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Freedom of speech, freedom of information and linked open data

From: Semantics-ProjectParadigm <metadataportals@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2009 09:49:33 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <12602.96922.qm@web45513.mail.sp1.yahoo.com>
To: semantic-web <semantic-web@w3.org>, "public-lod@w3.org" <public-lod@w3.org>
Tom Goodwin has raised a very disturbing issue, one with which many people and organizations have already been confronted.

The current state of the internet is a very confusing one in terms of freedom of speech and information.

One very good source of information on the idiosyncrasies in Europe is www.edri.org, and in the US the www.eff.org site.

There are no clear-cut rules and laws on what constitutes the boundaries on free speech and freedom of information (which includes freedom of access to information).

With the advent of social networking and the sites which collect feeds and links to interesting sites, somehow the confusion on who is responsible for the referenced, linked, hosted or posted data has only grown.

In these times of financial crises, the mere mention of litigation against "slanderous, defaming, degrading or even critical information/data" is enough to make ISPs, hosting services and web masters shiver around the globe.

Human rights activists have become self-censoring to an extent that much of the abuse they cover CANNOT be found online, or is often available in reports which must be purchased.

Our organization has seen this issue become a real critical item on the agenda of semantic web technologies and for the purists linked open data in general.

If we want to go beyond the generally accepted domains of information to be included in the semantic web, i.e. academia, pure and applied research, general and specialty scientific publications, commercial publications and online repositories and databases we will inevitably stray into the popular and mainstream applications and technologies of the web (online interactive games, music for downloading, social networks, blogs etc.) where few unwritten rules exist, protocols, netiquette exist that have their footing in legislation.

In these domains tempers are known to be able to fast run high, and rapidly become incendiary to the point of ridiculous.

We have the popular TV culture (reality shows, talk shows and roasting-by-the-press programs) and radio talk show culture  to thank for having defined the new boundaries on the internet as well.

The point I am trying to make is that whereas we can still conclude that freedom of speech and freedom of information have not been restricted or are more at risk at this moment in time than before, it has become more confusing to uphold and counter litigation attacks.

Litigation tourism is just another more recent twist in which de facto you can be sued in another jurisdiction over what you have hosted posted or even referenced on your site  instead of your own jurisdiction.

It is just one more reason to be careful when one decides to speak one's mind, because one feels one must.

As things stand now there are no well-defined rule of thumbs, grounded in legislation or international treaties, to apply to determine when one is within legal bounds and free from the threat of litigation.

I guess just common sense, and an intuitive sense of who you are dealing with online must be used.

Milton Ponson
GSM: +297 747 8280
Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation
PO Box 1154, Oranjestad
Aruba, Dutch Caribbean
Project Paradigm: A structured approach to bringing the tools for sustainable development to all stakeholders worldwide
NGO-Opensource: Creating ICT tools for NGOs worldwide for Project Paradigm
MetaPortal: providing online access to web sites and repositories of data and information for sustainable development
SemanticWebSoftware, part of NGO-Opensource to enable SW technologies in the Metaportal project

Received on Friday, 6 March 2009 17:50:16 UTC

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