Prof: Mike Gildersleeve
The constitutional future of the internet has been hanging in the balance for several
years since the discovery of the internet, that is, at the heart of the mid-1990s (Garry 10).
There was confusion as to whether it should be handled as a mechanism or a channel of
expression profiting from the full assurance of the first amendment or whether it should be
a case to the content limiting regulation–where content moderators are responsible for
content shared on the Internet, such as broadcasting under the Federal Covenant. This
kind of remark is a loquacious account of an exceptional activist who was profoundly
committed in looping the threat of ordinance and to some extent securing free expression
rights in online platforms.
Mike Godwin is a former journalist and was a counsel to the Electronic Frontier
Foundation when his book was published, an organization dedicated to protecting and
protecting people's freedom in cyberspace. Mike Godwin analyzes how the legal system
applies to the Internet, an omnipresent space that is generally perceived as an area free of
law (Milo 185-220). Basically defending the freedom of expression on the Internet while at
the same time alleviating anxieties about its social consequences, Godwin presents how
the performance of libel and intellectual property laws works against the Internet's free
speech frameworkdeferring to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States as a means of protecting this right. The aftermath is an argument for, and an
understanding of individual empowerment in cyberspace that blossoms from the
discernment of society and constitutionalism, blending social consensus on the advantages
of this medium that outweighs the current cynical speculations around it.
Nevertheless, cyberspace is one of the dangerous places which has seen many
people conned or preyed on by cybercriminals or by the government agencies who are
alluding to be working or enforcing the law of the land (Volokh 55). The first half of this
book collectively discuss the informal introduction of the status of the Internet First
Amendment Law on topics such as libel, privacy, and copyright. In each of these topics,
Godwin feels that the open and democratic nature of the online discourse will actually
solve most of the issues relating to the freedom of speech in the cyberspace. To some
extent, it would be right to agree with his accounts on this. Take an example where every
individual is held personally responsible for the contents shared online. Everyone will have
the rights to acknowledge the shared information and will be solely responsible for the
outcomes of sharing such information Volokh, one of the greatest scholars, agrees with
this in his article when he pointed out that these laws governing freedom of speech in
cyberspace should be lawless online since there is a limited speech-limiting prospect that
could cover children while utilizing the alternatives accessible to adult people (7): a selfcensored scheme that would recognize ideas.
This strategy will nevertheless put some load on individuals, but it should be
constitutionally sanctioned to do so (Volokh 7). The rest of the rest of the book focuses
more on the intense personal chronicles of the Godwin and the deep involvement in what
he calls the "cyber porn panic," which is the push or effort to control the contents that
always involve a suspicious search generated at Carnegie University, a cover story during
the writing of this book, and the eventual congressional passage of the Communications.
Even though the internet is usually scorned by mainstream journalists as the source of
rumor and dissipation of false information, Godwin is quick to point to something which is
contradictory in nature, an Internet community united to remedy or correct the spread of
false information through the internet
Ultimately, Godwin presents that this strong response, laid foundation for the
lawsuits which subsequently enabled the Supreme Court to declare the “decency”
amendment as unconstitutional. Godwin argues strongly to support his ideas on this topic
of his book, enable the reader to relive the tension surrounding the freedom of speech in
the cyberspace, thus enabling the internet lovers to interact freely knowing that their rights
are accounted for in the cyberspace laws. The following sections of the review breaks
down the book into chapters for better understanding.
The first chapter describes how strongly the individuals can respond to the social
and legal issues arising from the interaction of the Net society. The reality is that most of
the people are anxious about what will spell them when a legal investigations is directed
towards their information on the Internet. Sometimes, people share pieces of information
which are harmful to others even without knowing. Now, this is one of the issues which
made Godwin publish an article that will enable people to understand the outcome and
their rights of speech in cyberspace. This is accomplished by explaining how the First
Amendment safeguards freedom of expression in cyberspace or should protect it (Godwin
2-380). Generally articulating, Godwin represents pictorially the medium as a territory in
which power exists, generating a good number of legal and social issues. Some of these
issues are as follows:
If the First Amendment that grants assurance for conventional written and spoken
discourse methods similarly pertains to the Net, a novel and balancing mechanism that is
underlined by the absence of hierarchical mandate among its users
Secondly, what sets of laws and systems are expected to sustain the induction and
survival of virtual societies that, similar to mundane societies, orderly rely on tolerance for,
and thus protection of freedom of speech and privacy?
Third, at what moment must the discretion be uncovered between the right to free
speech of an individual and the general prosperity of the community? Does writing such
information lure more threats than when it appears in the conventional format such as
books or journals, and thus oblige further assurance?
Finally, how best to reconcile these features of' old' and' new' media in order to
effectively implement the right to freedom of communication on the Internet? Are the
current Internet communications trends consistent with the rules and procedures set out
to protect the rights of speech in cyberspace?
The major fusing theory that draws together each of these four principal concerns
into a cohesive unity is that in regards to the Constitution, free speech on the Net warrants
uniquely protection. And according to Godwin, the right to speak what you believe is as
fundamental to the 'virtual citizen' in cyberspace as it is to the 'citizen' in the natural
setting without the concern of irrational censorship. There is an element of bond in both of
these two worlds -the virtual world and the natural world or at least a contingent
associated connecting the right to freedom of speech and a community's prosperity.
Chapter 2 talks about the relationship between these two communities' social
features. The objective is to illustrate the parasitic characteristics of virtual societies to
prove that they are just extensions of physical societies and that both are wrapped with
respect for freedom of speech and a desire for intimate connection with other people. A
series of 'memes'- an opinion that is purposed and countered from character to character,
extend the Net's lawless, immoral and' unreal'
representations, and suppressing its line of
symmetry with the real world. It is extremely frustrating that when contesting against the
Net's negative implications, Godwin did not strongly defend his judgement.
Nevertheless, the mentioned Internet as a threat issue is carried through to Chapter
3, although this point with reference to its generate by the administration and the press
who tries to raise concerns about the application of freedom of expression in cyberspace.
Godwin argues that these institutions fret about a loss of authority over the mass media as
a result of the ability of common civilians from their own computer systems to connect
with thousands of other people around the world. As a result, politicians and journalists
combine the concept of cyberspace with concepts of bomb-making information, hackers,
and child pornography to pilfer some of the layman's reposed power, conclusively
resulting to opposition to its use.
The scholar or the reader is familiarized with the distortions imputed to the Net by
the general society, media, and the government in these first three chapters. They equip
the reader with prongs of a drive to withstand such fears, comparable to a step-by-step
guide. This is achieved by way of the campaign for the security of individual rights under
the First Amendment, which is favorable to support the rights of others and guides to the
formulation of societies and the nation in general.
From chapter 4 to chapter 10, Godwin outweighs these emphatic perspectives of
free speech with the aim of recognizing its concerns, which encompasses issues like
privacy, copyright, cyberporn, and online slander, acclaiming the First Amendment as a
way to resolving them, and citing cases as real-life illustrations of these concerns.
Moreover, Godwin pitches to the reasoning that advocates for the assurance of free
speech on the Net, casually overlooking the pieces of evidence that counter it, and thus
leaning the rules with immense partiality towards one end of the spectrum. For instance,
Godwin suggests that the greatest solution accessible to an individual who has been
defamed on the Net is self-help, such as engaging the person who has distributed the
libelous remarks or simply enduring assaulting idioms. However, this strategy overlooks
the right to pecuniary compensation for reputational ruin and hurts feelings, particularly
when such a solution is warranted by the scope of the publication, its significance, and
financial loss. Furthermore, 'flaming' one's critics is solely pleonastic in the sense that an
individual is apt to do the identical thing, and thus the cycle of deformation between the
two parties recapitulates as infinite. A tarnished honor without a promptly accessible
solution is absolutely against the objective of libel law, regardless of the medium through
which it is done (Garry 14).
The final chapter latches on a thought for tolerance of those who offend others on
the Net, resolving that the Internet's general nature makes it impracticable for shared
opinions and experiences to ever be united. He claims that empowering societies to speak
openly on the Internet in all the ways we've said they can speak freely in other media, and
with all the secrecy we've allowed them in other media, is a prerequisite for all the
advantages the online world has to offer us.
The book is valuable reading material for law students alike who have to come to
terms with the social and legal issues that emerge from the Internet technology. The
predominance and universality of concerns emerging from the Net and related case-law,
even though specific to the American context. The employment of active voice, non-legal
language, and personal renditions are achieved favorably to sustain motivation via what
can contrarily be the boring and obscure topic. This confidential and informal tendency
seldom operates to the detriment of Godwin, eliciting a tone of teaching.
Garry, Patrick M. "Reno Versus ACLU and Internet Speech Freedom." SSRN Electronic
Godwin, Mike. Cyber Rights: Defending Free speech in the Digital Age. MIT P, 2003.
"New frontiers: a visitor's guide." Index on Censorship, vol. 22, no. 2, 1993, pp. 11-13.
Milo, Dario. "Fault and Defamation Liability." Defamation and Freedom of Speech, 2008,
Volokh, E. "Freedom of Speech in Cyberspace from the Listener's Perspective: Private Speech
Restrictions, Libel, State Action, Harassment, and Sex." SSRN Electronic Journal, 1997,
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