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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

Cross Border Police Surveillance Treaty Must Have Clear, Enforceable Privacy Safeguards, Not a Patchwork of Weak Provisions

This is the fourth post in a series about recommendations EFF, European Digital Rights, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic, and other civil society organizations have submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which is currently reviewing the Second Additional Protocol to...

EU flag with scales of justice

EFF, Access Now, and Partners to European Parliament: Free Speech, Privacy and Other Fundamental Rights Should Not be Up for Negotiation in the Digital Services Act

The European Committee on Legal Affairs adopted the proposals discussed here on Sept. 30 by a vote of 15+/9-. The proposals now go to the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), which will develop a position with a vote scheduled for November 8. European Union (EU) civil...

A plane flies a banner over Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters during the company’s iPhone launch event on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. It is part of an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) campaign demanding Apple drop its planned iPhone surveillance

لماذا طيّرت مؤسسة الجبهة الإلكترونية طائرة فوق مقر شركة أبل Apple

طالب عدد من منظمات الحريات المدنية وحقوق الإنسان والباحثون/ات والعملاء الشهر الماضي، شركة أبل Appleبإلغاء خطتها لتثبيت برنامج لمسح الصور على أجهزتها. حيث يشكل هذا البرنامج خطرا كبيرا على الخصوصية والأمان. بلغت شركة أبل Apple الرسالة، فأعلنت أنها ستؤخر العمل بالبرنامج للتشاور مع مجموعات مختلفة حول تأثيره. ولكن لإعادة...

A giant robot hand holds a monkey wrench, a human is jumping for it.

No, Tech Monopolies Don’t Serve National Security

In what appears to be a “throw spaghetti on the wall approach” to stopping antitrust reform targeting Big Tech, a few Members of Congress and a range of former military and intelligence officials wrote a letter asserting that these companies need to be protected for national security. It’s a spurious...

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