Skip to main content
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...

A person holding a megaphone that another person speaks through

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

an imprisoned person uses a mobile phone through the bars

Stop the Persecution: Iranian Authorities Must Immediately Release Technologists and Digital Rights Defenders

Update, November 9, 2022: We are happy to announce that Aryan Eqbal has been released along with other digital rights defenders. Jadi Mirmirani remains wrongfully detained. We will continue to monitor the situation.We, the undersigned human rights organizations, strongly condemn the Iranian authorities’ ruthless persecution, harassment, and arrest of technologists...

EFF Cat Speaking Freely

The Internet Is Not Facebook: Why Infrastructure Providers Should Stay Out of Content Policing

Cloudflare’s recent headline-making decision to refuse its services to KiwiFarms—a site notorious for allowing its users to wage harassment campaigns against trans people—is likely to lead to more calls for infrastructure companies to police online speech. Although EFF would shed no tears at the loss of KiwiFarms (which is still...

Get to Know the EFA: Digital Fourth

Electronic Frontier Alliance member Digital Fourth—also known as Restore the Fourth Boston—has been instrumental in passing surveillance oversight ordinances in the greater Boston area since 2018. Digital Fourth advocates for Fourth Amendment rights in Massachusetts. The Fourth Amendment protects people in the U.S. from “unreasonable searches and seizures”...

A town showing many public features (parks, transport, a library) with the backdrop of a circuit board.

Court’s Decision Upholding Disastrous Texas Social Media Law Puts The State, Rather Than Internet Users, in Control of Everyone’s Speech Online

The First Amendment and the freedom of speech and expression it provides has helped make the internet what it is today: a place for diverse communities, support networks, and forums of all stripes to share information and connect people. Individuals and groups exercise their constitutional right to host and moderate...

Pages

Back to top

JavaScript license information