In this globally connected internet world we need to take notice of local laws and traditions as well as cultural diversity. More than that, we also keep aware of them as the restrictions on Freedom of Speech change for reasons of political expediency and social necessity.
When we write in some forums there are also local rules and codes to keep in mind and some take a narrow and some a wide view. But how can we know, as our content is distributed around the world via search engines and mirror sites, what should we aim for? What is better? - a narrow freedom or a wide one?
Freedom is an interesting word, for it implies that things are unrestricted - and therefore that Freedom of speech means that you have a right to say anything in any way about anyone. Some then choose to interpret any restriction on that 'freedom' as an attack on them personally and on their rights.
Freedom of speech is critical.
BUT my interpretation of it is not a right to say whatever I like, it a right to discuss any subject I like. I must take sufficient care (after all all rights must have an a duty of care) to ensure that in discussing the subject that I don't cut across other people's rights. My rights are not more important (or less important) than theirs.
People have a right not to be abused or insulted, attacked or have their reputations besmirched through carelessness and that means taking great care when talking about individuals (or generic groupings that can identify individuals, or be interpreted as identifying individuals) as being a member of that group.
When interacting in Social Networks I take account of three principle things:
Firstly, there are 'rules of engagement' - Terms and Conditions of membership and the Ethos or culture of the Network. I yet to see anywhere in the various rules of engagement I have seen that curtails my Freedom of Speech in my interpretation of that term.
Secondly, what I write is permanent, so I need to take care to ensure that my comments will stand the test of time.
Thirdly, comments can be read in isolation from the context of the threads around them, that means I need to provide context whenever the subject I am discussing becomes context dependent.
The guidelines I tend to use to read over what I have written are below - They tend to work for me and allow me to discuss most things in these forums without, hopefully, upsetting others.
1. Discuss the principles and not the person in public - it only takes a quick scan to check after all and small changes are normally enough to make that shift.
2. Be ready to listen to and respond quickly to feedback. If someone is upset by what I write then they are upset, whether I think they should be or not. I will seek to rewrite what I have said in a way that deals with the cause of the upset. That does not mean that I have to agree with them. Almost always in my experience it is not a disagreement of principles that causes upset but the manner of expression of that disagreement.
3. Support the people who do this well, recognise that there are people who do it less well than others, and for whom a helping hand is likely to be more productive for the future than the a big stick.
4. Recognise that different forums have different rules, play by the rules for the rules of the forum are what makes the forum work for everyone else. If I disagree with the rules then I engage with those who set them and argue for change (usually in private). I accept the consequences of what I do say in those forums and if that goes beyond their rules, even if unintended, then I'd expect and respect the consequences.
This is new media and I am (and we all are) learning, I'll get it wrong sometimes.
So in answer to my own question, I am not for either a "wide" or a "narrow" freedom but I am for responsible freedom of speech.
This post is based on a response I made to another post here:
Link: What are the limits of freedom of speech in the forums ? - Ecademy.