In the online environment one can say and do just about anything. This is freedom of speech at its best, as anyone can share their opinions on any matter. But one can choose to do it in a respectful way or not. When it comes to officials and politics, often people get very personal and sometimes go beyond respectful, and that’s what a new law which will regulate social media is intended to prevent. The law is proposed by the Movement for Socialism party and they say they hope to push through Bolivia’s Congress.
Constructive criticism is all right, what goes beyond it is not, explained Franklin Garvizu, a congressman from the president’s party.
“We are very worried because this is a case of systematically using communications mechanisms to plant hatred against the government, to harm the image of our president,” Garvizu stated.
“Obviously on social networks one cannot expect everyone to be praised. The opposition also receives insults from public officials, criticisms with no meaning, attacks, and it would never occur to us to block social networks,” declared Samuel Doria Medina, who heads the opposition National Unity party. “That’s why we’ve recommended to the vice president that he gets an account, that he interacts (with people). He will learn a lot more about young people, and surely not everyone will applaud him, but some will agree with him.”
People are not really happy – as expected – with this news that the government is monitoring information on digital news websites and social networks and looks into regulating them. They consider this to go against their rights.
“No insult is good in any media,” said Cristina Perez. “I think people should respect each other, but also these people should respect us.”
In Bolivia there are roughly 1.7 million Facebook users nationwide, and over 8.7 million cell phone users that could use social networks to post content and opinions.
Online, said Eduardo Rojas, president of Bolivia’s Redes Foundation, “you can defend, promote and spread human rights, and on the other hand complaints.”
“It is a device that can be used to deepen democracy,” he added.
In many parts of the world the idea of regulating speech on social media is seen as a breach of human rights, and politics is indeed a sensitive field as what happens in a country affects each member of that nation. It is however just as in real life: one can choose to express themselves in a respectful way or go the extra mile. Limitation of speech however would perhaps only generate hatred and not respect from those whose vote politicians are trying to win.