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Freedom of expression and right of reply are differently defined when applied to the Internet

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Some aspects of freedom of expression or the right of reply applied to the Internet and the various forms of expression it email, the blogs or the simple availability of content, yesterday considered some of the participants in a colloquium promoted by APDSI where it was intended to confront positions between various actors in the process.

In the field of freedom of expression, Fernando Penim Redondo, author of blog Dotecome, proposes the maximum degree of movement possible, considering the full potential of creating Internet content. «Any limitation on freedom of expression on the Internet must be adopted with great care,» says Fernando Penim.

But if it is true that freedom of expression is the basis for sustaining a blog and that nothing would make sense in the «blogosphere» if it were not observed, it is also true that it can intervene with other legally provided rights, such as the right to privacy. The concerns in this field touch and have to combine two universes: that of the authors and that of the people, defends Paulo Querido, collaborator of Expresso and creator of Weblog.com.pt.

Unsure as to whether or not the Internet requires the establishment of a new legislative framework, the journalist considers that, before any attempt in this direction, it is mandatory to understand concretely what the Internet is and each of the forms it takes. «The Internet was once seen as a public space, now this framework is not at all applicable: blogs in themselves they will be closer to the media, for example, and contrary to what happens at the coffee tables where words fly at that moment, everything is recorded here «, said Paulo Querido during his speech.

In addition to its specificities, the digital medium also brings a new environment to which it may not be possible to adapt our judicial reality. «All of our laws are based on territoriality, so it might be more viable to define the Internet as a ‘different country’, with a legal framework that inherits very little from the legal frameworks of geographical boundaries, with its own investigative and control police and its own courts – people who knew how to move in that space and knew the specifics of that space «, he suggested by way of conclusion.

«What is a crime outside is a crime inside,» said Pacheco Pereira summarizing his point of view and arguing that special legislation for the Internet does not make sense «unless technical improvements to the legislation are at stake».

For Pacheco Pereira, identity theft, slander are undifferentiated problems if viewed from the point of view of radio, TV or other media. More complicated is «what’s next», he considers. «With the ‘biologization’ of devices and the passage of all information from analog to digital, we will enter a world in which the information we receive will make it very difficult to distinguish between the virtual and the reality. Then what will count are the literacies» .

The problems that the Internet poses to the Right of Reply

As a result of freedom of expression and conditioning of it, the exercise of the right to reply on the Internet is still very undefined, with few countries having adopted special legislation to apply in this matter. «But when is the right of reply on the Internet justified? What are the Internet contexts to be applied to? spam, to blogs, encyclopedias, newspapers online? Doesn’t the right of reply provide for the periodicity of the medium? And how do you set deadlines for reply? «, Were some of the questions asked by Denis Barrelet, a renowned professor of Communication Law at the Swiss universities of Friborg and Neuchâtel, during the APDSI colloquium dedicated to freedom of expression in the digital environment.

The few solutions found to solve this specific problem differ from case to case, a situation that is justified by the complexity of the issue, says Barrelet, who believes that the recommendation that the Council of Europe made to guide the right of reply on the Internet may contribute to speed up the resolution of the problem. «The laws are not yet fully drafted: there are issues that need to be considered further,» said Denis Barrelet. But we already know that the Press Law cannot be applied to the Internet, that there must be legislative adaptations at this level «.

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