Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age

The internet has changed the concept of freedom of expression by allowing for it on a much grander scale. The internet is of course, a place where someone from where I am here in Arizona can communicate with someone on the opposite side of the world in a different continent within seconds. Since the capabilities are this large, freedom of expression almost seems unlimited and impossible to control. Despite the fact that this is an amazing accomplishment, it seems in our current time this has caused more harm than good. People on the internet often seem to speak as though consequences do not exist on there and feel as though they can get away with whatever they say. In a world where it seems everyone was against bullying and cyberbullying, cyberbullying almost seems to be the hot new trend on Twitter. You can’t go onto any prominent figures’ Twitter page without seeing the comments flooded with insults and new slang such as “ratio” or “make better ___”. This article by Huffpost was published back in 2012 on topic of Twitter cyberbullies, showing that there were over 15,000 tweets every day that were categorized as cyberbullying. With the platforms growth since then, one can only imagine what these numbers look like in 2022. Back in 2012, Twitter had just under 200 million users. Today, Twitter has surpassed 400 million users.

I feel as though there definitely should be a ranking in values and rights online because certain things are just more important than others. The one I feel should be first above all is simply the freedom of expression. This is the main idea being discussed and it I feel as though it is the most important value to protect against the others. While there should always be guidelines and terms to follow on every website and platform, our first amendment right is the most important value to uphold and protect. Second, I would say should be our privacy. Just because we have the freedom to say almost whatever we think and feel, that does not mean you should be forced to be public to the online world. For example, my mom is brand new to social media and she does not want to ever be found by relatives or co-workers, so she has a very anonymous Twitter account with no picture and a randomly generated username. The right to protect our online presence is a close second to our overall freedom of speech. The next two I feel go hand in hand because without access to one’s speech, there can’t be any impact on one’s speech. However, if I had to pick one as being more important, I would say the impact is much more important. The internet can be a very unfriendly place and the things people say to each other on a daily basis is shocking. I feel like this carries more weight than the overall ability to see one’s thoughts and opinions because those who wish to remain private, can.

Overall, the internet has added an entirely new and complicated element to our freedom of speech and expression. There are millions of users saying tens of millions of things a day, making it seemingly impossible to monitor or to have any sort of limitations. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot more negativity and hate online, despite the potential for a very civil and open place for communication. However, times are always changing as is technology and we may see this trend or theme change at any moment adding an entirely new wrinkle to our first amendment rights.

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