Chinese restrictions were caught in the crossfire. They were challenged to no longer do so and to ignore putting profit ahead of principles. Finally, this was the engine - to rally everyone on the same side of free speech. The larger companies desired for the smaller companies to follow their example in not assisting any government guilty of censoring the internet. However, in 2011 the Global Network Initiative, which was formed by human rights, groups in 2008, in order to maintain the code of conduct and attract more companies to sign it. This act has failed to attract more corporate members beyond the original three, which has limited its impact as a viable force for change. Recently Middle East uprisings have highlighted the important responsibility technology can have in the world’s most closed societies.

The internet provides various outputs of information and communication services. Some of these are browsing of information portals, search engines, access to news, and the ability for people to freely post blogs. These are all services in which free speech can exist. Here in America, we have the luxury of taking advantage of everything the internet has to offer. These technologies are rarely offered to closed societies. However, just because we have this freedom, does not mean America is oblivious to dangers that the internet creates. Unlike other countries, the U.S does not perceive the internet as a place with no structure. The internet is regulated, despite what people assume. Although people may have different opinions discussing the strength of America regulations, they should also realize that the internet does not give you full freedom to do whatever you want. However the idea of free speech is not a problem, it should be supported not turned down. Free speech is essential, in my belief, if done carefully; it can raise countries awareness of what’s happening outside of their own. Free speech allows countries to integrate; it’s a median for people to freely communicate with those outside their countries.

If free speech remains prohibited, countries will never learn how to work collectively. They will never promote peace and reap the benefits free speech offers. Now, I’m not encouraging every country to forget their morals and automatically follow America’s direction by assuming free speech is not a problem, but to realize protecting free speech is crucial to keeping people around the world safe. Free speech is a right shared by everyone in the world; it makes life easier and companies not defending this right need to avoid being one minded, and punish themselves for assuming only profit matters. Now the Global Initiative has done well advertising the three largest American companies agreeing with the call for free speech. However, they still face hidden challenges. First, they have not been successful in getting the code of conduct outside the U.S. This has influenced countries to be uncertain about whether or not free speech is vital. Secondly, they have not been successful in attracting Twitter and Facebook to the free speech pact. If they were, the benefits of free speech would be easier to spread because of the social networking sites audiences’, Finally, other internet companies have not signed the code of conduct, which has made it difficult to provide examples to new companies which they hope to also attract.

In conclusion, the free speech controversy is not ever easy to deal with. However, it should always be taken into consideration. It should heavily be encouraged around the world, and as the U.S has been successful in dealing with free speech, we also have the responsibility to promote its success to other countries. Big companies need to sign the code of conduct, instead of ignoring it. The companies need to create better standards of principles if they want to improve our economy and make this world a better place.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/technology/07rights.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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