Speech in Social Media: A Catalyst for Change
Often, the freedom of speech is viewed in regards to freedom of religious expression or personal opinion. However, the freedom of speech does more than protect religious and political rights, but also improves standards of living. It is also the foundational cornerstone of society—the primary method of human communication. In today’s culture, this foundational aspect of the freedom of speech has become even more powerful with the creation of social media. Through different organizations like Facebook and Twitter, people have been able to use their freedom of speech to communicate their ideas not only within their immediate communities but also across the globe.
These new outlets of communication through social media are especially relevant to developing countries, where communication is key to the country’s success. Luis Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, reported that the use of social media is on the rise in many developing countries and will help them overcome poverty. Citizens in developing countries are able to communicate issues within the community to government officials, allowing government officials to respond by fixing the problem. This is especially true in Latin America, where seventy percent of the governments in “emerging cities” use social media.
Another important factor in the equation is that the use of social media in developing countries makes the freedom of speech more powerful and more potent to accomplish its ends. By enabling communities to band together to show their support or disagreement with the actions of the local government, social media has increased the level of community activity and government accountability, making it hard for officials to ignore the copious responses from their constituents. However, some governments have found this new outlet for the freedom of speech to be so powerful that they felt the need to cut off access to the Internet altogether. In 2011, Egyptian government managed to drastically reduce access to the Internet in the country because it feared the power of social media to further the political unrest.
This intrusion on the freedom of speech illustrates the importance of protecting social media as an outlet for freedom of speech, both as a method of communication and a catalyst for social change.