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Free Speech in the Digital Age$
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Susan J. Brison and Katharine Gelber

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190883591

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190883591.001.0001

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Digital Dualism and the “Speech as Thought” Paradox

Digital Dualism and the “Speech as Thought” Paradox

Chapter:
(p.12) 1 Digital Dualism and the “Speech as Thought” Paradox
Source:
Free Speech in the Digital Age
Author(s):

Katharine Gelber

Susan J. Brison

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190883591.003.0002

This chapter critiques the view, expressed in the 1996 Barlow Declaration and elsewhere, that the digital realm—“cyberspace”—is a disembodied space for pure thought. This chapter shows that the view that speech online is disconnected from the material realm echoes the same idea in traditional free speech theory, which has long considered speech to be something nonmaterial. Given the agent-driven nature of online communications, the materiality of internet technology, and the very real, often physical, effects of online speech on users and audiences, the chapter argues that the view that the digital realm has its own ontological status, distinct from that of the material world, is unsupportable. The chapter concludes that it is incorrect to hold that online communications are, in their causal capacity, more akin to thought than to non-speech conduct, just as it is incorrect to hold that offline communications are, in their causal capacity, more akin to thought than to non-speech conduct.

Keywords:   freedom of speech, speech/conduct distinction, internet, freedom of thought, mind/body dualism

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