ICT and Free Speech Essay


Topic: ICT and Free Speech

1. Introduction

2.How Technology has contributed to the Freedom of speech.

a.Efficiency of ICT Technologies


c.Global Reach

3. How ICT has Hinders Freedom of Speech

a.State Censorship

b.ICT Accessibility

c.Online Privacy and security

4. Recommendations

5. Conclusion

ICT and Free Speech


ICT technologies have provided a new paradigm in the way individuals engage in democracy through free speech, propagation of ideas and opinions and rallying for social actions that concern them. ICTs boost freedom of speech when the parties involved have established a framework that support and control its uptake and utilization. When ICT technologies are supported appropriately, they makes people express their liberal values such as individualism through its access or anonymity.

Free speech in relation to the use of ICT technologies has been a controversial topic of discussion. The term designates a political right to articulate one’s view, ideas or opinions. Free speech is used interchangeably with the term freedom of expression in most situations.

In this paper, the writer seeks to explore how ICT technologies enhance free speech. In achieving this goal, the writer outlines three factors which ICT technologies has played in supporting free speech. Also, the writer explores how ICT has hindered free speech and provides suggestions on how these challenges can be mitigated.


How Technology has contributed to the Freedom of speech.


Efficiency of ICT Technologies

Zembylas and Vrasidas (2005) illustrates that ICTs have accelerated and extended geographical communication between individuals and groups with efficiency and speed. The role played by networks has been instrumental. Thus, the dissemination of information occurs efficiently than was ever before.

Main (2001) also illustrates that the pace of dissemination information using ICT is unique. For example, when a person is expressing an opinion, thought or idea, he/she does not need to strike an article out of its location. He/she can forward or post on a social network. This form of simplicity necessitated by ICT has supported free speech in the society.


Consequently, Michelson (2004) illustrates that some ICT technologies are available 24/7. Social networks platforms, for instance, Facebook and twitter have enhanced how individuals communicate with one another. Because there is no time restriction on their access, they have been critical in enhancing free speech by being efficient. This is because social networks open up a communication platform for meeting different people who hold a common cause.


The flexibility of ICT technologies has helped individuals tap into a pool of information and knowledge which is essential in decision making. Michelson (2004) mention that ICT technologies such as the Mobile phones have simplified monitoring key events such as elections. Similarly, Michelson (2004) explains the role of mobile technology is significant in such events because they allow collection of instant information which helps built credibility and transparency during an electoral process.

Also, digital radios, Voice over Internet, satellite television have extended their programming to citizens whose states are oppressive or control state owned channels. This has allowed citizens of these states to have the right for free speech. Shuji (1997) points out that the flexibility of ICT has enabled people to participate in government processes and advocate for political or policy change. Similarly, government recognition of ICT technologies through implementing initiatives such as e-government has allowed its citizen to engage with it directly at any place they may be.

Global Reach

Sarbib (2002) indicates that ICT has shortened communication across geographical boundaries; thus, it has created what is referred to as a global village. The global village phenomenon has allowed individuals and groups to voice their views, unite under a mutual and common cause. Also, Kalathil and Boas (2003) mention that ICT has linked different individuals and groups holding similar and contrasting mindsets, value systems and believes. Hence, this linking has been essential in championing for social, political or economic cause.

Kalathil and Boas (2003) cites that ICT continues to evolve; hence, new ICT strategies have enabled people involved in championing for democratic rights to work on a broader and a global approach in advocating human rights and democracy. New ICT platforms such as Wikis, blogs, and social networks have been crucial in advocating for this change (Zembylas and Vrasidas, 2005).


These platforms have been critical for enhancing free speech and transparency in authoritarian regimes. Similarly, ICT transcend linguistic and cultural challenges by allowing individuals the capacity to integrate their activities; this may include coordinating targeted responses against repressive regimes. For instance, Joyce (2003) indicate that the Citizen in Arab countries were dissatisfied with the process their governments was tackling inequality in the society. Corruption was high, and many youth were unemployed. Thus, to express their displeasure, they used freedom of expression on social networks, blogs and wikis to get support across the globe. This ultimately led to toppling of tyrant leaders who had stayed in power for several decades.

How ICT has Hindered Freedom of Speech

State Censorship

Ghashghai and Lewis (2000) indicate that authoritarian regimes have developed censorship strategies, which ultimately, restrict individuals, groups or organizations right to free speech. Zembylas and Vrasidas (2005) specify that most Middle East countries embrace censorship. Ghashghai and Lewis (2000) explain that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have instituted restrictive measures which limits its citizen’s the right to access information. These governments have sanctioned blocking of internet sites, which they view as dangerous. They also invoke disciplinary measures on any individual or organizations’ that goes against this directive.

Also, authoritarian governments have continued to use threats and arrests on people accessing sanctioned information or using the internet to mobilize or coordinate others for a political cause (Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 2009). Other strategy used to censor freedom of speech is controlling computer networks through mandatory registration.

In their view, authoritarian regimes believe censorship is critical in preserving National security and protecting citizens from inappropriate content distributed over the internet (Hacker &Van Dijk, 2000).

ICT Accessibility

Despite the overwhelming merits offered by the ICTs, majority of the world population does not have the opportunity of accessing or utilizing it. Internet World Stats (2012) indicates that statistics on the use of the internet globally shows internet technology, for instance, has penetrated 11.5 percent of the total world population. He also indicates that the majority of the internet users are found in New Zealand, Australia, North America, East Asia and Europe (Internet World Stats, 2012). Similarly, in Africa about 1 percent of the entire population accesses the internet. In Latin America, Middle East and Caribbean, the internet users stand at 9 percent (Corrales, 2002). These statistics shows that there is a big gap created by the digital divide in the society. The digital divide has elicited challenges such as; most of people do not have channels of accessing knowledge and information. This situation has contributed to prejudice and exploitation of the poor hampering free speech and expression (Wheeler, 2006).

Online Privacy and Security

Center for Internet & Society (2009) explains that the advent of the internet has increased the volume of data stored on internet platforms such as networks. This aspect has elicited sophistication of cyber –attacks. It has made data stored on these systems to be compromised. Wheeler (2006) cites that privacy and security is indispensable in preserving one’s integrity; thus, practices such as stealing information online and masquerading have undermined the rights of users in regard to using these technologies to voice their concerns.


Similarly, e-privacy and security has involved inept actors who have held the intentions of hacking information to be used against the victim or for sale. These illegal activities have had a serious effect on victims especially in authoritarian regimes.


To enable all individuals access ICT technologies and built a culture of collectiveness, government should involve all stakeholders in matters relating to ICT access and use. This will allow it to implement policies and regulations which accommodate all parties.


Also, the government should develop and expand existing ICT infrastructures in their countries. As indicated in the paper, majority of people have no internet access. To ensure free speech is a right to all citizens, the government should invest in ICT infrastructures this will allow its citizen to get information and exercise their right of expression.

Lastly, the stakeholders involved in formulating ICT policies should establish a framework which helps combat e-security and privacy (Noveck, 2000). They should ensure that the framework does not unintentionally conceal novelty or prohibit legitimate conduct.


ICT technologies have given voice to the voiceless through the freedom of speech. The technology has reduced the traditional barriers of time and space; hence, individuals are now able to mobilize ICTs and embrace it in bringing about change they want. Similarly, ICT technologies have been essential in supporting free speech. It has achieved this by being flexible, efficient and global appeal. However, issues such as government censorship, accessibility and concerns on privacy and security have been a hindrance in enhancing free speech.


Reference List

Berkman Center for Internet & Society. (2009). Government Internet Filtering Increases in the Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/newsroom/ONI_2009_MENA_report

Corrales,J. (2002). Lessons from Latin America. In S.L. David (ED.), Democracy and the Internet: Allies or Adversaries? Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.

Ghashghai, E., and Lewis, R. (2000).Issues Affecting Internet Use in Afghanistan and Developing Counties in the Middle East. Santa Monica CA: RAND Corp.

Hacker, K., and Van Dijk, J. (2000). Digital Democracy, Issues of Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Internet World Stats. (2012).Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

Joyce, P. (2003).The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City. London: Verso.

Kalathil, S., and Boas, T.C. (2003).Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for Peace.

Main, L. (2001).The Global Information Infrastructure: Empowerment or Imperialism? Third World Quarterly,22(1), 83-97.

Michelson, E.S. (2004). Clicking Toward Development: Understanding the Role of ICTs for Civil Society.Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JOTS/v32/v32n1/michelson.html

Noveck, B.S. (2000). Paradoxical Partners: Electronic Communication and Electronic Democracy’, Democratization,7(1) 18-35

Sarbib, J.L. (2002).Building Knowledge Societies in the Middle East and North Africa Knowledge for Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shuji, H. (1997).The Internet and Middle East Studies, Japanese Institute of Middle Eastern Economies,10(36), 93-116.

Wheeler, D. (2006). Empowering Publics: Information Technology and Democratization in the Arab World — Lessons from Internet cafés and Beyond, Oxford Internet Institute, Research Report, 11

Zembylas M., and Vrasidas, C. (2005). Globalization, Information and Communication Technologies, and the Prospect of a ‘Global Village’: Promises of Inclusion or Electronic Colonization? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37(1), 65-83.

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