Freedom of speech

Digital Rights Watch stands for Privacy, Democracy, Fairness & Freedom in a digital age.

Digital technology has created a range of new ways for people to express their views and engage with public debate about the future of our society. We seek to protect this advancement, and find ways to make life online inclusive.

In order to uphold Australians’ right to freedom online, Digital Rights Watch:

  • Advocates for clear, certain, and fair legal rules that govern the liability of internet intermediaries consistent with the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability.
  • Encourages national and international online intermediaries and social networking platforms to protect freedom of speech by providing adequate and effective tools to limit and address abuse on their networks.
  • Operates a watchdog to monitor social networking platforms in enforce their terms of service, and lobbies for enhanced transparency and certainty in decision-making.

The internet has facilitated a form of democratisation of broadcasting and public engagement that has great potential. But this is only possible if we have protections in place for speech to be free. We need to find ways to encourage the growth of platforms and forums for Australians to express themselves and collaborate online.  

Freedom of speech also means that the voices of already marginalised people are not silenced through fear of abuse and harassment. With the rise of social media, self-publishing, blogs and other accessible media, there are new and complex issues about who bears responsibility for regulating speech online. We must ensure that digital platforms are designed in ways that promote human rights, and that there are obligations for corporations to protect vulnerable people in their terms of service, the way their rules are enforced, and the technical design of their systems.

Above all, decisions about which elements of speech are acceptable need to be made in a way that is fair and accountable, to avoid censorship. This is a growing and developing area and getting it right will involve long term dialogue between government, corporations and civil society.

A free and open internet is the cornerstone of a modern approach to human rights.