The Internet, and Rationales for Free Expression
11 Pages Posted: 5 May 2010 Last revised: 11 Jan 2014
Date Written: March 20, 2010
The changes to society brought by the Internet have prompted a challenge to orthodoxy in a number of areas of law, Intellectual Property being a notable example. Human rights, especially those related to information, knowledge and ideas, have been drawn into this re-evaluation, with various issues being encountered in practice demanding solutions that accord with respect for rights and freedoms, and with the functioning of this new technology. Nevertheless, the theoretical aspect of human rights in the Internet context has not been so much addressed. The Internet has implications for how rights are conceived, especially the freedoms of speech and expression. This study is an examination of whether the existing rationales for free speech and expression still apply in the context of cyberspace. These rationales, coming mainly from court decisions (in particular, the US Supreme Court) as well as the academic literature (notably Cass Sunstein's work), will be examined, alongside observations about the state of play in the Internet, with Yochai Benkler's elaboration of the development of “commons-based peer production” initiatives being of particular relevance. If indeed the Internet is significantly different from previous communication technologies, then this may require a different approach to how the Internet is regulated, including in order to promote and maintain free speech and expression.
Keywords: Internet, Free Expression, Human Rights, Net Neutrality, First Amendment
JEL Classification: Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation