By VERNE G. KOPYTOFF
Published: March 6, 2011
By VERNE G. KOPYTOFF
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.
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.