Lucent’s Hot Topics series challenges information overload by cutting a path through the overabundance of resources available and drilling down to the crucial aspects of the latest social issues. In its examination of freedom of speech online, this volume begins with a review of the First Amendment and by establishing the legal significance of content deemed harassment, obscenity, defamation, libel or slander.
In the same way the read/write web has made everyone an author, the immediacy and lack of barriers of online publishing has made everyone a critic. The book illuminates the difference between those writing about public figures, using celebrity blogger Perez Hilton’s commentary as an example, and those making critical comments about personally identifiable people, such as teachers or fellow students. The book also illustrates how standards differ for television and radio with corporate oversight, explores legal limits online including child pornography, and offers a discussion of what constitutes parody.
Pull-out text boxes highlight the ample relevant current events related to free speech online. There are discussions of attempts to regulate new media, the federal legislation that has attempted to protect children from inappropriate content by mandating filters, and the responsibility of Internet service providers in protecting minors. The emphasis on the information an ISP knows about a subscriber’s web habits, while likely confidential without a court order, also bears the emphasis given here.
The book is a trove of information including a copyright primer for fair use, discussion of the Google book project, and copyright issues related to educational fair use, commentary, and parody. Most students will appreciate the tension between the allure of anonymity and the ownership of content by the individual. With the Tinker case as precedent, the book illustrates how schools can discipline students for digital comments, as the online world can be viewed as an extension of the school community and some speech can be argued to be disruptive to the educational enterprise.
The book closes with anticipation of regulation of new media and a discussion of the possible ramifications of Net Neutrality. Also included are the special cases of military bloggers and a defense of unsolicited email "spam" as free speech. A particularly nice graphic depicts a global survey of the most restrictive and least restrictive countries in terms of online access. For example, those commenting or posting links in Thailand, Burma, Iran, and China could face arrest. There is a description of the role of the Twitter microblogging service and the Iranian elections of June 2009.
There are discussion questions for each chapter, endnote citations, organizational contact information, subject and personal name index. More and more students are exploring their rights in this realm, and this volume is a valuable addition to many ongoing conversations about our increasingly online world. Recommended for school libraries.