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Re: Freedom of speech (Was RE: Another update to the proposal)

From: Avi Arditti <aardit@voanews.com>
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2005 08:40:51 -0400
Message-ID: <429DACD3.9A0AEE7A@voanews.com>
To: Yvette Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
CC: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

See http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Amend.html

The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances."

U.S. law, however, distinguishes between "government speech" [1],
"commercial speech" and other forms of speech. Government and commercial
speech are generally not subject to the free-speech protections of the
First Amendment. For example, many states require certain kinds of
contracts to be written in plain language (and there may be explicit
readability standards to meet.) Some states also have plain-language
requirements for the instructions that judges give to juries. (Confusing
jury instructions have been an issue in recent days in two high-profile
financial crimes cases.)

Another example, as the May 27 Washington Post reported: "The Federal
Communications Commission has proposed fining three Washington area
television stations for failing to provide adequate closed-caption
information for hearing-impaired viewers during a tornado watch in May
2004. NBC-owned WRC (Channel 4), ABC affiliate WJLA (Channel 7) and
Fox-owned WTTG (Channel 5) face proposed fines totaling $40,000, the FCC
said Thursday. ... "

[1] Go a Google News search for "government speech"; you will find
stories about a recent dispute that reached the Supreme Court over a
beef marketing program established by Congress. (See

P.S. The fifth international conference on plain language will take
place in Washington Nov. 3-6. (I'm on one of the host committees.) For
more information: http://www.centerforplainlanguage.org/events.htm

Yvette Hoitink wrote:
> Ineke wrote:
> > Hallo John,
> >
> > Thanks for your work, but reading the coming European
> > Constitution I think it is better to remove or change
> > everything that might be in contrary to the following articles.
> >
> > Art. II-83:
> > Arts and scientific research are free. Acedemic freedom is respected.
> >
> > Title II: Freedoms
> >
> > Art II-71: Everyone has the right on freedom of expression.
> > This right contains the freedom to have an opinion and the
> > right to give and to get information without any intervention
> > of public authorities and without boundaries .
> >
> > I am convinced that everything that is about contents of a
> > website, should not  be testable  in the guidelines. Because
> > any test on the contents by law/authorities is forbidden in
> > Europe, at least that is my interpretation of the text of art. II-71.
> >
> > That does not say it is impossible that people can ask for
> > information/explanation of the content of a website, but
> > controlling/testing of contents is not a  task for authories,
> > laws etc. This has  only simply to do with freedom of expression.
> >
> > And about poems, prose etc we don't need to talk anymore,
> > they are free of everything, at least the contents of them..
> > But the code can always be tested.
> >
> >
> > I am not aware of such texts in the constitution of the USA.
> > I tried to google it, but the constitution texts I found did
> > not say anything about freedom of arts or of scientific
> > research/ acedemic freedom It may be that I found the wrong ones..
> >
> Whether this European Constitution is coming or not is highly debatable.
> Last Sunday, France voted no, and today the people in the Netherlands are
> voting on it in a referendum. Polls suggest they will vote against it as
> well.
> But even if this constitution won't be ratified, most countries in the world
> have a concept of 'freedom of speech' without censorship by the government
> so your point is still valid. In the United States that's covered by the
> first amandment [1] to the Bill of Rights.
> I don't see any problems for WCAG though. Freedom of speech is one of the
> reasons why level 1 is rather limited, because at level 1 there no limits
> are put on the actual message the author is trying to convey. All the level
> 1 items can be done in markup without interfering with the author's
> expression.
> For level 2 and higher, sometimes the author will be limited in the way he
> expresses himself (for example: in choice of colors to make sure the website
> is usable for people who are colorblind). But the author is free whether or
> not to conform to these higher levels. Choosing to conform means choosing to
> submit yourself to the limitations set by the standards. It's up to the
> policymakers of countries not to require anything that is not legal. So in
> countries that have freedom of speech as a lawful right, governments won't
> be able to require level 2 from everyone. But people or organizations that
> want their websites to be accessible can choose to conform to level 2 or
> higher.
> Yvette Hoitink
> Heritas, Enschede, the Netherlands
> E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl
> WWW: http://www.heritas.nl
> [1] http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html
Received on Wednesday, 1 June 2005 12:41:47 UTC

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