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Responsibility of speech important online

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 08:11

Freedom of speech is a right that has been instilled in America since its inception as a nation.

And while that right has shaped the nation, in an age where Internet communication supersedes other forms of communication, responsibility of speech is a lesson in today’s world that trumps one about freedom of speech.

The Oracle’s commenting policy on YouTube, a website which through its allowance of users to upload and comment on videos brings community expression and freedom of speech to a new level of tangibility, has thus far been free and open-ended in the interest of protecting freedom of speech and preventing an editorially-imposed censorship.

But after a recent video we posted, “Gangnam Style ‘flash mob,’” has made its rounds of the Internet and received more than 83,000 views — more views than any of our other videos — the comments on the video have brought into question whether the responsibility of free speech is one that should be regulated.

While one is entitled to his or her opinion on the video, the expectation is that one will civilly express it. Instead, the video has seen a slew of vicious comments, calling individuals in the video “fat,” “morons,” and even asking “where’s Osama bin Laden when you need him?” Others wished for a bus to run over those in the flash mob, and another simply posted “Kill yourself.”

While YouTube requires users to sign in with an account, the Internet offers a veil of anonymity and a degree of separation from real life that allows those sitting behind the protection of a computer screen the obliteration of guilt that may have followed verbal exchanges that took place in real life — think robot-controlled war as opposed to firing-into-the-whites-of-their-eyes war.

However, the impacts of these irresponsible comments are not as far removed.

In August, Australian celebrity and model Charlotte Dawson, an advocate against cyber bullying, was hospitalized after a suicide attempt, posting to Twitter, “Hope this ends the misery ... you win,” after Tweeters sent her hundreds of hateful messages in less than 140 characters.

In October, Amanda Todd, a teenager who was harassed by anonymous Internet users, took her life.

Meanness and bullying, regardless of its source, hurts.

But whether it is the responsibility of those who champion free speech to regulate it is a question that remains to be answered.

Drop us a note and send us your thoughts on our YouTube commenting policy at opinion@usforacle.com.

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