SOCHUM Committee Briefing

The question of protection of freedom of expression on social media

Introduction to the topic

Social Media is a tool for communications, which has become an integral part of the daily lives of people of all ages. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, texting, etc., are merely another avenue for freedom of expression which allows individuals to exercise free speech. The freedom of expression is a fundamental value in democratic countries and was recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHDR) in 1948. Therefore, it is crucial for countries internationally to allow the freedom of expression, thus supporting social media as this is a platform in which people can utilize their rights.

Governments monitoring social media globally, is arguably essential for the prevention of the spread of radical ideas and discriminatory movements. However, this monitoring and response to social media by Governments highlights the potential risk of damaging people’s freedom of expression.

Key definitions:

Freedom of expression- a fundament in democracy which may include the act of seeking, receiving and sharing information or ideas. This term can also be used interchangeably with the Freedom of Speech, which is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship or societal sanction.

Social Media- Computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.

Freedom of the press- is the freedom of expression via electronic media (such as social media) and published materials.

Example of initiatives implemented and countries involved:

Canada’s approach – training their local law enforcement (RNC) to share information through social media to educate public on the anti-criminalized way to utilize your freedom of speech online. Ensures transparency to the public, thus states openly that all sites are monitored for criminal activity.

UNESCO- debated, and addressed that this was a pressing issue. and-wsis/implementation-and-follow-up/wsis-forum/wsis-forum-2012/freedom-of-expression-on- internet-and-social-media-action-line-c9-media/

UK – new anti-terror legislation allows state intervention in social media
Important UN resolutions
Human Rights on social media: (will have some references to freedom of expression)
  Freedom of expression resolution: (ideas can be adapted for social media usage)

Good websites for research