I wanted to shorten the title and show off my scholarship, so I searched for the phrase “Once Again” to find the Latin equivalent, which turned out to be “Iterum” (which just made the column longer…).
Since the Internet evolved into the ubiquitous “World Wide Web,” society has viewed it as legitimately as we view books and newspapers.
Of course, the Internet is not the only way we humans communicate. We also use live speeches, broadcasts and telephones as well as letters (e.g. USPS) billboards, sky writers (remember?) and many others (e.g. smiles). None of these models are regulated by the government. For example, the newspaper can print almost what it wants, in the judgment of its editors. Newspapers generally follow the (slightly modified) New York Times creed that “most interesting news is fit for print”.
On the other hand: “Although the constitution guarantees a free press, the government does regulate some media outlets. The print media is largely unregulated, and newspapers and magazines can print almost anything as long as they don’t defame anyone. Despite Congressional efforts to limit some controversial content, but the Internet is also largely unregulated. Broadcast media, however, is regulated by most governments. Radio and television broadcasters must be licensed by the government because the public owns the airwaves under U.S. law. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) issues these licenses and is responsible for regulating the airwaves. The FCC also acts as a police agency for broadcasting, and it can fine broadcasters who violate standards of public decorum on the air. In extreme cases, the FCC can even revoke a broadcaster’s license, making It is permanently off the air.” (www.sparknotes.com/us-government-and-politics/american-government/the-media/section3/)
However, the Internet has expanded the meaning of “broadcast media”, which is a one-way path from the broadcaster to you. It’s different from TV, newspapers, and books because the Internet works both ways. Not only can anyone broadcast their views, it also allows the recipient to respond as they choose. Of course, newspapers and magazines can have a letter to the editor section, but the response time between sending and publishing the letter is certainly not instantaneous – it can take days for it to be printed. In addition, printed responses are at the discretion of the editor. If I wrote a letter that clearly contained false information, like “everyone loves Trump” or “everyone hates Trump,” it would probably be rejected and not printed. It gets tricky when information is subject to what the founders of our Constitution believed to be the most important issue and the limitations known as the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting its free exercise; abolishing the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press; or the right of people to peacefully assemble and petition the government.” It protects freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government.
Questions arise when asked about the precise definition of “free speech,” and they are not trivial.
For example, Wikipedia writes: “Yelling in a crowded theater” is a popular metaphor used to describe speech or behavior whose primary purpose is to create panic. This sentence is a paraphrase of Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court case Schenk v. John. The United States held in 1919 that the defendant’s speech against conscription during World War I was not protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protection. That case was later partially overturned in Brandenburg v. Germany. Ohio limited prohibited speech in 1969 to those aimed at and likely to incite imminent violations of the law, such as riots. “
Freedom and Consequences
So, in short, the problem is not shouting, but the consequences of shouting. If panic ensues and people are trampled because of it, Big Mouth breaks the law. However, if all it turns out is a bunch of angry patrons, the worst-case scenario is for the shouter to be banned from future theater appearances. This free speech and censorship problem isn’t limited to the US – according to an article on the UK Lighthouse website (https://www.lighthousecommunity.global), titled “When Free Speech Is an Excuse for Abuse!” Exploring the Dark Side of the Internet and Thinking , “Free speech does not mean immunity from consequences. What we say, why we say it, and what our individual and collective responsibilities are.” This example is another (somewhat whimsical) way of expressing the question: even how The issue of expressing opinions on free speech versus censorship is also a thorny one. In order to save our crumbling society and restore some order, is it time for the federal government to step in and extend the FCC’s reach to the internet, or will it only exacerbate an already bad situation? Now, there’s a tricky problem.
No one has ever changed the other person’s mind on an issue by yelling or otherwise belittling the other person’s intentions. If so, it’s usually because the person being yelled isn’t really persuaded, but just wants to get out of an unpleasant conversation. Perhaps the most important thing is to realize that we are all in this together, and if we are going to do that, being kind and respectful to each other will go a long way. It used to be called “common etiquette”.
Unrestricted freedom of speech, when disseminated through the ubiquitous and ubiquitous Internet, is undoubtedly partly responsible for the current contentious political divide between conservatives and liberals. The irony of the situation becomes all the more apparent when both sides claim that the other is “undermining democracy.” Given the intensity of the debate, both sides may be right.
— Stewart A. Denenberg, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Plattsburgh State University, recently retired after 30 years with the institution. Before that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer, and consultant for the U.S. Navy and private industry. Send comments and suggestions to his blog at www.tec-soc.blogspot.com with additional text and links. He can also be reached at email@example.com.