Free Speech week begins, but with some questionable advice
Free Speech Week, which runs from October 21 to 27, looks to examine issues with regard to expression within the country and around the world but is being "advised" by some questionable organizations.
The avenues for which free expression can be communicated around the world are only growing more varied. When legislation regarding freedom of the press in the United States was first published, it was seemingly in order to address journalists. However, as the years have gone on, these avenues of expression have only grown. Art, video and online media have all become popular ways in which citizens can voice their opinion, and ones that require an open climate both societally and over the internet.
The importance of open dialogues
These rights for Americans are some of the most highly regarded in the country because of how connected they are to the democracy that U.S. was founded on. Gary Shapiro, the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, explains these freedoms can act as a safety net for other rights and provide a forum in which the government can be held accountable, in a piece for The Washington Times.
Various protests spanning from the Civil Right and anti-war movements of the 1960s to the Arab Spring of today have all been made possible because of people's ability to communicate and mobilize with one another.
It is because of these freedoms that the censorship of the internet is so alarming. Shapiro explains that there have been many attempts to limit speech on the internet from the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, to the invasive National Security Association PRISM program. An examination of these government actions would reveal that Washington is not doing everything it can to protect the rights its citizens are supposed to have.
This is why Free Speech Week has the opportunity to raise awareness about one of the most important freedoms in the U.S. By educating people about the necessity for open dialogues and an open Internet, organizations can help contribute to one of the most important tenants of democracy. Shapiro's Consumer Electronic's Association is one of the sponsoring organization for Free Speech Week.
However, there have been a number of potentially questionable sponsors for the event. As stated previously, legislation like SOPA and PIPA has actually worked to limit the freedom that users on the Internet would have.
Salon explains that had these pieces of legislation passed when they were introduced in late 2011, they would have given the federal government authority to shutdown any websites that it felt encouraged piracy. One of the biggest advocates for this legislation was the Motion Picture Association of America.
The MPAA acts as the Hollywood lobby in Washington D.C. making it an influential member when it comes to discussions of online freedom. In September, Freedom of Speech week announced that the group's Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd, a formed senator, would be sitting on the advisory board of the event.
"I am honored and delighted to head the Advisory Board and advocate for a cause that affects so many Americans in so many different industries, and remains fundamental to the core values of our country," said Dodd.
"The motion picture and television industry has always and will continue to be at the forefront of advancing free expression and encouraging creativity and innovation through the First Amendment; we welcome this opportunity to celebrate our steadfast commitment to these important principles."
The lines with regard to the MPAA's role in online censorship is a complicated one. While it has said to support a free internet, it has said that the companies that participated in the Internet blackout in protest of SOPA and PIPA, like Wikipedia and Google, were abusing their power, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Going forward, discussions of Internet freedom are going to continually need to explore the roles that proponents of a free internet actually play.