The development of media for the last 50 years has allowed people to explore and discuss lots of concerned problems in the society but they are not always having the chance to freely speak up whatever they want to say or search for a particular topic due to censorship from the government. Since then, freedom of expression has been a controversial issue in many countries all over the world. While in Western nations, citizens have more access to freedom of expression, people in communist countries such as Vietnam and China are limited to express their ideas to certain extend. Some commentators have argued that free speech can bring upon detrimental effects on children, facilitate hate crimes, and anti-government groups to spread. It is the contention of this essay that It is a human right for people to have freedom of speech through the media without having any fear or being interfered by any forces. This essay will discuss the following aspects of free speech on media, the Internet in particular, as effects on children’s awareness, human’s minds and democracy.
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It is a point of dispute between free speech through media and effects caused on children. It is often the case that children are exposed to adverse influences on the media through what they believe as freedom of expression. Reinhard (2004, p.170) contends that a person can still legally express his beliefs, ideas through films or music despite their viciousness and degradation, which brings up the moral issue on the media especially when children start to commit flagitious crimes. According to Bushman and Huesmann (2005, p. 351), violence on the media is most likely to increase aggressive behaviour in children, as well as, create long-term effects on children. Nevertheless, these arguments are not convincing enough. Freedom of expression through the use of media can hardly bring detrimental results such as violent behavior to children and it is, in fact, a positive influence for the development of children. A research conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital led Dr. Cheryl Olson (Beresin & Schlozman 2012) proves there is no definite relationship between media violence and aggressive behaviour in children. Samenow (2012) asserts that it is the personality that leads to violence not the media. Moreover, freedom of expression is able to enhance their confidence and awareness of their right. An article on Safely Connect (Magid 2014) demonstrates that despite the risks of social media, some teachers embolden students to use it to express themselves freely and widen their horizons by exchanging learning resources with others. Having access to freedom of expression allows them to speak up their mind and, thus, address important issues and unfairness in society despite their age. In brief, practicing freedom of speech on social media beneficially affects children as it raises their confidence and awareness that their voice matters.
There have been several debates on whether or not freedom of speech broadens people’s minds. It has been argued that free speech makes them more small-minded and hateful. It could be asserted that the fact that cyber-libertarians object to censorship online can help extremists to spread hate on the media (Banks 2010, p. 2). Furthermore, in the 2012 Digital Terror and Hate Report by Simon Wiesenthal Center (cited in Ring 2013, pp.1-2) about 15,000 hate sites based on race, ethnicity and sexual preference are currently active. Even though some believe that these hateful speeches are parts of freedom of expression, there has been a stronger argument by Leets (2001, p. 312) that depend on certain rules and standards, hate sites such as white supremacist websites may not be protected by the First Amendment. In addition, freedom of expression can significantly help to widen human’s minds. It is undeniable that without freedom of speech human would never have been able to acquire knowledge to create a more civilized and intellectually developed world. Pinker (2015) demonstrates that by practicing free speech, human beings start to question the nature of reality and test their ideas to come up with the truth. The power of media supports this idea by allowing its users to exchange ideas and knowledge on a global scale. There is evidence that at least 4.66 billion web pages existed in mid-March 2016 while this figure is only approximately 1 billion in 2014 (Pappas 2016). This indicates how frequently people are interacting with the Internet everyday practicing free speech to broaden their horizons. Overall, social media opens up people’s knowledge and perspective by allowing them to have free speech to exchange ideas or question the reality.
It is also a matter of debate between free speech on media and political movements. One argument is that freedom of expression is a tool for political reactionaries to spread and develop against the government. According to VOV (2016), a group of Vietnamese people living in exile attempt to promote sinister activities to get rid of the current Communist leadership in Vietnam. They spread false rumours about the government to bring out the anger and frustration of the local, which results in potential protests against the government based on false information. Besides, there are also evidences about ISIS recruiting its new members with the aid of the Internet (Koerner 2016). On the other hand, this argument is tenuous at best because there is strong evidence from Menn and Volz (2016) showing that in reality these types of contents are often removed on social media such as Facebook. One supporting argument for this contention is that free speech mainly results in support for democracy and fight against dictatorship (Pinker 2015). “The common oil of great and resilient democracies is the free flow of debate, the proposition and contest of ideas, both good and bad, from all and by all” (The Age 2015). It is further explained by Thierer (2011) that the Internet creates more opportunities for people in the Digital Age to be heard. A further contributing proof from Brooke (2012) is that the Internet users in Russia challenge their government for democracy by starting an information war and eventually, they won. Parker (2014) advocates that in the protest for democracy in Hong Kong, social media did play an extremely important role as a tool for people in Mainland China and all over the world to show their support for Hong Kong citizens. In general, freedom of speech on the media has made significant impacts on the advancement of democracy in the twenty-first century.
In conclusion, taking into consideration the advantages of free speech, freedom of expression improves children’s progress in confidence and social awareness, facilitates humans to broaden their minds and knowledge, as well as, supports democracy movement in society. Thus, it is crucial for people to express whatever opinions they have without being interfered or threatened. Free speech should be applied on an appropriate scale that is pointing out the faults in the society without involving any crimes.
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