Freedom of Speech and Internet Censorship

The Internet is a big place, where you get all of your information, news, and much more. In today’s society, it’s basically become a must to have some sort of Internet source so you can keep up to date with the latest. Once you put something online, it’s free for everyone to see, it’s a way of our freedom of speech. Almost everything is put online, information like what we buy, our bank statements, what we say online, and what we search, if regulated, it can be viewed by the government. Countries like China have already made rules for Internet use, and believe it should be encouraged in other countries as well. People should have the choice to use the internet freely and keep some of their lives private.

In China, according to an article in New York Times by journalist Audrey Jiajia Li, an app called WeChat has combined all the functions of Facebook, WhatsApp, Uber, Apple Pay, and more. As WeChat became more popular, China decided to start monetizing with Tencent, which is “the tech conglomerate behind the app,” and started blocking some foreign competitors one by one, like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and more. Audrey became more skeptical of the app as it became more than a commercialized social media app, and more “part of the state’s e-governance initiatives.”

People want privacy in their lives in what they do, it’s their life, and not anyone else’s. In China, WeChat is very influential, “…‘For all intents and purposes WeChat is your phone, and to a far greater extent in China than anywhere else, your phone is everything,’ wrote Ben Thompson, an analyst and found of the blog Stratechery” (Shannon Liao, “How WeChat came to rule China”).

Although freedom of speech and privacy is essential, safety is also very important. On the other hand, the reasons for China’s moderators are “required to have an eagle eye for dangerous content” (Audrey Jiajia Li, “Learning to Survive Without WeChat”), such as political or law related topics talked about online, for safety reasons. From Audrey’s firsthand experience, she shared a photo to her Memories on WeChat, and it had spread to her boss who can confronted her about it and told her to delete it since it was considered “dangerous and improper.” Journalist Audrey Jiajia Li said, “I heard many stories in the news about WeChat users who were interrogated or arrested for things they posted on Moments. Some of the posts were politically sensitive, and others bad-mouthed local police officers.” I believe it is reasonable if someone is posting threatening or very inappropriate content where it should not be said or placed to someone or country, it’s a big legal issue nowadays, due to terrorist attacks and other threatening situations, like bullying.

Should America be the next to fully censor the internet? What if you lost privilege to speak your mind on political topics or important personal experiences, such as the “#MeToo” movement? Although it’s important to keep the government and country safe from people who sound threatening towards the country or government or to personally yourself, it is equally important to let our country have a voice and be able to go about their lives without worrying someone spying on them.