Internet Architecture, Freedom of Expression and Social Responsibility: Critical Realism and Proposals for a Better Future
Director, Middle East Study Group, University of Hull
March 6, 2012
The article opens by explaining the architecture of the Internet. Given its present raison d'être, a free highway allowing maximum freedom, one may argue that the bounds of free expression are broader in scope on the Net compared with the bounds of legitimate speech allowed on other forms of communication: Television, radio, the press. I contest this assertion, arguing that legally speaking, there is no difference between electronic communication and other forms of communication. Ethically speaking, people should be held accountable for what they publish on the Net, also when the content of their expression is prima facie lawful. I probe some problematic forms of expression that are available on the Internet in order to promote terrorism and criminal activity. The article goes on to argue that freedom of expression is important but so is social responsibility. Indeed, social responsibility theory in one form or another dominated thinking about the desirable relation between media and society and about the options for policy to improve the media for some decades after the Second World War. Responsibility is about answerability and accountability. Finally, the article concludes by offering a new paradigm Internet for the future called CleaNet. CleaNet will be sensitive to prevailing cultural norms of each and every society and will be clean of content that the society deems to be dangerous and anti-social. No child pornography, hateful bigotry and terrorist material will be available on the new Net. Netusers, with the cooperation of ISPs and web-hosting companies, will together decide which content will be considered illegitimate and unworthy to be excluded from CleaNet.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: Internet architecture, CleaNet, Netcitizen, social responsibility, Immanuel Kant
JEL Classification: Z00working papers series
Date posted: March 7, 2012
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