Freedom of Speech in the 21st Century

Freedom of Speech in the 21st Century

Wienblogger Meetup

“Freedom of Speech in the 21st Century“ with lead speaker Annette Scheiner

sponsored by Alinea Partners Consulting

Article co-authored by Diana Strobl and Adi Omeragic from the Alinea Partners Consulting intern team.

“No news is good news” – is a popular idiom we all know. It means, that without information to the contrary you can assume that all is well.

We are proud to be sponsors of the WienBlogger community. The first Wienblogger event in 2015 was held in February at our office in Vienna. Former ORF television reporter Annette Scheiner, who hosted the ORF-foreign affairs magazine, World Journal from August 2002 to 2008, kicked-off the discussion about “Freedom of Speech in the 21st century”. Alinea Partners supplied the speaker, location and food for thought!

Photo by © Maria Petrak, The Best of the World Network®

Annette has always been a supporter of freedom of speech. Recent incidents in Paris and Copenhagen have made her an even more enthusiastic advocate of this fundamental freedom.

From her point of view, the biggest threat comes from terror groups and extremist movements, which are fighting against freelance journalism. As an unfortunate well-known example, she used the assault on the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”.

She continued with another threat to freedom of speech – namely data piracy. The fact, that nowadays data piracy is higher than ever, endangers the current generation in their freedom of speech. There was discussion about the young blogging community becoming more careful about expressing their opinions digitally – Annette felt this shouldn’t happen. Through the globalization of communication, responsibility has to be taken. Ethical principles like thoroughness, accuracy, transparency, independency and fairness should be ensured when using the internet, but the personal expression of opinion should be unrestrictedly guaranteed. The blogging community is well on its way to take action and involve the society in their discussions.

To protect freedom of speech, Annette suggests that bloggers as well as reporters should adhere to common standards of communication, and went deeper on a few topics:

Blogging Bloggers are the innovative, open minded and critical social media users of our society. They reveal their interests, thoughts and experiences by publishing them online. Some of these are very popular and able to monetize their published content, others are just blogging as a hobby. Annette is concerned about the authenticity of bloggers, because monetizing blogs can lead to manipulation and spreading information in other interests. The most important fact is that their freedom of speech is not threatened.

Shitstorms The internet is changing fast and billions of users are able to share their opinions through various channels. By commenting on some blogs or articles, every user of the internet may share his or her opinion. This often implies an invitation for criticism, which does not favor published content of others, to the contrary, they start or support a so-called „shitstorm“. A shitstorm is more than just a vivid discussion, it often tends to be abusive, even bullying and can spread digitally very fast, reaching a great amount of users via blogs, social media, email, etc.. During the discussion, an absolute rule of avoiding shitstorms was not identified as the group felt that there will always be proponents and opponents to certain topics. Therefore, she recommended not to worry too much about negative reactions and to respect the freedom of speech for everybody.

Corruption and abuse of money Monetized blogs publish content for profit and it was discussed that this could be at best influenced or at worst manipulated by investors in those blogs. The time-honoured tradition of newspaper advertorials (or paid articles) has leaked into the blogging and vblogging scene. Current controversy is over whether or not blog owners are required to make their audience aware of the fact that they are being paid for what they publish. This is where Annette recommended full transparency, but also participation of the reader. She expressed that in such situations where a reader had questions or would like to better understand the bloggers views, the reader had the responsibility to ask the questions and the blogger has the responsibility to be honest and transparent.

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