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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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Publius, RIP?

EFF's own Fred von Lohmann has a monthly column at Law.com, and fortunately we have the freedom to publish these columns in their entirety here at the EFF website. This month's column is "Publius, RIP?" -- a look at why it's critically important to our society that we...

Online Journalists to Get Their Day in Court

Apple Agrees to Delay Subpoenas Until March 4 Hearing San Jose - After negotiations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Apple agreed on Friday to extend the deadline on a subpoena it issued to an online journalist's Internet service provider (ISP) until after a hearing that will determine whether the...
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Legal Clarity for Bloggers

There are two laudable legislative efforts in the works that could help clarify that online journalists are entitled to the same rights and privileges as traditional print journalists.
The first is the national OPEN Government Act (S.394), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and co-sponsor Senator Pat Leahy...

Apple Bites Students; the Woz Bites Back

People in the Apple community are upset about the company's legal action against three Canadian students who allegedly posted a developer build of MacOS 10.4 via BitTorrent. Now the publisher of DrunkenBlog has posted responses from 25 members of the Mac community -- including one from none other...

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