How Free are we Online?

Index on Censorship

I’ve subscribed to Index on Censorship in order to get a sense of the raging debate about our online freedoms, how they are being challenged by governments and employers, and to find out more about what people are doing around the world to deal with censorship. There debates raging everywhere about what we mean by ‘freedom of speech’, which in itself is not a great concept because it is abstract and open-ended. It’s kind of like saying that you support a ‘better tomorrow’ or ‘hope over hate’. Freedom is an emotional concept that can never be ultimately determined. How do we know when we have ‘freedom of speech’? We only tend to know when we have lost our freedoms.

What the debate might more usefully be about is the freedom to be uncensored. That’s a more defined approach to our freedoms. The right to remain free of other people’s coercions and restrictions. Our sense of our freedom of speech rests on our ability to give voice to ideas and statements, however unpalatable and difficult they are to manage. Freedom of speech is a negative power that can never be realised, whereas the right to be free of censorship is a positive power. To actively censor someone you have to practice coercive and restrictive power. Censorship is an active function of the exercising of power, and as such it is something that can be resisted.

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