The Net has enabled the humankind with numerous means of expression. Freedom of speech is exercised online every day: on blogs, social media, instant messaging, and even through designing websites. The abundance of new tools for countless forms of expression has raised some legal and institutional questions.
In my view, there should be a possibility of interference into the creation or dissemination of online content. However, the intervention has to be limited to exceptional cases where other societal values are counter-balanced against the freedom of speech. In fact, the content control already exists, as the United States engages in campaigns to fight against online pornography. Another example is the illegal dissemination or another type of use of someone’s intellectual property that also calls for action by appropriate authorities. Moreover, the need to control and limit the freedom of speech on the Internet can also be motivated by the need to balance the right guaranteed by First Amendment with the protection of privacy (this is broadly practiced in Europe).
Undoubtedly, Internet content should continue to enjoy protection under the right to freedom of speech. Since offline free speech can be limited in the interests of society or other people’s rights, online content should not receive any preferential treatment. In this regard, the question whether absolute Internet freedom is necessary is a philosophical one. But I believe that it is necessary to harmonize it with other societal values.
Net neutrality rules provide for a possibility of government intervention in online free speech under certain circumstances. That is, to my mind, it is already a possibility of intrusion into the right of private Internet providers to transmit the content they want. I would not call it ‘censorship’, since it is not a ban on a particular kind of speech. However, under the flag of ‘anti-discrimination’, the net neutrality rules can force providers to carry content to users. Thus, at the first glance, the violation of First Amendment rights enjoyed by the providers is possible and should be discussed. Whether the particular instances of interference might be justified, remains a debatable question.