Freedom does not mean anarchy– the crowd is working on universal principles regarding freedom of expression
Communication at any price, regardless of the consequences seems easier than ever on the Internet. There are few binding guidelines for respectful and polite behavior on the net. Until now. Together with a group of master students at the University of Oxford, the British historian Timothy Garton Ash has launched a platform Free Speech Debate in which the crowd can develop principles of international communication.
The question is, who has the right to control content on the Web and set standards? Where are the limits of freedom of expression?
To clarify the question, Professor Garton Ash and his team have defined ten principles that can be discussed and revised by the crowd. At the same time, further principles can be added. In order to be well informed when taking part in the debate, exemplary cases are published on a regular basis. Almost the entire homepage has been translated into 13 languages so that nearly 80% of all Internet users can be reached.
Principle six goes as follows for example: “We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.” If you don’t know what to make of this phrase read the comment and the detailed explanation at Principle 6. One of the corresponding cases explains the case of a Pakistani journalist who was murdered after publishing a regime critical article. Another case study regarding a further principle (“We speak openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.”) is about hate speeches and why they should not be banned Case Study. Controversial opinions and current problems are addressed and discussed. What can be somewhat unsatisfactory is the lack of a concrete conclusion or a tangible result of the individual discussions, as well as the abstract formulation of the principles.
The motivation behind the project is to find universally valid rules that Internet users worldwide and from all cultural and religious backgrounds can identify themselves with.
Therefore “we” are being addressed. The people and net people, all of us, and not the states of this world. It is not about what states are or are not permitted to do, but rather about what the individual user. Crowdsourcing is obviously the solution to this problem; a large number of people will be needed to map it out. Every opinion counts, and even if Free Speech Debate is initially just a pilot project that may not produce any binding or generally accepted rules, it is the first transcultural and multilingual impulse to a topic that concerns us all and that has never been addressed in this way.