The internet is a cornucopia of information, spreading ideas across the world in a matter of milliseconds. While there isn’t necessarily any sole ownership claimed to the Internet, each blog post, picture or opinionated Facebook rant sent out into the World Wide Web holds some degree of intellectual property, protecting every blogger, journalist or average Joe’s right to freedom of speech.
However, more often than not citizens’ First Amendment right is being challenged by big companies using their power to monitor–and even censor–what is being said online.
Most of what is being censored is, of course, directly threatening the company itself. In 2008 journalist Matthew Lee was taken off the radar when Google removed him from appearing in search results. What warrants this level of punishment, you ask? Well, perhaps Google News removed Lee’s website, Inner City Press, for exposing corruption within the U.N. That seems to be Lee’s only “crime,” forcing Google to de-list him from the web. In an email to Lee, Google said:
“We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our users. When we reviewed your site we’ve found that we can no longer include it in Google News.”
In another instance of blatant censorship, internet and phone service provider Verizon blocked a a text-message subscription service offered by the pro-abortion-rights group NARAL. Users wouldn’t have been able to receive the service without willingly signing up themselves, which means that Verizon had to actively block NARAL’s messages for this to make any sense.
We all know that top companies have power in more ways than one: economically, politically and even socially. But when this power begins to target the free speech of independent bloggers and journalists, that’s when things start to get unconstitutional.
The United States claims to have a democratic state that allows everyone to express themselves in whatever way they want, but unfortunately this is only a facade created by the very same people who hold a significant amount of political power.