Friday, June 10, 2016

10 Tenets Of Free Speech In A Digital World

Timothy Ash presents a strong case for how to define and defend free speech – and gives us a reason to understand why we must have free speech – in his new book Free Speech:  Ten Principles for a Connected World.  (Yale University Press.).

I was alerted to the book’s existence when I read a New York Times book review about it. He explores many facets of free speech, including:

How free should speech be?
Why do we need free speech?
Should anonymous speech be protected?
How does the Internet change free speech?
What role should the law or corporations play in free speech?

He boils down the formula for free speech as being necessary for individual self-development and collective self-determination.  Ash writes:  “a central contention of this book is that we should limit free speech as little as possible by law and the executive action of governments or corporations, but the correspondingly more to develop shared norms and practices that enable us to make best use of this central freedom.”

He lays out 10 foundational principles for a coherent policy in regards to free speech.  This is what he wrote:

1.      We - all human beings – must be free and able to express ourselves and to seek, receive and impart information regardless of frontiers.

2.      We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.

3.      We allow no taboos against _____and seize every chance for the spread of knowledge.

4.      We require uncensored, diverse, trustworthy media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life.

5.      We express ourselves openly and with robust civility about all kinds of human difference.

6.      We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.

7.      We must be able to protect our privacy and to counter slurs on our reputation but not prevent scrutiny that is in the public interest.

8.      We must be empowered to challenge all limits to freedom of information justified on such grounds as national security.

9.      We defend the internet and other systems of communication against illegitimate encroachments by both public and private powers.

10.  We decide for ourselves and face the consequences.

Ash, a professed atheist and liberal secularist, is an award-winning political author.  He’s a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a fellow at the University of Oxford.  He also runs

He concludes by saying “We will never all agree nor should we.  But we must strive to create conditions in which we agree on how we disagree.”

Can we create a cultural and moral climate in which public argument and debate on any topic is possible, where human dignity is affirmed, and where, as a result of such discussion, all sides can accept the others right and ability to express ideas they may wholeheartedly disagree with?

Free speech faces new challenges as a result of social media, digital media, and the companies that serve as information distributors and possibly censors. Free speech faces more challenges from the corporate world rather than the government.  How we handle all of the information made available will determine this nation’s future.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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