Freedom Of Speech & Privacy In New Media

24 Feb

In my recent post about the new social media guidelines I brought up the issue of who should really be held to social media journalist guidelines, but this topic also brings up another important point in new media: What are the implications of freedom of speech, privacy and copyright in new media.

With the way journalism and communication has been changing in the face of new media there has been a fuzzy line that people are trying to draw concerning our first amendment and fourth amendment rights. Recent stories in the news bring up very important issues concerning these rights.

We all know today that privacy doesn’t always mean ‘private’ especially when it comes to the world of Facebook. Pembroke Pines Charter High School student Katherine Evans learned this first hand when she was suspended for “cyberbullying”.

Evans back in 2007 had turned to Facebook to express her frustrations about her English teacher Ms. Phelps. Evans made a Facebook group named “Ms.Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever had” where students commented how they felt about Ms. Phelps. After two days Evans removed the page but was surprisingly suspended two months later. The Civil Liberties Union of Florida was attracted to the case immediately. Maria Kayanan, associate legal director, made a great statement concerning freedom of speech and technology.

Ms. Kayanan said it’s an important victory for Internet free speech that Evans can bring this case to trial come spring because “it upholds the principle that the right to freedom of speech and expression in America does not depend on the technology used to convey opinions and ideas.”

Do you think the school had a right to suspend Evans? Do you believe Evans should have been more careful? This news brings up a great number of discussions concerning our freedom of speech on the Internet. I am very interested in following this case to see where it leads. You can read the article in The New York Times here.

Another school recently reached headlines for using technology to spy  ..  that’s right .. spying on students using webcams from computers they willingly passed out to students to use for free. Administrators were activating the cameras on the laptops anytime they choose, giving them access into their personal lives at home in the hopes to catch and monitor misbehavior. This incident is a complete invasion of privacy. It shocked me to hear one of the students in reply to the suit say that everyone should:

“use a certain amount of common sense here and you don’t just get undressed in front of your computer whether you have faith in the school district or not to spy on you, you know just in case. There is no reason not to turn your computer around.”

There is a reason not to turn your computer around while undressing, because you shouldn’t have to worry or even feel that someone is watching you through your computer without your knowledge. The part in the students quote that really grabbed me was that “just in case because you just never know”. We shouldn’t have to feel like we are being watched in our own homes, and no one should have to worry about it happening to them. With the way technology has changed our society it is too bad some people are taking advantage of it in a negative way. Stories like this can instill fear in others of technology advances. Would you agree with the school’s method of spying on students, or do you feel this was a total invasion of privacy? Read and listen to NBC’s coverage here.

A few years ago Microsoft helped put together Data Privacy Day alongside a nonprofit think tank called The Privacy Projects to help raise awareness and generate discussion about information privacy when it comes to our digital lives. These topics and issues are tough to answer and I think ideas like Data Privacy Day are needed to look more thoroughly at how advanced technologies affect our daily lives.

From both examples it brings up yet again the question of how do we plan to manage privacy and freedom of speech via new media. What are our guidelines and laws for new media law?


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