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24 September 2012 0 Comments
Posted in Opinion

Freedom of speech and the internet

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This week has seen the strain between the freedom of speech and the internet.

You tube and the “Innocence of Muslims” film

Google the owners of YouTube rejected a request from the White House to remove the film “Innocence of Muslims” from its website. The film which has caused wide spread anger around the Muslim world can be viewed on YouTube amongst other sites. Google have agreed to block the film in countries where it is illegal including Libya, Egypt, Indonesia, India and Saudi Arabia.

A YouTube representative told the BBC: “We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere.”

“This video – which is widely available on the web – is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”

Google’s guidelines on the issue provide “At Google we have a bias in favour of people’s right to free expression in everything we do. We are driven by a belief that more information generally means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual. But we also recognise that freedom of expression can’t be — and shouldn’t be — without some limits.”

Offensive tweet and Daley

The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC has announced that new social media rules on abuse are to be issued, after Team GB diver Tom Daley received an offensive Twitter message from footballer Daniel Thomas.

Mr Thomas was arrested and released without charge after a homophobic message referring to Daley and fellow Olympic diver Peter Waterfield was posted on Twitter.

The Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send a communication using a public electronic communications network if that communication is “grossly offensive”. Although the tweet was offensive it was viewed as not being “grossly offensive”.

Mr Starmer said: “Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors, but also by others including the police, the courts and service providers…… In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media.”

It will be interesting to see how the issue of freedom of speech is dealt with in time to come. It is definitely a difficult one and there is clearly a balance which needs to be judged correctly.

If you have any queries in relation to this blog please contact John North, Head of Corporate and Commercial on 020 7583 2222 or jdn@royds.com or Sonia Mohammed smm@royds.com

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