Free Speech in the Age of Big Tech

Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States holding a Universal Declaration of Human Rights poster in Spanish. UN Photo, November 1949, United Nations (Lake Success), New York, Photo # 117539 | Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

01/23/2021

We’re approaching an interesting point in debate over freedom of speech in the age of big-tech-driven social media. Social media is both liberating and destructive. Platforms enable more human interaction than ever. The ability to collaborate and exchange ideas with a broad range of people around the world is critical for our survival and well-being as a species.

The same platforms that enable communication and collaboration are also a pathway for disinformation and propaganda used to manipulate populations. When you layer on the idea that these platforms are run by private companies who set the rules of engagement, it engenders discussion about the interplay between big tech companies and civic discourse. That is happening.

One of my favorite organizations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, published a good analysis of the issues. It’s worth the time to read. Here’s a link to the EFF article.

The bottom line is we need to be careful and thoughtful when it comes to making any public policy decisions that could affect our rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution and its corollary, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These principles are fundamental bedrocks of freedom of conscience and expression. We cannot have those rights diminished.

As an end note, I happen to like the wording of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration, which the USA and many other nations adopted back in 1948:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

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