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    I thought it would be interesting to create a thread to discuss the use of and the limits of freedom of speech.

    Does the freedom of speech cover the freedom to offend, or is this an unacceptable usage of the freedom of speech? Is the freedom of speech merely used as a means for people to oppress minorities or is it a human right that needs to be defended? Does freedom of speech need to be curtailed and controlled to prevent its abuse, or should all speech, including hate speech, be protected?
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    The legal definition of 'freedom of speech' is; 'Free speech is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, by any means.'

    Amnesty International state that free speech and freedom of expression applies to all ideas including those which may be offensive, however, free speech also comes with responsibility and can in fact be legitimately restricted.

    The Government is obligated to prohibit hate speech and incitement. Any restrictions are put there with the interest of public safety as a top priority, and public safety includes the mental wellbeing of the public as well as preventing discrimination etc. The restrictions must be justified and be proportionate and the abuse of these safeguards are a violation of your freedom of expression.

    As for whether it's a human right, it is. Every person is entitled to freedom of speech and expression, however, when your freedom of speech/expression affects another person negatively, that's when it becomes an issue. Especially if you have the intent to hurt someone with said free speech. If there weren't restrictions on freedom of speech, regardless of it being a human right, people would be saying very harsh things constantly and then claiming "freedom of speech" as a scapegoat to avoid consequences of their words. I was taught, from a very young age, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all'. And this stands true. If what you're going to say has the potential to hurt someone else, don't say it. That's not a law but it is a moral and social responsibility to other people.
    I don't understand what you said about free speech being used as a means to oppress minorities?
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    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    I thought it would be interesting to create a thread to discuss the use of and the limits of freedom of speech.

    Does the freedom of speech cover the freedom to offend, or is this an unacceptable usage of the freedom of speech? Is the freedom of speech merely used as a means for people to oppress minorities or is it a human right that needs to be defended? Does freedom of speech need to be curtailed and controlled to prevent its abuse, or should all speech, including hate speech, be protected?
    I'm with Noam Chomsky: if you don't believe in freedom of speech for people you despise, you don't believe in it at all.

    Freedom of speech has to include the right to offend. We could not have a functioning society otherwise, because different people are offended by different ideas, and the exchange of ideas is essential in a social democracy. Now, I'm not saying that we ought to go out of our way to offend people; indeed, we should be mindful of what we say and we shouldn't say anything that we know will really offend someone. But, we cannot ban offensive speech.

    Hate speech which incites physical violence against others should be banned, however. While I don't believe that there's a clear distinction between physical suffering (caused by violence) and mental suffering (caused by offence), speech which calls for physical violence is entirely unnecessary and serves no purpose in society, whereas the freedom to offend others and even to mock other people's beliefs is essential in an open social democracy.
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    (Original post by Karaleigh19)
    The legal definition of 'freedom of speech' is; 'Free speech is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, by any means.'

    Amnesty International state that free speech and freedom of expression applies to all ideas including those which may be offensive, however, free speech also comes with responsibility and can in fact be legitimately restricted.

    The Government is obligated to prohibit hate speech and incitement. Any restrictions are put there with the interest of public safety as a top priority, and public safety includes the mental wellbeing of the public as well as preventing discrimination etc. The restrictions must be justified and be proportionate and the abuse of these safeguards are a violation of your freedom of expression.
    What do you mean by public safety? Are we talking here of making comments that may offend and lead to a riot? If so, surely we shouldn't the limits of freedom of speech be defined by those who are most aggressive or violent?

    As for whether it's a human right, it is. Every person is entitled to freedom of speech and expression, however, when your freedom of speech/expression affects another person negatively, that's when it becomes an issue. Especially if you have the intent to hurt someone with said free speech. If there weren't restrictions on freedom of speech, regardless of it being a human right, people would be saying very harsh things constantly and then claiming "freedom of speech" as a scapegoat to avoid consequences of their words. I was taught, from a very young age, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all'. And this stands true. If what you're going to say has the potential to hurt someone else, don't say it. That's not a law but it is a moral and social responsibility to other people.
    The fact is that pretty much any criticism you could make could offend someone somewhere. For example, I was criticised a past dictator in another country, only to offend the person I was talking to, as they thought very highly of said dictator. Was I wrong in making a criticism of this dictator?

    I don't understand what you said about free speech being used as a means to oppress minorities?
    Erm, it is difficult for me to explain, but I will try my best. There are minorities who may also belong to marginalised groups. Maybe they belong to a religion of some sort that gets a lot of criticism. Now, being a minority, they have little ability to respond to such criticisms, as the majority are far larger in numbers, and therefore more vocal. Freedom of speech often gives room for those largest in numbers to express their views most vocally, and this can sometimes have negative effects on the minority group. An example that comes to mind is that of LGBT individuals in Indonesia. Currently there are large numbers of journalists, politicians, psychologists and many others vocally criticising LGBT practices. There is little ability for such a minority group to take a stand and fight back. One could argue that the freedom of speech here has allowed for anti-LGBT views to become dominant and this may lead to future oppression of LGBT individuals (some are now proposing making being LGBT illegal for example).
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    I'm with Noam Chomsky: if you don't believe in freedom of speech for people you despise, you don't believe in it at all.
    I 100% agree with this. What are your opinions though on those who are intolerant? Does freedom of speech require us to tolerate the intolerant?

    Freedom of speech has to include the right to offend. We could not have a functioning society otherwise, because different people are offended by different ideas, and the exchange of ideas is essential in a social democracy. Now, I'm not saying that we ought to go out of our way to offend people; indeed, we should be mindful of what we say and we shouldn't say anything that we know will really offend someone. But, we cannot ban offensive speech.

    Hate speech which incites physical violence against others should be banned, however. While I don't believe that there's a clear distinction between physical suffering (caused by violence) and mental suffering (caused by offence), speech which calls for physical violence is entirely unnecessary and serves no purpose in society, whereas the freedom to offend others and even to mock other people's beliefs is essential in an open social democracy.
    What about voicing ones support for a group that is known for violence, say ISIS? Though one isn't directly inciting violence, one could argue that they are indirectly advocating violence.

    I would also add that I believe freedom of speech does not extend to all environments. For example, I don't believe freedom of speech involves the freedom to shout abuse at people on the street, or to walk up to a random religious person on the street and start criticising their religion. For me, freedom of speech entitles one to express their views and opinions as long as they use the appropriate medium. An academic setting such as a university, a newspaper, a debate forum etc... are all appropriate mediums which one can use. Would you agree or disagree with this?
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    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    What do you mean by public safety? Are we talking here of making comments that may offend and lead to a riot? If so, surely we shouldn't the limits of freedom of speech be defined by those who are most aggressive or violent?
    I mean public safety in regards to the wellbeing of society, not actual safety in terms of violence or aggression. Free speech can lead to discrimination, prejudice, etc. You could claim that an employer not hiring someone on their looks or religion is free speech because he's using his own opinion to discriminate against someone. Opinion should be counted within free speech and acting on opinions which have the potential to discriminate against someone should not be allowed - and isn't in fact allowed.

    Bullies. You could say they have free speech, so why can't they say whatever they like? Because, when a bully says hurtful things to a young child, it can severely damage the young child's mental wellbeing. This is when free speech is detrimental to "public safety". Also, things like terrorism and how you can't stand on a street corner inciting terrorist remarks to the general public. It can be dangerous to incite such things as society and people in general are impressionable. The Government doesn't want someone making terrorist remarks to people on a frequent basis, people may end up agreeing and becoming a majority and blow up Buckingham Palace (in a very extreme scenario lol). When someone is allowed to say what they like in regards to detrimental things (terrorism, bullying, hate speech, racism) it encourages people with the same thoughts to say them. Eventually, there will be a lot of discrimination, prejudice and hate just walking down the street.

    The fact is that pretty much any criticism you could make could offend someone somewhere. For example, I was criticised a past dictator in another country, only to offend the person I was talking to, as they thought very highly of said dictator. Was I wrong in making a criticism of this dictator?
    Hate speech is said with the intention to hurt, opinions are stated as a way of expressing yourself. Unless you intend to hurt someone through what you say, then by all means say it. Criticism isn't hate speech and isn't harmful to anyone (aside from sensitivity and emotional issues but that is everyday life). It may hurt their feelings but it won't (in most cases) cause discrimination or prejudice or be a harmful thing to society.

    Erm, it is difficult for me to explain, but I will try my best. There are minorities who may also belong to marginalised groups. Maybe they belong to a religion of some sort that gets a lot of criticism. Now, being a minority, they have little ability to respond to such criticisms, as the majority are far larger in numbers, and therefore more vocal. Freedom of speech often gives room for those largest in numbers to express their views most vocally, and this can sometimes have negative effects on the minority group. An example that comes to mind is that of LGBT individuals in Indonesia. Currently there are large numbers of journalists, politicians, psychologists and many others vocally criticising LGBT practices. There is little ability for such a minority group to take a stand and fight back. One could argue that the freedom of speech here has allowed for anti-LGBT views to become dominant and this may lead to future oppression of LGBT individuals (some are now proposing making being LGBT illegal for example).
    Freedom of speech hasn't allowed the majority to vocalise their disapproval. The sole fact they are the majority has allowed it, not freedom of speech. The majority has lead to the oppression of the minority, not freedom of speech. In the case you described above, it is solely the fact the opposition has a larger number behind them that they are able to discriminate. Free speech hasn't caused this. Maybe free speech lead to them being a majority in the first place but that can't be helped.

    If you have 100 people in a room, the question "is chocolate cake nice" brought up. 75 people say no, 25 people say yes. That's freedom of speech. Now recognise that 75 people are the majority and they suddenly feel able to ban cake because the majority of people believe it to not be nice. Freedom of speech allowed the issue to arise, the fact they are a majority allowed them to act on it.

    If that makes sense.. kind of a weird analogy, I couldn't think of anything else.
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    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    I 100% agree with this. What are your opinions though on those who are intolerant? Does freedom of speech require us to tolerate the intolerant?
    Yes, otherwise we would ourselves be intolerant, surely? One could argue that they would have started off the intolerance, but we'd then see a cycle of intolerance with both sides blaming each other for starting off the intolerance in the first place. So, even if it's just for instrumental reasons, we should tolerate the intolerant.

    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    What about voicing ones support for a group that is known for violence, say ISIS? Though one isn't directly inciting violence, one could argue that they are indirectly advocating violence.
    It's difficult, but my intuition is that they should be allowed to voice such support.

    (Original post by The Epicurean)
    I would also add that I believe freedom of speech does not extend to all environments. For example, I don't believe freedom of speech involves the freedom to shout abuse at people on the street, or to walk up to a random religious person on the street and start criticising their religion. For me, freedom of speech entitles one to express their views and opinions as long as they use the appropriate medium. An academic setting such as a university, a newspaper, a debate forum etc... are all appropriate mediums which one can use. Would you agree or disagree with this?
    I'd broadly agree with this. I think what distinguishes these examples from others is that the person taking offence cannot get away from you - you are the one essentially forcing them to listen to what you have to say. Whereas, in a university, a newspaper, a debate forum, and so on, people don't have to listen to you.

    So, yeah, shouting abuse to people on the street is unacceptable. Walking up to a random religious person on the street and criticising their religion I think would be acceptable initially, but if they asked you to stop, you'd have to stop. Same with political views: I would be fine with starting a debate about someone's political views on the street, but if they didn't want to continue, I would stop.
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    If the government interferes with free speech, they must provide a justifiable reason to the supreme court. Speech that's likely to provoke imminent violence is often regulated, stopped and one of the only cases when the supreme court will act.
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    Free Speech is never fixed for all times, despite its universialist and Utopian undertones, the concept shifts with perception, priority and an-ongoing social dialogue. Most people seem to accept 'relative free speech' rather than absolute free speech- caveats typically include 'so long as it does not cause harm'- and of course this creates constestation, for what is considered harmful is often subjective and open to interpretation.
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    (Original post by Karaleigh19)
    Also, things like terrorism and how you can't stand on a street corner inciting terrorist remarks to the general public. It can be dangerous to incite such things as society and people in general are impressionable.
    Whilst I think most of what you said was reasonable, I think there arises an issue over how one defines things. For example, what is a terrorist or what is the ideology of terrorism? It depends on who you ask. For example, in Saudi Arabia, preaching atheism is considered a terrorist activity. If the government has the ability to define who is and who isn't a terrorist, and what is and what isn't a terrorist activity, then it seems the government can silence those who are critical of it by brandishing them the term terrorism.

    For example, saying "I support ISIS" would be supporting terrorist activity, but it is not a threat of violence or intimidation. Should such a comment really be limited by freedom of speech? Who our government supports changes. For example, America and the West were supporting the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and yet there isn't a huge difference between the ideology of the mujahideen and ISIS.

    Hate speech is said with the intention to hurt, opinions are stated as a way of expressing yourself. Unless you intend to hurt someone through what you say, then by all means say it. Criticism isn't hate speech and isn't harmful to anyone (aside from sensitivity and emotional issues but that is everyday life). It may hurt their feelings but it won't (in most cases) cause discrimination or prejudice or be a harmful thing to society.
    It is difficult to guess what peoples intentions are though. How can one truly know whether some intended to say something which could be considered hateful. In most cases of hate speech, people later plead that it was not intentional.

    Freedom of speech hasn't allowed the majority to vocalise their disapproval. The sole fact they are the majority has allowed it, not freedom of speech. The majority has lead to the oppression of the minority, not freedom of speech. In the case you described above, it is solely the fact the opposition has a larger number behind them that they are able to discriminate. Free speech hasn't caused this. Maybe free speech lead to them being a majority in the first place but that can't be helped.

    If you have 100 people in a room, the question "is chocolate cake nice" brought up. 75 people say no, 25 people say yes. That's freedom of speech. Now recognise that 75 people are the majority and they suddenly feel able to ban cake because the majority of people believe it to not be nice. Freedom of speech allowed the issue to arise, the fact they are a majority allowed them to act on it.

    If that makes sense.. kind of a weird analogy, I couldn't think of anything else.
    I get what you are saying I guess you are right there.

    Out of interest, how much of a duty do you believe a public institutions like universities, or debate forums such as TSR, have a duty to uphold the principle of freedom of speech?
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    Being "offended" is a subjective response, which is why it's dangerous to allow a select group of people to decide what is offensive and what is not in terms of the law.
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    (Original post by Lady Comstock)
    Being "offended" is a subjective response, which is why it's dangerous to allow a select group of people to decide what is offensive and what is not in terms of the law.
    What would you regard as the limits of freedom of speech? Does it permit the freedom to voice ones support of a terrorist group like ISIS?

    Also, generally racist and misogynistic comments are not covered by free speech as ones race and ones gender and not things one can choose. However, when it comes to religious beliefs, to what extent does one have the freedom to choose? If it is proven that belief in religion is not a choice also, would it be reasonable then to include religion, alongside race and gender, as topics in which offensive comments are not covered by the freedom of speech.

    If one is raised in a religious environment and given a religious education, can ones belief in the God of that religion be said to be fully a matter of choice? It reminds me of Pascals Wager where people make the argument that it is better to believe in God than to not believe in God. One issue that I often mention is the issue of doxastic voluntarism. Can people really choose their beliefs? If I am correct, you are an atheist? Could you for example really convince yourself that God exists? If you aren't able to do so, then too what extent can we really argue that belief in God is a choice?
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    Freedom of speech is non-existent in the UK. People are consistently being arrested for expressing offensive sentiments on social media, and the most worrying part is that nobody seems to care in the slightest. Many years ago when I was a mere sixth former, I was in a general studies lesson with a selected class of allegedly high-achieving 16 and 17 year olds, many of whom would be admitted to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The rather tedious teacher invited us to raise our hands if we thought it should be permitted to express opinions that might offend; to this day it bothers me that only half the class raised their hand. What went wrong in the raising of this generation that we are so eager to throw out the rights and liberties that were so hard fought for? It beggars belief that people are arrested for describing Islam as it is, yet the massacre of the unborn is permitted on an industrial scale.
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    I'm with Noam Chomsky: if you don't believe in freedom of speech for people you despise, you don't believe in it at all.

    Freedom of speech has to include the right to offend. We could not have a functioning society otherwise, because different people are offended by different ideas, and the exchange of ideas is essential in a social democracy. Now, I'm not saying that we ought to go out of our way to offend people; indeed, we should be mindful of what we say and we shouldn't say anything that we know will really offend someone. But, we cannot ban offensive speech.

    Hate speech which incites physical violence against others should be banned, however. While I don't believe that there's a clear distinction between physical suffering (caused by violence) and mental suffering (caused by offence), speech which calls for physical violence is entirely unnecessary and serves no purpose in society, whereas the freedom to offend others and even to mock other people's beliefs is essential in an open social democracy.
    I think you nailed it.
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    Expressing my views on freedom of speech is against tsr policy, so i will be brief.

    But as others have alluded to, freedom of speech for ideas only the government agrees with, is not freedom of speech.
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    I was thinking we needed a free speech society and discovered this thread.

    The only rules should be that everyone is welcome and everyone can say whatever the fu*ck they want and nobody reports anyone.
 
 
 
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