UK’s Internet Troll Policy: A threat to Freedom of Speech or a Better Protection for Individuals?

An image of a man's mouth sealed with 'freedom' note

Freedom of Speech is a serious matter. United Kingdom however are trying to, via new online laws, protect individuals who has felt threatened through social media. Will it violate Freedom of Speech?

The United Kingdom recently introduced new sentencing measures for Internet trolls found guilty of sending threatening or abusive messages online. However, many worry the new legislation may infringe on the civil liberties and freedom of speech of those simply expressing their opinions in an emphatic manner. The new legislation will allow serious offenses to be decided by the Crown Courts with a maximum sentence of 24 months, four times the previous standard sentence. Currently, these offenses are handled by local magistrates.

Why the Harsher Sentences?

The increase in penalties for internet trolls is directed at those who threaten to rape or kill through online communication. The threatening of celebrities and other high-profile figures has brought the issue to the forefront. For example, Chloe Madeley, the daughter of UK talk show host Judy Finnegan, recently received threatening tweets after she defended her mother’s comments about a rape case involving a footballer. Lawmakers feel the stiffer sentencing is warranted because “we would not permit such venom in person,” stated Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

Concerns over Freedom of Speech

Although no one is defending online rape and death threats, experts warn that the new law could punish those that are simply expressing criticism. The legislation lacks balance in differentiating between abusers and those expressing their opinion. These concerns are not far-fetched. Even without the new maximum sentences, there have been cases where authorities have prosecuted people under the Public Order Act for questionable reasons.

For example, the 2012 case of Paul Chambers hinged on what he thought was a joke. After realizing the Robin Hood Airport was closed due to weather, he tweeted, “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your [expletive] together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” He was convicted by a district judge and two judges upheld the conviction on appeal. A high court ultimately reversed his conviction, but not before he lost two jobs and spent the better part of two years engaged in his legal battle.

Many civil-liberties experts assert that true threats to an individual’s safety should be pursued through harassment laws, not communication legislation that can potentially infringe on the rights of those vehemently expressing their opinion or making what they think is a joke. Advocates for freedom of speech are concerned about comments from legislators like former Conservative MP Edwina Currie who stated that “people should learn to show restraint when making online comments.” While “showing restraint” may be an admirable goal, and direct threats should be taken seriously, who knows how slippery this slope is?

OrangeWebsite’s professionals closely monitor freedom of speech laws and cases around the world. We’ll closely watch the results of this legislation as it makes its way through Parliament. Contact us to learn more about our services.

Political Donations vs. Free Speech

An image of political metaphors, political rally, politician at the debate, parliamentary speech, freedom of speech concept, and democracy concept.
An image of political metaphors, political rally, politician at the debate, parliamentary speech, freedom of speech concept, and democracy concept.

Free speech in politics should be fairly justified to protect the rights of democracy for the people.

Freedom of speech or free speech, is a right to express and communicate one’s opinions and ideas, and is one of the most important rights anyone can have when it comes to the political process.

Political campaigns and elections are always associated with donations or soft money, we often realized about the power of money although as one may say money is not everything but the truth that appeared before our lives is everything is money. Money does make changes in many aspects especially in political elections which will usually influence the capability of each candidate during campaigns’ seasons and processes. The amounts of donation received by any candidates are volatile and have no limit often depending on the group of supporters with different financial background also depending on proposed policies and interests.

Nevertheless the most important question that a lot of people have been asking remains – should donations to the political process be considered as a form of free speech? This relative question about donations or soft money in politics are continuing and growing to further extend.

The Argument in Brief

The Supreme Court of the United States has heard numerous cases about this question and mostly decided that putting a limit on how much money someone can donate to a political campaign is like putting a limit on how much free speech that person has.

This argument is based on some flawed logic. Taken in its own context, the ‘Money = Free Speech’ argument says by donating money means you are expressing your political support for an individual or a party in a given election. By limiting the amount of money you can donate, the argument goes – you are silencing donors by taking away the power of the purse.

That’s not really the case and for an important reason – money is an inherently unequal playing field. For example, take two persons who support different candidates for their city’s mayor election. One supporter works a regular 9-5 job and has maybe $50 a week in balance after all of his household expenses. Another supporter is a millionaire who chose to spend half a million dollars to support the candidate he likes. If money were “speak”, one candidate would be whispering while the other candidate would be screaming into a bank of 25 megaphones.

Soft Money Interest

Outside of cases of genuine corruption and election fraud, there is no guarantee that the candidate who received the most monetary support will be elected. This is like saying there’s no guarantee that the candidate with the biggest media presence or the one with the biggest campaign staffs is going to win an election. But all of these things help because promoting oneself as a good leader is part of the job as a politician.

Calling money in politics means those citizens and entities with extreme wealth can make big donations that make the most difference in political campaigns, are allowed to speak more than others. And since politicians have to prepare for the next election almost as soon as they win the current one, they will spend hours on the phone with big donors when they should be serving the public. This means the interests of those big donors are more likely to take precedence in their minds than the genuine good of their constituents and the nation as a whole.

The Abstract

The issue is a question of equality and balance. Political donations or soft money can be illustrated or considered as a form of speech in the same way that throwing a brick through a window. Nobody believes in protecting the right of the brick thrower to “speak” by committing an act of violence over the right of the window owner to be secured from destructive acts.

The problem is that the Supreme Court neither understands nor cares that big donations in political process is a form of violence against democracy, corrupting the very foundation of individual’s voice and vote. The court always understands the abstract concepts that empower corporations and wealthy politicians, but rarely understands the abstract concepts that empower individuals and protect democracy.

Find out more information about free speech on online platform, please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions and help you any way we can with this process.

The Risks of Being a Whistleblower

An image of a whistleblower with his co-workers in black and white.
An image of a whistleblower with his co-workers in black and white.

Being a whistleblower can also be very difficult in terms of the stress and anxiety associated with standing up to powerful corporate or government interests.

We all like to think that we would do the right thing if we knew about an illegal or harmful act taking place in our midst. But when we discover our employers doing something wrong, whether it’s ignoring safety regulations, stealing wages, or committing other crimes, it can be extremely difficult to blow the whistle. That’s because there are often some significant risks involved in becoming a whistleblower. These risks include;

Employer Retaliation

For someone who’s considering blowing the whistle on their employer, a primary fear is that said employer will retaliate against them. While there are laws in place meant to protect whistleblowers, they are often not enough. This means that those who point out wrong doing might be faced with a hostile work environment, scheduling upsets and demotion, or termination on a false pretence — or even outright termination in a place without strong employee-protection laws. For those with a family to support, this can be a very daunting risk.

Industry Blacklisting

So what if one employer gives you the boot, there’s a whole industry out there, right? Maybe, but if you’re known as a whistleblower then even companies who don’t have anything to hide may be reluctant to hire you. It may be necessary for you to leave your field entirely, or it might mean that the only job you can get is an entry-level position from which you won’t be promoted. In extreme circumstances whistleblowers simply won’t be able to get a new job, period.

Legal Consequences

While speaking up about illegal activity is a noble thing to do, it’s also possible for whistleblowers to be caught up in the punishment that comes with the crime. Often, they’ll have to face charges of their own for being part of the crime in the first place, which can make them even more reluctant to stand up and say something (even though blowing the whistle may result in a lighter sentence).

Professional Violations

In many cases being a whistleblower may violate a contract or a professional obligation. In these instances, there may be additional penalties such as civil suits for breaching agreements and confidences.

But Whistleblowers Get Paid, Right?

It’s true that whistleblowers are entitled to a percentage of the settlement of any case in which they are involved. The problem is that even though there may be large sums of money involved, it can take years (sometimes decades) for these cases to be completely settled. In the meantime, a whistleblower has to deal with the negative consequences of the decision while waiting for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

At the end of the day, being a whistleblower is a very risky endeavour. We can certainly help you to remain anonymous with your website. Contact us, in case you have any questions regarding our services or your privacy online.

Understanding Freedom of Speech in Practice

An image of a man's mouth sealed with 'freedom' note

Freedom of speech is not to be taken for granted in the modern world.

Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights someone can have. That said, there’s a lot of confusion these days as to what freedom of speech does and doesn’t mean in practice. So before you decide to start shouting at someone that you have a right to your speech, it’s a good idea to make sure you know what you’re talking about.

Freedom of Speech is A Political Right

Freedom of speech means that the government will not restrict a person’s speech simply because it doesn’t want to hear what that person has to say. Most western governments cannot, for instance, imprison members of a peaceful protest simply for speaking out against government policies (or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work).

That is a very good thing, and it’s a relatively recent historical development — and if you watch the news, you know how many people in the world still can’t freely criticize their governments. However, it’s important to remember that freedom of speech doesn’t extend to all aspects of life; it doesn’t mean anyone has to listen, and it doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want.

…What Do You Mean?

Basically, freedom of speech only applies to government enforcement. That means that if someone is in a coffee shop and decides to start talking at peak volume about how the government’s new immigration policies are wrong; the management is perfectly within its rights to tell that person to get out. Other patrons can ignore the speaker, or even jeer derisively. There’s no such thing as the guarantee that anyone will care what you have to say, or freedom from being made fun of.

There are also areas of legally restricted speech. You know the old saying; you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre? While the government cannot restrict you on purely political grounds, it can restrict certain forms of speech it considers a genuine danger. For instance, “hate speech,” which might incite violence against certain groups of people. The key thing is that you can’t turn your words into weapons. Once you do that you’ve stopped expressing your right to free speech and started infringing on the rights of others.

A more controversial area of restricted speech is the act of sharing state secrets. Governments argue that doing so can have disastrous consequences — even if some would argue that the consequences of not revealing some secrets are more serious in the long term.

The Grey Area

All of this is, of course, how free speech is supposed to work in an ideal situation. Unfortunately it’s a very hairy subject that can be interpreted in many different ways depending on who’s doing the interpreting. Often, governments try to gag citizens so they don’t share information that, while damning or embarrassing for the government, is in no way something that constitutes a danger to people if revealed.

Take the revelations by Julian Assange of Wikileaks for instance. On one hand, Assange was in possession of state secrets, particularly regarding the wars in the Middle East that could have constituted a danger to troops on the ground. On the other hand, some of the information he possessed was not dangerous at all, but simply inconvenient for the United States government. Where the line should be drawn? How much of the information is truly dangerous state secrets, and how much of it is just facts that the government wants to suppress? How do they decide, and how can we tell if they decide fairly?

These kinds of situations happen all the time. At what point does a peaceful protester who is discussing the facts of a law have to stop because her tone might incite a riot? What are the limits imposed on a government when it wants to silence someone?

It’s important to remember that there are certain situations where people shouldn’t be allowed to say whatever they want (such as revealing the names of undercover officers, or talking about the new identities of those in the Witness Protection Program), but that doesn’t mean the government should be implicitly trusted to always rule on the side of citizens. It’s only through a careful examination of the law and what’s being discussed that the question of how free speech applies can really be answered.

For more information on how freedom of speech works in the internet age, contact us today!

Secure Offshore Hosting: A Whistleblower’s Best Friend

An image of a whistleblower's quote.
An image of a whistleblower's quote.

Whistleblowers are the only people who tell us about what is happening behind the closed doors.

Whether it is the pharmaceutical industry in the news for mislabelling a new drug or a fresh government scandal, it is clear that whistleblowers are sometime the only people who tell us about what is really going on behind the doors of power and money.

One example is Tyrone Hayes, a biologist who was hired by a large agribusiness to study one of its herbicides, atrazine. When Hayes’ research found that the chemical caused deformations in animals exposed to it, he was attacked by industry insiders and his work was smeared both within the scientific community and online:

According to company e-mails… its public-relations team compiled a database of more than a hundred “supportive third party stakeholders”, including twenty-five professors, who could defend atrazine or act as “spokespeople on Hayes”. The P.R. team suggested that the company “purchase ‘Tyrone Hayes’ as a search word on the internet, so that any time someone searches for Tyrone’s material, the first thing they see is our material”. – The New Yorker

What’s more, the Environmental Protection Agency based their conclusion that the chemical was safe largely on a group of studies done by the corporation that makes it.

Whistleblowers like Hayes are a fundamental litmus test of our freedom of speech. Usually, dirty corporate and government tactics remain hidden until someone on the inside breaks the silence. If the news is any indication, the protections that ought to be in place for those individuals are not entirely effective. Many people who expose government incompetence or corporate cover-ups are attacked and scrutinized, both through their connections online and in their private lives. A lot of web hosting services in the United States and parts of Europe that have attempted to set up secure spaces for these whistleblowers have had to face their own seemingly insurmountable legal troubles.

One this is certain: corporations and governments will spare no expense to ensure that once information leaks from within the halls of the organization, it is quickly and quietly suppressed.

But there’s a way to fight back!

OrangeWebsite is a whistleblower’s best friend and an offshore hosting service dedicated to the principles of free speech. With our secure servers located in Iceland, outside of the jurisdiction of both the U.S. and the E.U., we’re able to allow you a conduit to the outside world without jeopardizing your identity or disclosing your vital information. Whether it’s a place to hold documents or publish vital data, we’ll never expose you to outside risk.

We take the integrity of our customers’ information very seriously. That’s why we incorporate policies such as two-factor authentication and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection. Your information is not our business and we will only keep the minimum we need to administer your services, which makes us pretty unique among web hosting companies.

If you would like to hear more about ways in which an offshore server can give you the unparalleled benefits of free speech, contact us today for a consultation regarding your needs. Get some peace of mind knowing what you had published to the web will not be turned over by your hosting service at the drop of a hat.