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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...

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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

Gmail: A Rough Guide to Protecting Your Privacy

As we noted last week, Google has introduced a new beta email service called "Gmail" that raises a number of privacy concerns.While the media has largely focused on the fact that Gmail will scan the contents of your email messages in order to target ads, the more serious problem...

Google's Gmail and Your Privacy -- The Scoop

Google's announcement last week of its new Gmail email service sparked widespread speculation about the possible impact it would have on users' privacy. Among the questions EFF has been asking: What information would Google pull from email? Would it log this information? For how long? Could your Gmail address...

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Gmail May Violate EU Privacy Laws

Reuters: "'This is not just 'buyer beware.' Consumers should be aware that there's a vast violation of European law occurring here,' said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, a citizens' group with offices in Britain and the United States. [...]Privacy groups said they were also concerned about Google's ability...

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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...

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