Why Debate Free Speech Online?

Why Debate Free Speech Online?

Sehar Bhojani on left with colleagues from Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival.

Freedom of Speech Online

I decided to dress up for Halloween this year.  

Like the majority of people who leave their costume making to the last minute, my sister and I ventured to Value Village looking for a costume at 5pm day of. After much searching, we settled on being cops. Equipped with a fake gun, handcuffs and a badge from the children’s section of the dollar store we set off to the club. It was all great!

I posted a picture of my sister and me on Instagram. The hearts and comments teasing us on our makeshift costumes started trickling in and everything was fine.I woke up the next morning and checked my account hoping to see the number of likes increased, instead there was a comment from a stranger commenting on the size of my breasts. It had been posted a few hours earlier. For a few hours this crude comment was public and anyone who saw this picture could see these unwanted and unwarranted words on my picture.

How did this become okay? What conditions have led to online harassment being so common place?

I got off easy. It was one stranger’s comment and I immediately deleted all traces of it. But what about in the case of Qandeel Baloch? Pakistani social media star who was murdered by her brother? Or Canadian Steph Guthrie who reported her harasser to the police, went to court and lost her case? Or the dozens of other cases of online harassment that have ended tragically? What about them? What is protecting them?

The truth is, there is no protection. Freedom of expression is a western privilege many take for granted. But if that privilege were to be taken away, think of the damage it could do. Stifling expression has never ended well. When there is injustice, we must speak. When we are in pain, we must be heard. When we demand change, we must be acknowledged. Does a line between freedom of expression and harassment even exist? If so, where is it drawn?

On Monday November 21st we gather at the Theatre Centre to debate just this. I hope to see you there as our debaters and moderator attempt to dive deeper into this important issue.

Below are some articles that inspired this year’s Civil Debates #5: Freedom of Speech Online.

There are three sides to every story, both sides and the truth. This article is a great example of presenting all three sides and leaving the rest to you. This story was an original motivation for this Civil Debate.

A sad look at what happens when harassment and intimidation enter the political game. Think along the lines of Trump vs, Hillary but in Canada.

One man speaks to his refusal to adopt inherited language, he makes a compelling case while referencing the Charter of Human Rights. An interesting read!

This huffington post article dives into the realities of freedom of speech in Canada in comparison to Europe.

Although American, this article argues for urgency behind the protection of freedom of speech online.

CIVIL DEBATE 5 is MONDAY NOV 21 730PM @ The Theatre Centre. PWYC





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About the Author

Sehar Bhojani was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario and is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada's acting program. In addition to acting, Sehar is a producer, director and writer. Currently, Sehar is producing for The Coal Mine Theatre and Native Earth's Weesageechak Festival while writing her play surrounding the circumstances that lead to extremism that will have a workshop in 2017.