The Internet and Free Speech: Web offence

Has freedom of speech gone too far on the Internet? Or are racist and extremist views a small price to pay for a medium that encourages expression? As governments try to work out how to respond, two contributors examine whether it is liberating or dangerous.

The World Today Published 1 March 2000 Updated 27 October 2020 5 minute READ

Mariyam Joyce-Hasham

Associate Fellow, Chatham House

If recent newspaper reports are true, the internet has become a haven for neo-nazis, extremists and terrorists of all persuasions. Copies of the Terrorist Handbook, a how to manual for would be terrorists, can be freely acquired by anyone with a computer and a modem. Instructions on manufacturing bombs and hacking are similarly accessible. There are even directions for creating an underground terror cell or running a resistance movement.

The formation of virtual communities in cyberspace means that extremists or activists can find others of like mind and exchange information and ideas. The Internet provides almost instant access to millions around the world, bypassing traditional censors and existing legislation on libel, incitement to violence or racism.

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