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Final Blog Post: Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Hate?

Freedom of speech is one of the most debatable amendments of the United States Constitution. Questions over what freedom of speech protects, where hate speech falls in lines of the First Amendment and what implements the use of censorship are often controversial topics. One thing that is certain is freedom of speech has become less used for its intended purposes than those who ratified it in 1791. The stance on hate speech is commonly argued because what one sees as hurtful, another may deem appropriate. Censorship is often debated to be an injustice rather than protecting the people as well.

When freedom of speech is often thought of, many just think about it as another amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Many neglect to remember just how important it is to be able to have a voice and not have the government stop you from saying what you feel. In a recent study, a survey was conducted to see who found freedom of speech to be important in society today. The study found that freedom of speech was viewed positively in relation to intellect, individualism and separate knowing while it was viewed negatively in relation to hate speech and liberalism (Downs & Cowan, 2012).

When the first amendment was ratified, the argument of free speech was meant to protect those who engaged in debate for the common good of the people. However, now we see many cases of freedom of speech being used to cyber bully or throw racial slurs at people. One common occurrence where hate speech is spewed is on college campuses. The irony is that college campuses are where people become educated and develop vast knowledge that encourages them to voice their opinions on a respectable platform. However, during times of protest or public speaking, others will take this opportunity not to support their fellow peers but slander and throw vicious attacks on the content they are presenting. Hate speech has been a tough problem to solve as it mainly targets oppressed groups. There are those who argue that since hate speech is targeting an oppressed group, it would create an inconsistency in justice as it puts an oppressed group above “other groups”.

This is where censorship becomes a common alternative to acts that violate or harm free speech. Censorship is commonly used within the media and noticed for the protection that it gives children from seeing unnecessary content. There are also those who argue against censorship stating that it does not prevent harm, but sets children up for unrealistic expectations of the world when they become adults. Hate speech and pornography are common debatable examples of what should be censored. In a recent study, older individuals were against censorship unless it was to censor pornography, which they then believed required government regulation. Those who obtained education at the higher level (after high school) were against censorship of hate speech and pornography. Women also were more likely to support censorship of hate speech and pornography than men.

With freedom of speech, there are many controversial topics, solutions and overall opinions about what should or should not be done. Freedom of speech was most commonly used for a buffer amongst debates. However, while still used for the common good of the people, there are more moving parts into what constitutes free speech or not. The conclusion can be made that free speech is always changing and the idea of censorship is more commonly viewed as unnecessary amongst people. There are many factors that go into considering how justifiable hate speech and censorship are such as education, gender, age, and political views. Freedom of speech has become more commonly a freedom of hate as this use of a free platform has been used to cause harm than obtain a common good.


Downs, D., & Cowan, G. (2012). Predicting the Importance of Freedom of Speech and the Perceived Harm of Hate Speech. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(6), 1353-1375.

Hatfield, K., Schafer, K., & Stroup, K. (2005). A Dialogic Approach to Combating Hate Speech on College Campuses. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 41-55.

Lambe, J. (2004). Who Wants to Censor Pornography and Hate Speech? Mass Communication and Society, 7(3), 279-299.

Suedfeld, P., Steel, G., & Schmidt, P. (1994). Political Ideology and Attitudes Toward Censorship. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24(9), 765-781.

Freedom of Speech, Opinion and Censorship

Freedom of speech is a gray area that often many are left confused with as controversial topics arise and test the limits of free speech. In a recent study, nearly 97 percent of self-proclaimed liberal college students found free speech to be important and 54 percent of those same students believed that the Confederate flag is deemed hateful and should be removed from public vicinities (Althoff, 2015). While many of these students have argued that free speech is a right, many surprisingly are more likely to support censorship, leaving confusion over what is free speech. As this survey was taken among 18-24 year old college students, many of the issues of free speech appear more commonly on college campuses.

Wharton college student Luis De Castro began to feel ostracized as word had spread that he was pro-life.  De Castro began to feel that “free speech is limited by the unwillingness of peers to consider the views of others” (Simon, 2015). A history professor from Wharton notes “a growing belief that everyone has the right not to be offended” is what is lending a hand in censorship across campuses (Simon, 2015). One important aspect is that when students attend college they are placed in a world where peoples’ views differ widely from their own and then learn how to deal with it without saying it is impeding on their free speech. De Castro is a “moderate conservative” and explained that people only cared about what his opinion was and not the reasons behind them. Due to this, people on his campus deemed him anti-woman and anti-contraception based on this one aspect.

Another article from Wesleyan University stated that a newspaper was to be defunded after an article about the movement Black Lives Matter was published and many protested against this article. In September, Bryan Stascavage wrote an article about Black Lives Matter arguing about the tactics, and those who are anti-cop. Stascavage’s article did not contain any racial slurs or name-calling, as is typical in such articles. After publication, students began to burn copies of the newspaper and Stascavage received remarks from students calling him “racist” (Rampell, 2015). An apology was published in the newspaper and stated the newspaper would be a “safe space for the colored community” (Rampell, 2015). However, this did not end the outrage as students petitioned to defund the school newspaper that had been present on the Wesleyan campus for 150 years. Stascavage was aware of the college and the majority of liberal views and sought it out to challenge his own views. The student government voted to cut the funding in half for the school newspaper.

Both of these instances happened at liberal colleges. Do you think this issue is restricted to these colleges where there is a majority of same viewed students or is it becoming more prevalent among other universities where people are more diverse?

When should you watch what you say?

As social media becomes more prevalent in the world, the issue of internet censorship has become more controversial. A Freedom House study has found that 29 percent of the 65 countries Freedom House surveyed are “not free” while 27 percent are “free” (Fung, 2015). Attacks on newspaper Charlie Hebdo could be an explanation for the drop of France’s scores as government surveillance began shortly after. Cuba became more flexible, possibly due to the United States relations with Cuba allowing for cheaper Internet as U.S Internet providers are now allowed to do business there (Fung, 2015). Many tech companies have accused law enforcement of allowing the decrease in Internet security with the use of “back doors”, but authorities argued that this is to fight terrorism and crime.

How would you like this wrapped?

Social media websites are often privately owned and they therefore have the right to remove offensive comments or content that violates their terms and services. This has been confused with limiting one’s free speech, but rather it is censorship (Henry, 2012). Many companies believe it to be in their best interest to allow consumers to write reviews, both positive and negative as it can potentially contribute to future developments.

When should censorship be used?

What speech should be protected on the Internet?


Althoff, E. (2015, November 3). YAF study finds liberal students confused by concept of ‘free speech’. Retrieved November 4, 2015.

Fung, B. (2015, October 28). The Internet is getting less and less free. Retrieved November 4, 2015.

Henry, A. (2012, October 22). What Exactly Is Freedom of Speech and How Does It Apply to the Internet? Retrieved November 4, 2015.

Rampell, C. (2015, October 22). Free speech is flunking out on college campuses. Retrieved November 4, 2015.

Simon, C. (2015, October 30). Free speech at Penn: Protected by rules, limited by culture. Retrieved November 4, 2015.