Freedom of speech and expression are not absolute. Our freedom of speech and expression are subject to the fact that our opinion should not offend others.
Last month Twitter suspended Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s Twitter Account after he posted a series of offensive tweets that were targeted at JNU student Shehla Rashid’s tweet against BJP. Twitter had to suspend his account as people accused the singer of using “inappropriate” and “insulting” language. Twitter reports that Abhijeet is considered to be a serial offender.
This brings us to the question of how free we are to express our opinions.
Out of all the fundamental rights, the freedom of speech and expression are the most complex rights. You have a natural right to freely express through any media without any outside interference like censorship, without reprisal or threats or fear of getting your account suspended on Twitter.
India guarantees Freedom of Speech under Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India with certain restrictions. Freedom of Speech & Expression and free media are fundamental building blocks of democracy and the gateway to the realisation of many other human rights.
However, freedom of speech and expression are not absolute. Our freedom of speech and expression is subject to the fact that our opinion should not offend others. We have freedom of speech but we don’t have the freedom to offend others.
Twitter categorically states in its account suspension rules that it holds all rights to suspend an account if the activity makes threat of violence or promote violence or terrorism or are targeted to abuse or harass others or directly attack or threaten people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, religious affiliations, disability or disease.
There are several anomalies in the provision, which are inconsistent with free speech requirements. Words like “grossly offensive”, “menacing character”, “annoyance”, “danger”, “obstruction”, “insult” and “injury” do not have any precise definition. A prominent question that has been left unanswered is whether these words are to be construed with regard to the sensibilities of the particular person the words are addressed to or as per that of a reasonable man. Going by the sensibilities of particular individuals, it is most likely that even authors of innocent communication through e-mail could be accused of having violated the law.
Once your account is suspended you can file an appeal to Twitter to unsuspend your account. In case you are a victim of online harassment, cyber bullying, cyber stalking or any other cyber crime you must consult a cybercrime lawyer.
In this information age and cacophonous clamor of social media activities on social media should unite rather than divide people. To protect freedom of speech we have to tolerate what we do not like or even what we abhor.