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Freedom Of Speech And Human Rights In The Digital Age
The internet has allowed for the spread of ideas and information, that would have been impossible to reach before. However, it also allows people to express themselves in ways, they wouldn't be able to do otherwise. This is a good thing. This is why we have freedom of speech, right? Well, not exactly.
There are certain things you can say on the internet, that aren't really acceptable. Things like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. These things are unacceptable, because they're offensive to others and cause them harm.
Shouldn't you be able to say anything you want online? Well yes, but there are consequences. There's a big gray area between "making jokes" and "inciting violence". For every person, who says something stupid and harmless, there's someone else, who takes it a bit too far and causes a lot of trouble.
This is even more true with the internet, which is a place, where people tend to take things way too seriously. The best way to avoid getting in trouble for your speech is to know exactly where the limit is. That means you have to be knowledgeable about the law and how to stay out of trouble. I will talk all about that in the rest of this article.
Freedom of speech doesn't include freedom from consequences. If you're going to go on the internet and say whatever you want, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost, you need to know, that there are many places online, where you could be sued for all of your offensive comments and posts. There are also criminal charges you could face.
Second, you need to remember that your speech could be harmful to others. This will probably be a bigger reminder for you, than it would for most people, but this is a serious matter. It doesn't matter if what you're saying is a joke. Even "jokes" that are meant to incite violence can be problematic. What you need to do is think before you post. If you're not sure, don't post it.
Third, you need to keep in mind, that there are children and teenagers reading what you post. While you might think your words are funny enough or relevant enough, that you're able to post them, the fact is your words could be disturbing to people in a juvenile mind. This might not necessarily include you getting in trouble, but it could mean your audience feeling the need to be protected. Think about the reactions of your younger readers before you type something inflammatory.
The internet is a very "outdoors" kind of place. This means, that people say things in public places that they wouldn't say face-to-face. This is especially true on internet forums, where people feel more comfortable being more… let's say… frank. This can include everything from cursing to discussing suicide to just straight up being mean.
A lot of people think, that they can get away with saying offensive things online, because they're not actually saying it to someone's face. This isn't true. A lot of the internet is like a huge open microphone. What you say can and will be broadcasted to everyone. The worst part is, there's not always someone there to "help" you by calling you out on your offensive words.
On internet forums especially, people will leave comments about the offensive posts. What you might perceive as a "good-natured joke" could very well be offensive to someone else. A lot of the time, offensive words aren't even flagged by the website itself. This is because a lot of websites value keeping their servers down over actually policing everything that goes on on their website. As a result, it's up to the reader to flag the word for the administrators to take care of.
Due to this reason and the fact, that you can be offensive with no repercussions, some people like to use words that are outright slurs and racial/gay humor. As a word to the wise, don't do this. Don't ever do this. There's never any reason to be offensive, even in "comedic" contexts. Your audience could be someone, that finds your "joke" offensive in a way you can't even comprehend.
As mentioned before, you could be held liable for your words if they cause someone else harm. This is something that happens rarely, but it does happen. In some cases, it can even result in jail time. The following are some phrases that have caused people to be taken to court:
"Kill yourself" – True story, someone did get sent to jail for telling others how to kill themselves.
"I wish someone would kill you" – This might seem far fetched, but it has happened.
"I'm going to kill you" – Even more unlikely, but it has happened.
"You suck" – Has caused someone to spend lots of money on a private investigator looking for the person who said this to them.
While these phrases might seem harmless, there's a lot of context, that you have to put into these words. There's not some cutesy way to say someone should die. There's a very real way and saying things like this can actually make that worse. Of course, there's a fine line between causing someone harm and actually being a nice person to talk to.
It all comes down to the tone you use and the way you say it. A lot of the time, a simple "please don't" can tone someone down. On the other end of the spectrum, a lot of inappropriate compliments can help. It's a gamble that you have to take, but it's one you could potentially win. Hopefully, your words won't ever get you into this sort of situation. If they do, however, hopefully you can find a way to talk out of it. Thanks for reading.