Cyber Law FAQs - Does Free Speech Apply to the Internet?

Whilst in the real world, most laws are clear to most people, it is often a very different case in the cyber (virtual) world, as websites can often be seen as personal pages when in fact they are actually legally considered to be public websites in some cases.

This means that anything that could cause offence in the real world could also cause offence if published anywhere on the Internet.

A prime example of this is a growing number of prosecutions relating to posts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, most of these relating to content that has been deemed either offensive or threatening to others.

If in doubt about what is acceptable to post on such a site, a good way is to consider whether a post could cause offence if said on a megaphone in a crowded place and not to publish it in the first place if the answer is likely to be yes.

This does not mean, however, that people are not entitled to their own opinions on such sites, just that they need to be careful what they write online, rather than just writing the first thing that comes into their heads.

It is vital to know this in today's world, as quite a large number of people are wrongly under the impression that just because they are using the Internet, they can do and say whatever they like.

This is sometimes without any regard to laws that are in place within their country, because despite the fact that the Internet is an international system, people using it are still subject to the laws of their own countries whilst using it, and this is a point that some people don't seem to consider or even know sometimes.

One particular example of this is court cases, meaning that if something is the subject of a confidentiality order, that subject should not be posted on a social networking site anymore than it should be shared within the real world.

This is especially due to the fact that posts on social networking sites can often spread far quicker than anything that is published in a national newspaper, and can therefore cause problems if people post information deemed to be confidential or legally sensitive to an ongoing court case or investigation.

Overall, I would say that free speech is the same within the real world as it is within the cyber world, common sense would seem to be the key element in both worlds.

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