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The Relevance of People’s Attitudes Towards Freedom of Expression in a Changing Media Environment

Keywords: freedom of expression , civil liberties , Web 2.0 , public opinion

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The article outlines arguments for the relevance of people’s attitudes towards freedom of expression: It is a fundamental principle of democracy that if a virtue does not receive support from the population, it will not be anchored in law and its foundation is endangered in the medium term. People’s support for free speech is becoming even more influential because authoritative control of internet communication is faced with difficulties. Furthermore, with the development of social media users gain new opportunities to publicly express their opinions attaching even more importance to normative self-regulation. As a matter of fact, these increased opportunities of self-regulation may either enhance or decrease the exercise of expression rights. Thus, citizen’s endorsement of free expression is a valuable indicator of the status of freedom of expression in a country. To approach to the subject empirically, the paper systematizes findings on people’s attitudes towards free speech: Most people believe in freedom of expression in the abstract. Willingness to apply the right to opposing groups, however, is lower. Perceived threats, confidence in democratic principles, mode of communication, and personality variables influence tolerance of expressions. Finally, a research agenda is put forward to examine appreciation of free expression, its antecedence, and implications.


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