Aust cases 1
Aust cases 2
blasphemy on the net
As with defamation,
blasphemous expression online poses several challenges.
The first is simply that the net offers a new mechanism for
the communication of expression.
A corollary is that many people consider that online necessarily
equals free, with offensive text, audio, video and graphics
somehow being situated outside any law. Action by Italian
police, noted later in this profile, to summarily take down
web pages that they considered breached Italian law, is a
reminder that the net is bounded
A third challenge is that the net offers access by a global
audience: "everyone has an opportunity to be horrified
or bored". In the past exposure to offensive content
has generally been localised and restriction (when it occurred)
had a local basis.
Access to content via the global information infrastructure
allows audiences in different locations to be offended, with
potential conflicts about whether a legal offence has occurred
and which jurisdiction has responsibility. Those conflicts
are not merely 'north-south': the European Union for example
faces difficulties as Greek authorities prosecute German and
other satirists who have offended Greek religious sensibilities.
More broadly the internet enables access to content across
borders and thereby fuels extra-legal action such as boycotts,
death threats and violence across the Middle East in response
to satirical cartoons in a Danish newspaper. In the past few
people in Jeddah would have seen such cartoons, few Western
audiences and publishers outside Denmark would have accessed
the cartoons and been able to quickly republish them in responding
to an "Islamic assault on free speech".