Ethics Assessment: Online Freedom of Speech

Write a report for senior management that expands on your chosen case by describing the professional and ethical issues raised by that particular scenario.

The description below is only a brief outline. Please note the lack of references in the scenarios Normally there would need to be plenty of specific references in such accounts. This is deliberately to encourage you to research and include references on your chosen case, looking particularly for any issues, on which you can comment from an ethical or project management point of view. Marks will be awarded for demonstrating selection of more reliable sources in your references.

In particular, you should explain which, if any, ethical principles and or codes of conduct might be relevant in this sort of situation. Your report may cover technical matters where necessary, but the marks will be awarded mainly for coverage of the ethical issues. Your report should be well-structured and no longer than 2000 words. References and appendices are not included in the word count.


Online Freedom of Speech

There are important historical reasons for giving all people a right to free speech. It is also a human right, according to the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

This is also enshrined in International Law as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, freedom of speech (which we can assume is part of ‘freedom of expression’) has never been considered an absolute freedom and the relative importance attached to it varies between cultures and between times.

Moreover, as use of the Internet has increased in the 21st Century, it seems necessary continually to increase ‘content removal’. For example, Google received 12,688 requests to remove online content from Russian Government and Legal Institutions in the period January to June 2020 [1].  During the same period Facebook removed 32.1 million examples of ‘unacceptable content’. For January to June 2021 the figure was 56.7 million [2]. Does this mean that the human right to ‘freedom of opinion and expression’ is now outdated?  In the ‘age of the Internet’ how, if at all, can we come to useful international agreement about this? If you were a manager of an online platform responsible for content approval, how exactly would you approach these questions? Would you simply ignore the law or would you be actively campaigning to remove Article 19?

[1] Source:

[2] Source:

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