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The online world offers the promise of speech with minimal barriers and without borders. New technologies and widespread internet access have radically enhanced our ability to express ourselves; criticize those in power; gather and report the news; and make, adapt, and share creative works. Vulnerable communities have also found space to safely meet,  grow, and make themselves heard without being drowned out by the powerful. The ability to freely exchange ideas also benefits innovators, who can use all of their capabilities to build even better tools for their communities and the world.

In the U.S., the First Amendment grants individuals the right to speak without government interference. And globally, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the right to speak both online and offline. Everyone should be able to take advantage of this promise. And no government should have the power to decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.

Government threats to online speakers are significant. Laws and policies have enabled censorship regimes, controlled access to information, increased government surveillance, and minimized user security and safety.

At the same time, online speakers’ reliance on private companies that facilitate their speech has grown considerably. Online services’ content moderation decisions have far-reaching impacts on speakers around the world. This includes social media platforms and online sites selectively enforcing their Terms of Service, Community Guidelines, and similar rules to censor dissenting voices and contentious ideas. That’s why these services must ground their moderation decisions in human rights and due process principles.

As the law and technology develops alongside our ever-evolving world, it’s important that these neither create nor reinforce obstacles to people’s ability to speak, organize, and advocate for change. Both the law and technology must enhance people’s ability to speak. That’s why EFF fights to protect free speech - because everyone has the right to share ideas and experiences safely, especially when we disagree.

Free Speech Highlights

Free Speech is Only as Strong as the Weakest Link

From Mubarak knocking a country offline by pressuring local ISPs to PayPal caving to political pressure to cut off funding to WikiLeaks, this year has brought us sobering examples of how online speech can be endangered. And it’s not only political speech that is threatened – in the United...

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

47 U.S.C. § 230, a Provision of the Communication Decency ActTucked inside the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 is one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet: Section 230.This comes somewhat as a surprise, since the original purpose of the...

Free Speech Updates

To Make Social Media Work Better, Make It Fail Better

Pity the poor content moderator. Big Tech platforms expect their mods to correctly apply a set of rules to users in more than a hundred countries, in over a thousand languages. These users are clustered into literally millions of online communities, each with its own norms and taboos. What a...

multi-colored hands with circuit patterns reach to the sky

Negotiations Over UN Cybercrime Treaty Under Way in New York, With EFF and Partners Urging Focus on Human Rights

While tensions run high across the globe over the invasion of Ukraine, the world’s governments are meeting at the UN this week and next to find common ground on a proposed treaty to facilitate international cooperation and coordination in computer crime investigations. The treaty, if approved, may reshape criminal laws...

AlHathloul v. DarkMatter Group

EFF is representing prominent Saudi human rights activist Loujain AlHathloul in a lawsuit against spying software maker DarkMatter Group and three of its former executives for illegally hacking her iPhone to secretly track her communications and whereabouts.AlHathloul is among the victims of an illegal spying program created and run by...

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