Freedom of speech is fundamental to building a vibrant democracy based on equal political participation, informed decision making, and an enriched society that celebrates its diversity. At the same time, the concept of unqualified and absolute freedom of speech is stairway to doom, as Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, United States thus put it, succinctly that these technologies are not an unmitigated blessing because the technologies that promote human welfare also enabled the terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to launch worldwide attacks and built terror networks (Carr, 2013).
Interestingly, almost a decade and a half earlier, the US Court in Reno vs ACLU case read-down the fatal Communications Decency Act to remove the clause of “criminal offence” from within the scope of the law. Proliferation of adult content to minors did not involve only the internet service provider or media platform owner. There are many other stakeholders and initiating criminal charges without pegging the responsibility completely is unfair.
So where does qualified regulation proceed from here? The rule of thumb is that to whatever extent possible, the freedom of speech must be upheld. At the same time, a solid definition of criteria for restricting speech must be in place, however, they must be interpreted in-context of the situation, and the said harm that can be brought about. This is especially needed in the case of the cyberspace where the actors are plenty and the responsibility for censorship/onus of offense cannot be pegged to only one person. Should content creators or network owners be penalized?