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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

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Paying the Price for Trying to Chill Speech

Bloggers in California have scored another victory against baseless legal threats intended to chill free speech. In Tendler v. Does, Mordecai Tendler had tried and failed to unmask several anonymous bloggers who had written about his alleged sexual misconduct. Yesterday, a California State Superior Court judge ruled that he...

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FTC Suggests Muni WiFi Policy Options

This week, the FTC released a report about municipal wireless broadband projects. Rather than taking a particular stance on the matter, "[i]t sets forth a framework that recognizes that the relevance of arguments for and against municipal involvement may vary depending on the particular factual circumstances." As Harold Feld...

Thoughts on Google, YouTube

John Batelle over at SearchBlog was kind enough to invite me to do a short interview about a variety of Google and YouTube copyright questions. Among other subjects touched on, I opine that all the hand-wringing analysts fretting about the copyright implications of GooTube may have it backwards:So...

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Homeland Security Funds Media Surveillance Project

The New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security is funding the development of software to keep tabs on international publications expressing unfavorable views about the United States. According to the Times:
The new software would allow much more rapid and comprehensive monitoring of the...

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