Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Freedom of Internet Speech


China and internet search giant Google are at odds over Google’s decision no longer to censor its site. Google has redirected users going to http://www.google.cn/ to Google’s unrestricted Hong Kong site http://www.google.com.hk/ Google was demonized by some in the West and within China for its initial decision to submit to the Chinese government’s censorship policy. Google has now signaled that it wants to "meaningfully increase access to information for people in China." This would entail no longer filtering from Google’s search engine results sites critical of the Chinese government . The Chinese government says that Google has violated a written promise to filter out sites the Chinese government finds objectionable.

"Network neutrality" is the principle that data on the internet should be moved impartially, without regard to content, destination, or source. Those who favor network neutrality believe that it protects the free market by ensuring that all small and independent sites, such as blogs, are on an even playing field with large, corporate-owned sites. Critics of network neutrality want a two-tiered model, where ISPs would be able to charge owners of Web sites a premium fee for priority placement and faster speed across their networks.


Both of these internet controversies are about the concept of freedom of speech: that of the Chinese people and that of small independent web sites.
In the United States, freedom of speech is a fundamental right, but in some countries, like China, such a right does not exist in law.

Ask your students these questions:

Is “freedom of speech” an inalienable universal human right? Why, or why not?


If ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can decide what kind of content moves at what speed on the internet, do they then have the ability to determine what types of content internet users have access to?
Explain your answer.

Does the concept of freedom of speech translate to the internet? Why, or why not?

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