The media have the power to affect people. This study examines how newspapers write about the Internet in the context of freedom of speech/censorship.
The aim is to see how four Swedish newspapers describe Internet contents, and, further to discuss why these issues and themes are used in the media debate. In a broader sense, it also discusses freedom and freedom of speech related to the Internet.
The methods chosen are content analysis together with an approach inspired by the field of discourse analysis. The data consists of 106 articles, published between 1997-1999, in four Swedish newspapers.
Issues found in the articles are identified and grouped into eight themes: 1. Sexually oriented material, 2. Personal integrity, 3. Racist expressions, 4. Political criticism, 5. Vague expressions, 6. Opposition, 7. Faith and beliefs, and 8. Economy.
These themes have then been analysed and discussed. Based on the findings, questions about the way the media write about the Internet are raised. One explanation could be referred to the established rules of news values; another might be that one medium is reflecting another medium – a quite complicated situation since this new medium seems to be very complex and deviating in many aspects.
Media’s representations might be the cause of fear and anxiety, even moral panic. A frequent motive and reason given for any censoring of the Internet refers to the protection of young people. Restricting freedom of speech on the Internet would be one way to allay people’s anxieties. By implementing such solutions, the media may possibly contribute to balance the situation.
Linköping: Tema kommunikation , 2005. 1-27 p.
Internet, freedom of speech, censorship, media discourse, fear, anxiety, moral panic