Freedom of speech and access to technology: a case study of the 2011 BART CELL PHONE SERVICE shutdown
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 18:47 by Jiwon Bang
This study explores the online public sphere’s response to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)’s decision to shut down cell phone service in select subway stations for three hours in August 2011 to prevent a rumoured protest from taking place. Through an in-depth discourse analysis of popular user comments in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Huffington Post, this research examines the informal social construction process of the meaning of freedom of speech and identifies salient themes and discourses surrounding freedom of speech in technologically mediated communication. The findings reveal that the online public sphere is starkly divided in many aspects in its understanding of freedom of speech outlined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and what constitutes its violation. Moreover, a careful examination of the discussion threads suggests that the presence of cell phones does not alter the public’s existing understanding of freedom of speech.