Whatever happened to Freedom of Speech?

The Internet is supposed to be a place where individuals around the world can freely state and discuss their opinions. This works very well, until an opinion affecting a group or individual with plenty of financial backing is voiced. In such a case, freedom of speech suddenly disappears and a libel suit wings its way to the 'perpetrator'.

While this is perfectly acceptable if the remark made/ opinion stated is untrue, incites hate or illegal actions and/ or somehow wrongfully damages the reputation of the person/ group concerned, one has to wonder whether this is right when a true fact is stated/ discussed.

Take the case of Lesley Kemp, a 55 year old British freelance writer, for instance. Having provided work for Kirby Kearns, a Qatar-based business man, she failed to receive payment when she believed it was due. After contacting the company to no avail via a succession of e-mails, Kemp - who needed the money (which, according to a statement she made to the Daily Mail, was a comparatively small amount) desperately - decided to 'have a rant' about the situation on Twitter.

She now faces a lawsuit that could potentially cost her well above £150,000 in damages and court costs. If the plan to draw Twitter into the court action as the 'publisher' of her supposedly libellous remarks, lawyers fear the whole thing - which is becoming more and more drawn out (piling on the cost) - could turn out to become a test case.

Kemp is using 'fair comment' and justification as her defence, and rightly so. Being comparatively new to the freelance writing industry, she is currently being made to believe that it is perfectly normal for freelance writers to be made to wait for payments for months on end.

This is simply not true for the vast majority of companies using freelance writers, and could in itself be used as grounds for libel suits against those stating this as a fact by the millions of companies paying their freelance writers on time and on delivery of finished assignments.

The question is whether she could have sued the company as quickly and easily if they had chosen to have 'a rant' about her asking them to make the payment. Somehow, this seems highly unlikely. Freedom of speech is sadly more and more becoming a matter of who is paying/ backed by the right amount of money.

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