For those who believe wholeheartedly in the principles of democracy and liberal government, the freedom of speech is something that should subsist without any restriction or imparted conditioning. It is an accepted privilege of democratic rule, that allows individuals to express their thoughts and feelings without the fear of censorship or reprisal, and also affords them the freedom to access information in order to aid an independent quest for knowledge and wisdom. However, if the core values of democracy are to be maintained entirely, then the freedom of speech and expression must be upheld without exception and in every viable social circumstance. If this is not the case, then the concept becomes one that actually opposes liberal rule, especially in situations where individuals are censored or punished for revealing views which are deemed to be controversial or potentially divisive. The question is whether free speech is an unconditional feature of democracy, or any applicable to those who have nothing to say. A Case in Point An example of this issue unfolded in the US this week, as a high school English teacher was suspending for expressing her anger and frustration on an internet blog. The text contained numerous disrespectful or insulting insinuations towards her students and the methods of teaching in contemporary society, although the writer refrained from making specific references to their place of work or individual students.
One of the most contentious issues that surrounds the World Wide Web is the surfeit of information that can be published and accessed by anyone. The intended purpose of the Internets swathes of resource is to empower and educate individuals within society, and prevent them with the factual data, opinion and objective information to aid them in an individual quest for wisdom. This is with a view to liberating society and giving each individual member the tools to further their own education on desired subjects. To this end, Wikileaks is an international non profit organization that was founded in 2006, and strives to deliver anonymous submissions of private and covert news to a wide and uncensored audience. As they protect the source of the information they are able to seek and publish highly controversial and topical information, which is served in the greater interest of keeping the public updated with relevant data. In keeping with the nature of their operation, they have been involved at the centre of several well documented international incidents. Freedom of Speech and its Consequences If anything, Wikileaks is the evocation of the freedom of speech and democratic values. In its purest form, it provides a platform through which it is able to deliver entirely relevant information that would otherwise be suppressed and censored by government bodies. In effect, it takes control away from governments who wish to control what information is fed to society, and ensures that people are empowered to be as informed as they wish to be. Of course, this concept is one that has produced a vast differential in terms of its reception and response.