University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-97
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Information Technology
Early online date22 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2015


The history of freedom of expression is closely associated with the development of free speech technology. Before the 1400s, communication technology was extremely limited and the exchange of information was slow, complex and ineffective. Messages were often delivered using oral or written forms. Without phones, telegrams or the web, ‘the news’ needed to be carried by foot, horse or vehicle. However, although communication technology improved significantly between the 15th century and the 20th century, the ability of the ordinary man to mass communicate did not improve much. Mass communication was for the rich, the powerful and for government, but not for ordinary people. By the end of the 20th century, free speech technology started to become far more democratic. The creation of PCs and the web offered the most significant developments in communication. Unlike traditional print news-papers, blogs and online media outlets can provide efficient, low-cost and timely access to information. Thus, the claim or thesis statement that unites the discussion of both books under review, namely, From Gutenberg to the Internet and Free Speech in an Internet Era is that although society appears to be losing the classic ‘guardian’ or ‘watchdog’ of democracy, it seems to be gaining a new type of media watchdog. The key issue is not whether traditional print newspapers will survive but whether the press’ watchdog role will continue. Most traditional print media shows signs of bias, so democracy could arguably benefit if the press moves from newspaper monopolies to multiple online media outlets with different views. Indeed, multiple online media outlets present more information and from more diverse perspectives.

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