What exactly is covered under free speech?
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College campuses across the United States have found themselves at the center of a raging free speech debate. As controversial figures, like white nationalists, book gigs at universities– many are calling for limits to provocative speech on campuses, while others advocate free speech for all, including the haters. So what exactly is covered under free speech? And can college campuses ban speakers?
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What is freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is a right protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The government can’t make laws restricting what you say– which basically means you can’t get arrested for speaking your mind. You’re free to bash whoever or whatever you want. And speech doesn’t just apply to what you say. The supreme court has ruled that free speech also applies to, writings, tv, art, videogames, signs, and even liking something on facebook. They’ve even ruled it applies to symbolic speech– like burning a flag or when HS students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam war.
How come someone can get fired for what they say? Freedom of speech only applies to government and government entities– places that are funded by your tax dollars. And public universities fall into this category– so they can’t ban a speaker based on speakers views. But private companies can make rules that limit what you can say, you just can’t get arrested for breaking those private company rules. This is also why neighborhood associations or apartment buildings can make rules about posting signs in your yard or in your window.
Are there limits to free speech? Yes, the supreme court has ruled that certain things are not protected, like blackmail, making a threat, soliciting a crime, inciting violence, lying under oath, and violations of copyright are some of the things that are not protected. For example, “fighting words” is also not protected, but it only applies to direct confrontation with a single person that is likely to incite violence– it doesn’t apply to when speech is directed at a crowd.
Is hate speech protected under free speech? Yes, for the most part when it comes to speaking to a crowd hate speech is protected. It’s really hard to get punished when speaking to a crowd. The speech basically has to immediately and intentionally provoke a crowd to act violently– like if a speaker ordered a crowd to commit an act of violence– then that would not be protected.
1st Amendment: Freedom of Speech (CIVICS 101 Podcast):
Speech on Campus (ACLU):
6 Major US Supreme Court Hate Speech Cases (Thought Co)
Hate Speech is protected speech (VOX):
There is no 1st amendment right to speak on a college campus (VOX)
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