Information Technology and Ethics/Freedom of Expression

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Newseum 5 Freedoms 1st Amendment
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.

Since the internet allows people to connect around the world, it gives people the ability to communicate information, ideas, and other forms of speech.It is an inexpensive way to reach a large audience in a short amount of time. Government and other organizations have tried to create laws and policies which help people to make ethical decisions about how to use this ability.

In the U.S., the first amendment protects the right to freedom of expression and religion. The definition of the first amendment has been expanded to include other forms of communication as well, such as nonverbal, visual and symbol communications. The first amendment also protects the right to speak anonymously. When people do not reveal their identity when they are expressing their opinions, it is called anonymous expression. Anonymous expression is used when people fear reprisal for opinions that may be unpopular. This is especially true for people who live in countries that may not allow free speech. The first amendment does not protect a few forms of speech including the following: perjury, fraud, defamation, obscene speech, incitement of panic, incitement to crime, fighting words and sedition. Defamation is either a written or an oral statement of alleged fact that is false and harms another person. The harm caused may either be financial, affect a person's ability to work in a certain field, or make it difficult or impossible for them to run in an election.

Businesses are, however, allowed to file John Doe Lawsuits, which are lawsuits that are filed against temporarily anonymous defendants. The lawsuit may allow the plaintiff to seek the identity of the defendant with the permission of the judge and a subpoena. If the subpoena is granted, they may subpoena information from an Internet service provider or web hosting firm. If the identity of of the user(s) is ever discovered, the complaint is then modified to show the correct name(s). Businesses may file John Doe lawsuits in order to discover those who may be revealing secrets or criticizing their company.

Internet filters such as Net nanny block access to sites deemed inappropriate. This software is used by families, schools, and other public institutions to control what is viewed on a networked computer. Internet service providers have the ability to block websites, which works by blocking specific URLs and known hosting services. There is also software that filters hate sites.