Introduction Social networking became integral part of our life. Year after year the limits of the social networks broaden with the instruction of technologies, among which one of the strongest became Internet. It splits the borders between nations and countries and reduces distances and time. With the help of social networking we are free to share any information of particular interest between people of the same interests at any time we would like.
However, when it comes to the statement of being free, the first thing that comes to our mind is “How much actually we are free to express our position at social networks and are we responsible for actions posting online? ”. Social networking and freedom of speech. To speak broadly about social networking and freedom of speech, and their actual interrelation, it could have been worthy to distinguish these two concepts. Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas via speech. Sometimes as the synonym freedom of expression is attributed to the term.
The right for free expression is recognized by the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights as well as by various international laws.. According to Article 19 the rights evolves “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. However, as each right has its own responsibilities, some restriction are imposed when it considers “ respect of the rights or reputation of others” , “the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals”(1).
Social networking historically developed as unification of some people of one or other community, or people of same interests to share their experience and information. Guilds and clubs also may be attributed to the first forms of social networking. However, how it has already been mentioned, with the development of the technologies the concept and scale of the social networking changed. Nowadays, social networking has been identified as as the ‘‘use of specific types of websites focused on creation and growth of online social networks which allow users to interact’’(2).
With the stronghold of social networking in the life of modern people, among which key role belongs to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube, WikiLeaks and others and with respect of the affect in recent events in UK and Middle East, the purpose of this essay is narrowed by the question if the social networking represents opportunity for freedom of speech. How does social networking represent freedom of speech? The criteria of freedom of the speech have already been discussed earlier.
If we think of volume and type if information posted ever second on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and while using cell phones, that will bring us to the consideration of being free to share our position freely without being restricted to do so. Take for instance Facebook(as it covers population of 500 millions people, which is considered 3rd worlds population after China and Russia). Facebook represents a kind of public forum where people may freely share their thoughts, information and other.
There is no limitation to the freedom of the texts and contents posted there, until it infringes or violates someone’s right or law (which also is similar with criteria imposed by the Declaration). And what to say about text messaging and cell phones. Recent events in UK, during riots in London showed that simple bbm smart phone application worked for free distribution of the message content and call that brought to mass riots in the capital without any limitation imposed to the mentioned content(3).
When talking about role of social networking Egyptian “Revolution 2. 0” will, probably, work as bright illustration of the affect of social networking in free expression of thought and will and unification of masses in the face of common goal”. Facebook “allowed people to privately and publicly articulate and debate a welter of conflicting views”(5). One of this source’s convenience was the fact that is worked as mean of “cheap” and “simultaneous” interaction in unification of mass groups for the common goal.
Hindrances on the way of realization of the freedom of speech via social networking It has been broadly spoken on the role of social networking in the life of modern people, that also played a role of the tool of the freedom of the speech realization as well. Still, it has obstacles on its way. The condition of shared awareness that arises with free spreading of information at social networks, and which also known as “dictator’s dilemma”, or more accurately “conservative dilemma” (4,p. 6)became of key targets of censorship and propaganda of the government. It could be hardly spoken of the freedom of the speech if we go back to the state interference of Iran during the elections of 2009, when cell phone communications were interrupted and Facebook access was temporarily blocked, as many contenders participating in elections utilized Facebook in their campaigns(5). Or, for example, when government of Bahrain banned Google Earth after annexation of public land by the royal family was annotated on the map(2).
Not going to far, a story with a pair of young fellows arrested in UK for spreading information that was supposedly to call for riots, in the situation when no riotous action was involved afterwards, also would make someone doubt how really freedom of the speech may exist via social networks if people can be freely arrested for sharing their position and attitude on their personal pages? Conclusion Role and affect of social network in our today life is undoubtful.
It turned to a kind of a platform where people may express their attitude towards events happening in their life by statuses, text messages, posts, videos and others types of media. When sharing this information it should be always kept in mind that people are always responsible for the things they do, and actually, for the things they say, even if it comes to simply posting at Facebook. Coming to question of the possibility of existence of freedom of speech in social networking I would rather include to the concept that is exists.
Even if address to the situations above with Iranian government, riots in UK, social networks were used as the platforms for free expression of one’s though, as no restrictions were imposed by the networks themselves. The problem of the failure of freedom of the speech realization does not lie in the fact it did not provide the opportunity for free speech, the problem was in the attitude of authority to it. If Belorussia is actually de-jure a democracy, but the president Lukashenko suppressed street protest against(4,p29) him, it does not mean that the concept of democracy does not exist at all, and may never exist in Belorussia.
That means that the attitude of the Byelorussian authority is incorrect toward understanding of democracy. Social networks does not impose restriction on the content, however it feels free to remove any content that infringes someone’s rights or violates some law. And it will not mean that there is no opportunity for freedom of speech. If we recollect Article 19 of the Declaration, we will see that the right of the free expression will bear almost same restrictions and this, in its turn will not mean that freedom of speech does not exist at all. So, the problem is not in opportunities, the problem is it attitude towards them