On blogs, personal and political websites, and through user-generated content sites, ordinary citizens in extraordinary numbers are recreating a public sphere and reinvigorating the democratic debate at the core of our political system. Forty-six percent of Americans have already used the Internet in connection with a political campaign — more than during all of 2004. User-generated content is playing a particularly integral role, with 35 percent of Americans watching online videos and 10 percent using social networking sites to engage in political activity.
An overwhelming number of political discussions are taking place in publicly accessible but privately owned, online town squares. Which means that this important political speech depends on service providers, users, and content owners all doing their part to safeguard free speech.
ACLU of Northern California and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urge service providers to take extra precautions before pulling the plug on political speech. Remember that you're facilitating a new era of reason and debate, and that there are laws that protect you as a facilitator. By taking that responsibility seriously, you’ll do right by your users, content owners and the political process.We urge content owners to count to ten and look at the Fair Use Frequently Asked Questions and Fair Use Principles for User-Generated Video Content for some guidance before firing off a complaint.Remember that you are legally obligated to consider whether the use of your material is a fair use.
Consider carefully whether actions may result in the loss of free speech, and remember: the antidote to free speech that you don't like is more free speech. Make your voice heard with a written blog post, a video blog post, or a message in the comment thread. We also urge users to contact us if they feel that their political speech has been improperly censored.
As we move forward into the fall election season, the Internet can continue to revitalize our political lives in exciting and unforeseen ways — but only if service providers, users, and content owners all do their parts. No matter where you stand on the candidates or the issues, we should all agree on one principle: No Downtime for Online Free Speech!