The enormous technological changes that have taken place in the last decade have created new opportunities for freedom of expression and freedom of information. ARTICLE 19 addresses these new developments and works to defend the new opportunities of censorship.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

Throughout the twentieth century people received most of the information orally or by letter, radio, television or newspaper and book publishers. Today, technological advances and the increasing availability of the Internet have accelerated and blurred the difference between the author of the information and the recipient of it. Information flows are now broad, diverse, reversible and accessible.

The ability of almost everyone to create a Web site and start publishing or transmitting content has led to radical changes in the media. Companies and individuals can publish anything from text or images to video using high-speed, broadband digital technology. They can then broadcast them directly to computers or mobile devices around the world.

NEW MEDIA

Technological advances have led the media to expand and contract at the same time. Digital transmission has resulted in cheaper opportunities for broadcasters, and greater choice for media consumers. Media organizations now disseminate information through a multitude of platforms to satisfy their audiences.

The media must have:

  • Diversify the way they offer content
  • Diversify the speed at which content becomes available
  • Take into account information increasingly generated by people outside the media.

Some media organizations have responded by buying large portions of the media market. These mergers can be worrying because of issues of diversity and pluralism.
Citizen journalism’ has developed and includes bloggers, social media users and other ‘non-professional’ sources of information. Traditional media organisations are no longer the only guardians of information that has been democratised.

IMPLICANCES

Today information is transmitted around the world in seconds. Now information is published that otherwise would never have been accessible.

  • The attacks on the Neda Agha-Soltan demonstrators in Iran and Ian Tomlinson in the UK would never have been known if they had not been broadcast using the new media.
  • Wikileaks has published dozens of documents revealing corruption and abuses by those in power, including governments.
  • Twitter has been used to reveal super-measures in the UK and to inspire mass protests in Tunisia.

In 2012, 664 million websites offer information and commentary on a vast array of topics, in many languages and forms. Online communities such as Wikipedia use the knowledge of millions of users to create comprehensive knowledge databases. Search engines provide tools for finding information quickly and with minimal effort.
In the developing world, information and communication technologies and new media are used to aid development. They also give people living in poverty access to information that helps them make better decisions about their lives.

CHALLENGES TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

Despite the great advantages of communication and information technologies and new media, there are considerable new challenges.

For the traditional legal regime a speaker or author is within a clear territorial jurisdiction. However, in the digital world, the location of ideas and opinions is unclear. For example, a Lebanese in London may write a blog that is hosted in Japan, accusing the Saudi government of corruption.

Another traditional media law says that publishers are responsible for what they publish. But who is the publisher on the Internet? Is it the server that stores the content (among millions of other pages), the search engine that finds the content, or the Internet service provider that delivers the content?

Governments can limit the information people see blocking access in a variety of ways. While newspapers can only be banned by judges, the decision to block a Web site often seems to be made capriciously by public officials, rather than by judges.

Not only has it facilitated the digitization of information that governments can automatically block information but they can also control what people look at at the moment and afterwards.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

The label of digital information as ‘intellectual property’ is problematic in a digital world. ARTICLE 19 closely follows developments in intellectual property law and their effect on freedom of expression.

Intellectual property is a growing area of law led by US companies. It is changing from a model in which a person buys a physical good (such as a book) and is free to share it to a model in which a person has only one license to use the information (e.g. digital music) himself and in a certain way.

Unlike physical information, such as books, digital information has the potential to be copied, modified, and disseminated millions of times per second.

Changing models of intellectual property have a significant impact on freedoms of expression and information. For example, musicians who sample sounds, a very common practice over the last decade, could be prosecuted under intellectual property laws, even if that music was created in their bedrooms and listened to by only five people.

The development of Information and Communication Technologies, and especially the Internet, has created a new scenario in which personal relationships occupy a central place. Internet and Web 2.0 services (social networks, blogs, forums, wikis, etc.) are multidirectional and open channels that allow users to achieve maximum interaction between them, while offering new possibilities for collaboration, expression and participation.

All of this entails a series of risks that need to be known in order to prevent them. These risks reach us through the content found on the web, through messaging tools and social networks, file downloads, fraudulent banking operations,…

Achieving differentiation in a saturated and competitive environment is not an easy task. More and more companies are analysing their environment, as well as the weaknesses they may have, with the aim of becoming efficient, operational and, above all, useful for society. In this sense, relying on information technology services is a direct guarantee of success.

Information technology services can be defined as a set of activities that seek to respond to the needs presented by a client in relation to the conditions of computer assets, or also called assets, incentivizing the value of these while reducing the existing risk inherent in any system.