13 September 2008

Freedom of Speech

I am following some interesting threads at the moment on this very topic. The discussion is at times heated and personal. It is rarely focused on the legal issues except in abstract ways and generalizations. The discussion is multi-jurisdictional and therefore comparative in nature.

Although the topic in a more general sense is the freedom of speech, the heart of the issue seems to be more focused on defamation, slander, and libel.

I tend to believe that the Internet has developed very much as an anything goes forum. The law is lagging behind and it does so as old style media laws are trying to be remodelled to fit new style media. Defamation gets tricky in this scenario. For example, does defamation occur at the point of upload or download when we are talking about electronic publishing? How much liability can be attributed to webmasters or bloggers that do not censor third party material? How anonymous are anonymous bloggers?

In terms of anonymous bloggers. This is an old debate and one that cyclically, at least, raises its head every now and then. Most of you reading this will know that I am not an anonymous blogger. The ugly mugshot you see in my profile is indeed me. Anonymous bloggers would also include those using pen names. I am for anonymous bloggers. My point on anonymous blogging relates to how anonymous you really are. I have learned that you can be truly anonymous if you are familiar with the technology and know what you're doing. For the rest of us not so techno-gadgety (amateurs) blogging using a pen name or just the title anonymous is probably not affording you the degree of anonymity that you think.

But back to freedom of speech. Are the questioning of people's sex lives or their preferences, whether it be sexual or political, or making disparaging remarks about specific individuals know or anonymous, or the threatening of physical violence off limits? Do people have a right to be offended?

I generally believe the trading of insults is an attempt to mark deficiencies in sound sustainable arguments. The insults are simply detracting from the arguments. Nevertheless, to each their own. However, when you start writing about particular people on your blog then I consider this to be an open invitation to the other party to comment. If the post is personal and disparaging of the other then I think you have an obligation to allow the targeted person to comment.

Defamation normally occurs where what is said is untrue, factually inaccurate. Does defamation occur on the Internet? Yes, there is case law to say that it does. In terms of precedent and interpretation of the prevailing laws this is still a much more fluid situation.

With great power comes great responsibility. The Internet provides us, the regular people, with a vast and wide forum. We have an obligation to exercise a degree of caution when wielding this power. After all, I am sure that I read somewhere that "the pen is mightier than the sword!"

Have a good weekend!


Katadia said...

Which thread is that? :) Do share with the bored nursing housewife.

I am so not anonymous. Which is a real pity because I have to be careful about what I say sometimes. :) I just don't use my real name because I am saving it for my first ever peer-reviewed journal publication. Which probably will be.... never. LOL

Rob Baiton said...


I guess anonymity is relative in that sense. There is a difference between careful and dishonest (the whole legal thing) :D

Keep the faith! One day you will be published if that is what you really want.

You can follow the threads at both the treespotter and the polar bear (both are in my blog roll).

rima fauzi said...

I'm not anonymous and I still say (mostly) what I want, although sometimes it gets people to say nasty things about you. I've been called unpatriotic, country basher, Islam hater (except I fate all organized religions, my hatred is not reserved exclusive to only one) and other stuff..

I really don't care and i will continue to speak my mind, however silly or stupid other people think me and my thoughts are..

Yeah, there are some heated debates out there at the moment, good ting though, it brings back interest in blogwalking again.. :p

Rob Baiton said...

Hey Rima...

Nice that I finally wrote something that inspired a comment from you.

Just dropped you an email as I could not find a suitable post to comment on while staying on topic :D

No kidding! You definitely are not anonymous and you most certainly say what you want. The beauty of that though is that it is heartfelt and it makes it very real.

I gathered that you were equal opportunity in who came into you sites. Definitely fair and balanced :D

I don't always agree with you but I have never thought you to be silly or stupid. No need to sell yourself short here. Your writings exhibit a great deal more intellect than much of what is out there. Your blog is not only a testament to your interests but it is a testament to your passions as well.

Hopefully, it won't be quite as long between comments this time. The pressure is on me now to write more interesting stuff...