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How to Fix the Internet: Don't Be Afraid to Poke the Tigers

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...

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Section 230

47 U.S.C. § 230The Internet allows people everywhere to connect, share ideas, and advocate for change without needing immense resources or technical expertise. Our unprecedented ability to communicate online—on blogs, social media platforms, and educational and cultural platforms like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive—is not an accident. Congress recognized that...

Free Speech Updates

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Ch.4 on Profanity

At a time when the FCC is working itself into a lather over the notion that the "f-word" might be spoken on the air, it's good to be reminded that not all countries share our obsession with George Carlin's famous list of words. The UK's Channel 4 crafted an...

Court Overturns Ban on Posting DeCSS

The California Court of Appeal Sixth Appellate District today overturned a 1999 injunction against Andrew Bunner that prohibited him from posting DeCSS DVD decryption computer code, because it found that the DVD-Copy Control Association did not present evidence that CSS was still a trade secret. "We are thrilled that...

DVDCCA Surrenders in Bunner DVD Descrambling Case

In a surprising retreat today, the consortium of entertainment and technology companies known as DVD CCA has attempted to summarily dismiss a lawsuit against Andrew Bunner, a republisher of a computer program that was created to allow movie lovers to play their DVDs on computers that run the Linux operating...

US Export Control Laws on Encryption Ruled Unconstitutional

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the federal government's restrictions on encryption are unconstitutional, affirming a lower court's ruling that export control over cryptographic "software and related devices and technology are in violation of the First Amendment on the grounds of prior restraint."
"The Court understood...

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