Freedom of Speech & Expression Should Be Curtailed
This reveals the unfortunate fact that even though almost everyone claims to support freedom of speech, their definition of freedom of speech is quite restricted. This is of course something that not only Muslims do, but almost everyone. In this text I will define the framework to achieve what I like to call absolute freedom of speech. Even it will have a limited restriction, but only because of the current technological level of our society. I believe with sufficient technology absolute freedom of speech will be possible indeed.
As far as I concern, there is not a single nation that does not guarantee “freedom of speech” in their constitution. It is included in pretty much any EU country, in the US, Malaysia, in China and even in North Korea. This shows that the word itself is pretty meaningless, since the custom is to claim to have freedom of speech and still have a widespread censorship system in place. This applies to Western nations too, not only to countries like North Korea where the situation is abhorrent. By freedom of speech in this context I do not only mean speech, but information in any media, be it a sound recording, a picture or a video and also press.
The whole point of freedom of speech is to allow even the crazy, disgusting information to be made available. Some people have the skewed view that freedom of speech should only allow the mutually agreed, fun beliefs, and not the disgusting and offending stuff. But such a view is against the whole idea of freedom. This doesn’t mean that a support of freedom of speech should agree with beliefs like racism or Neo-Nazism. One has the whole right to fight against an idea or ideology, but the point is to not fight them by making thoughts illegal.
The proper way to fight them is with the freedom of expression, rational discussion and debating. German has ironically banned Neo-Nazism, using the same tactics that Nazis used themselves. The restrictions in Western nations are widespread. However, as I said earlier, the information that is banned is often disgusting, but even such information should be allowed. For example, there is a community in the internet who like to collect and share pictures and videos of violent nature, often showing dead people and gory accidents. Even if this is indignant to some, it should be allowed.
Some countries have naturally tried to ban it, like German. According to the prime minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen, such information is illegal in Finland too. Violent materials, like violent video games or movies have often attracted supporters of censorship. Some games in German and Australia are banned when they were deemed too violent. Modifications like green blood are often applied in such countries to get past the censorship board. The reason for this censorship is usually that playing these games makes children violent.
Although some studies seem to indicate a small correlation, this is a not proper argument for censorship. The human right for freedom of expression overrides this claim, as freedom as a concept often has a price. If a civilization starts to censorship all material that has a correlation with ‘immoral’ behaviour, they would have to censor a large chunk of information available, everything from critically acclaimed books to heavy metal songs. Racism is something that also attracts hordes of politically correct censorship supporters. Although such speech is mostly secured in the U.
S, if it does not directly call for violence against people, the situation is worse in the EU. An EU directive was recently passed that makes it illegal to incite hatred against a particular race among other things. This law can then be applied to sweep away racist websites and organisations, which already happens in a number of EU countries. Belgium banned a Flemish nationalist party, even when it had a popularity of 24%. The same EU directive also banned “grossly trivializing genocide”, effectively banning any historical research which might conclude something other than the ‘official truth’ defined the by the state.
Holocaust denial was already banned in many European countries before this law, and now will be illegal in all EU states. An acclaimed historian David Irving was prisoned in Austria for his thought crime of ‘identifying with the Germany Nazi Party’, although the real reason was writing a book with wrong conclusions regarding the Holocaust. I’ve showed that censorship is widespread in Western nations, but I would like to show one more example of a disturbing information which should be allowed just like any other information you disagree with.
For example, take the reasoning behind the banning of violent crimes: “Violent games should be banned because they create violence”. Now, let’s switch the words for the argument against another type of information: “Child pornography should be banned because they create child abuse. ” Although child pornography is extremely disgusting, it is not to be excluded like a dogma from the freedom of expression. First of all, child rapists should be hunted like any other criminal for their crime of child abuse. This does not mean that the actual video tape of such act should be illegal.
It is like saying that a video tape of a terrorist attack should be illegal. Even though it does not matter whether or not these films create child abuse, there is scientific study done that shows the link between pornography and rapes. It turns out that the more pornography is made available, the less rape is committed. Having widespread censorship system to fight child porn also makes it easier to ban other information. First it is child porn, then it is violent material, then it is racism and so forth, the list continues. Finally just offending or criticising someone is made illegal.
This is of course called libel, where you cannot make so called ‘wrong facts’, and leaving it to the justice system to define the ‘official truth’. This is of course used to silence critics of movies, restaurants, religions or large corporations. It is more widespread in the EU than the US, since the constitution of US is based on the idea of freedom of speech. I define absolute freedom of speech to create any information available. A practical example of this would be an internet server, which would serve information to anyone who requests it.
To define it this way, things like spamming and shouting in public are not covered by freedom of speech, since it forces people to receive information. The current technological level however creates one restriction. The only restriction that I believe can be accepted is information which ricks the destruction of the whole human civilization. There is no philosophical justification for this, only practical ones. If we want to survive the next 100 years, some information ought to be banned. These might include instructions to create extremely powerful weapons.
However, it must be pointed out that this restriction only applies for now. When we will have advanced enough technology, this restriction can be removed, since anyone trying to create those weapons can be prevented using high technology. There are several practical objections made by people against absolute freedom of speech. One is that if freedom is absolute, people could just print fake money. However, I defined freedom of speech only to make information available, so it would be legal to post pictures of money on a website, not to print them and break a contract between the state and a person.
Another concern is privacy. I support privacy, and agree that breaking into somebody’s house should be illegal. If that does happen and the information leaks out, people should be able to share that information freely though. The breaking into the house is the real crime committed. In a similar objection, a bank worker breaks the law if he uploads private information to his web server, since he had signed a contract with the bank not do that. However, once the information is downloaded it can be freely shared. In practice, it is also impossible to destroy information once it has been leaked out.
What then prevents somebody from creating a robot that reads an internet site and acts according to commands posted there? Well, the person controlling the robot through the website is not breaking any law, but whoever created the dangerous robot in the first place is. Some people also say that rich people can just post death threats with a price to his web server. If anyone follows such threats the killer is obviously responsible for the death. To prevent this kind of practice the proper solution is to have better technology to prevent and catch crime, not to restrict freedom of speech.
Would it then legal to post a computer virus to a web server? Yes, it would. Whoever downloads the computer virus and activates it is responsible for any damage created by that computer. The real solution is again proper computer security, not restricting freedom of speech. Computer viruses and the source code to them are even now freely available in the net. Freedom of speech is something that most people claim to support, but they are actually supporters of censorship and thought crime.
The first kinds of information to be censored are naturally the nasty and disgusting things, not things that the majority of people agree with. A small censorship law unfortunately creates a slippery slope leading to larger censorship, and the progress in the last few decades in Western nations is not something to be proud about. If censorship is not fought against it tends to always increase. Other than that, the right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law n the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include 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”.
Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “for respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals“. So what do we have in Malaysia?
Article 10(1) of the Federal Constitution grants freedom of speech, the right to assemble peaceably and the right to form associations to every Malaysian citizen but such freedom and rights are not absolute: the Constitution itself, by Article 10 (2), (3) and (4), expressly permits Parliament by law to impose restrictions in the interest of the security of the Federation, friendly relations with other countries, public order, morality, to protect the privileges of Parliament, to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence.
I agree that Freedom of Speech is an unalienable right. I myself have been chastised for my outspoken views on certain injustices. But that is the point, isn’t it. That my speech, while it is my right, should also come with my personal responsibility. In conclusion, I would suggest that we craft a form of Freedom of Expression that takes into account our complex society that is unlike any other. We cannot copy wholesale the models of other parts of the World, as they are not perfect either, especially as there are elements of double standards in other nations as well.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom. What we have is relative freedom i. e. freedom governed by law or defined in the context in which the society exists. Freedom of expression and information is very much dictated by the internal or national and to a certain extent the external dynamics of the nations. And it differs from nation to nation, depending whether the nation is homogenous or multiracial.