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"We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution." – Scott Cook

Free Speech and the Internet

In today’s discourse about free speech, the dominant value associated with speech is its role in getting at the truth, or the advancement of knowledge. Speech is the means by which people convey information and ideas, by which they communicate viewpoints and propositions and hypotheses, which can then be tested against the speech of others. Through the process of open discussion we find out what we ourselves think and are then able to compare that with what others think on the same issues. The end result of this process, we hope, is that we will arrive at as close an approximation of the truth as we can.

  -Lee Bollinger, The Tolerant Society

Hate-based websites on the internet are protected by the First Amendment of the United States, yet the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has developed methods which indirectly cause hate groups to be censored. One way they do this is by requesting that internet service providers (ISPs) create contracts that restrict hate-based language on their websites. The goal is to prevent these groups from having a forum to promote their ideologies. This raises many questions about censorship and free speech. ISPs cannot be held responsible for content on their websites. ISPs do have the right to censor their websites, but this means that someone working within an ISP will determine what type of speech is deemed hateful or appropriate. This may result in corporations ultimately controlling what language can be used on the internet, because technically, the internet is not public.

Henry, J. S. (2009). Beyond free speech: novel approaches to hate on the Internet in the United States. Information & Communications Technology Law, 18(2), 235-251. doi:10.1080/13600830902808127

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