Future Of Free Speech Appears To Be In Danger

Nowadays one of the most worrying questions of the community is: whether people should express their views and opinions freely regardless of the effect of their words on others or they should filter the speech? There is no correct answer of this question since the free speech is closely connected with the rights and dignity of every individual. Through the last years, the cases of discrimination and hatred on the media have grown in number. People tend to assault other individuals or group of individuals in the speech expressing their attitude towards a certain social phenomenon. At the same time, imposing regulations on the speech will deny a right of every human being of freedom of expression. Such dilemma has become one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-first century, the age of technological progress. The negative impact of the freedom of expression leads to the strict filtration of the information and introduction of new speech regulations by the government. Undoubtedly, the information presented in the media or in everyday communication should be regulated and filtered to some extent, but the right of every individual to express his/her opinion freely needs also to be preserved. Thus, to ensure the future of free speech, which may be in danger being shaped by numerous laws and growing misunderstanding in the society, local and in-time filtering, as well as independent international organizations, which will regulate the actions of the government, should be introduced.

The problem of the free speech remains one of the most topical in the last years. A number of sociologists and journalists draw the attention of public to this issue and analyze the present condition of speech freedom in their articles and books. Thus, Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski in their publication “Liberation vs. control: The future of the cyberspace” focus on the prime purpose of the technologies: to control and spread ideals of freedom. The sociologists state that in the modern world mechanisms of liberation coexist with the tools of social control. Cyberspace appears to be a world of complexity which includes the number of actors, cultures, interests, and ideas. The authors describe the effect on the speech which is made by the government regulations. What is more, the article presents several phenomena which are characteristic for cyberspace: filtering, social mobilization, and cyber-espionage.


Another sociologist, Jeremy Waldron, discusses the effect of the hate speech on the society on certain individuals. The author wants to bring back the focus on the harm of the speech and restore its reputation. Yet, the introduction of the regulations of the speech is ineffective since almost every speech can be offensive to a certain degree. Thus, all of hate speeches should be banned. In the article “The harm in hate speech”, the author outlines the harm which is made by hate speech to the dignity of individuals. Hateful speeches undermine the prosperity of the society and lead to the conflicts and misunderstanding within it. The man urges the need to introduce some laws which will protect the vulnerable groups from the public offenses. The author provides and opinion debates about the hate speech are thoughtless. Society must act somehow and solve the growing problem.

Adam Fowler, in his turn, pays attention to the concept of the free speech. The author claims that idea of freedom of expression in the community includes two main components: positive-right and negative-right conceptions. Positive component means that the government fosters the environment in which all viewpoints are equal and can be easily expressed. On the contrary, negative-right conception outlines the condition in which the government “refrains from regulating individual speech in social and political debate.” (Fowler) As a result, the government starts to filter and censor all the presented information shaping public mind and denying the freedom of speech.

Furthermore, publication “Academic freedom, hate speech, and the idea of a university” by Rodney A. Smolla describes the condition of the free speech in the community and at the universities. The author concentrates on the two aspects of free speech: affirmative and negative. According to the first, free speech protects the right of every individual; to express their ideas and opinions freely. The idea of free speech is crucial for the society since it presents general social interest and carries collective value. On the contrary, hate speeches constitute negative aspect of this phenomenon. Hate speech cause provocative situations during the educational process, generate conflicts among students, and offend some of them. Thus, nowadays students are not allowed to express the opinions and \ debating views on the important social issues. Providing freedom of expression to the students is crucial for every community since they are the builders of the future society and their environment will shape the country in twenty years.

Future of the free speech is discussed by Tim Wu and Cass Sunstein. Tim Wu introduces an idea that modern mass media are under intense pressure by the powerful governments and speech monopolists. Nowadays broadcasting, as well as the Internet, is strictly controlled by the private sector which defines the content of information exposed to the audience and readers. At the same time, powerful monopolists, like Google or Facebook, are independent from the government restrictions and can or cannot follow them. Cass Sunstein in his book “Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech” accentuates following aspects of the free speech: filtering, public forum doctrine, group polarization, fragmentation, and value of shared experiences. The author states that all speeches undergo constant filtering by the government and monopolists. Furthermore, the concept of public forum implies the constitutional ideal and will allow sharing information with diverse speakers and accessing to particular people and views. At the same time, the introduction of public forums can lead to the fragmentation and group polarization within the society. The future of the free speech lies in the common experience which will provide social interactions and minimalize misunderstanding between citizens.

Finally, article “The dangerous side of the free speech debate” by Harris Zafar constitutes the idea that all people are free to express their disagreement and opinions. Even if the offensive speech took place, the government should not punish speakers for it. Although the free speech leads to prejudices and misunderstanding, it should not be banned by legislations (Zafar). The author appeals to the morality and sensibility of people and their tolerance towards others. Finally, Mr. Zafar states that provocative language is the biggest offense to the idea of free speech and concept of human rights.

All the sources outline the common problem: the transparency of speech in the modern society. The main threats to the freedom of speech appear to be the government and community. At the same time, some of the journalists consider the free speech to be a source of intolerance, injustice, prejudices. Another viewpoint is that the society will have no future without freedom of expression which constitutes understanding and public opinion. What is more, Tim Wu and Cass Sunstein doubt the future of free speech which nowadays faces a lot of challenges from the government, its speakers, and media monopolists.

Although a lot of sociologists and journalists are concerned about the condition of free speech in the modern world, the solutions to provide its transparency and assure its future existence are not outlined precisely. The amount of evidence, which is provided in the articles and books, describes the problem clearly: freedom of expression is in danger being controlled by the government and private companies. Nowadays cyberspace is overregulated and completely censored by the political forces and big monopolists.  As a result, people do not have access to real information, but see the already shaped reality. What is more, public accountability suffers making all sources around people seem to be unreliable. Students have become one of the most vulnerable groups which has suffered from the legislations of the free speech. Hate speeches lead to the complicated condition of free speech at the universities. Students, who are the future of the country, are not allowed to express their views or ideas either they are radical or not (Smolla). Not only filtration and regulations are the main threats to the speech, but also prejudices and violence generated by its speakers. People offend other social groups and individuals causing the introduction of regulations of free expression and putting its existence in danger.  Hate speech is undermining functioning of the society and make people doubt whether freedom of expression deserves to exist at all. Racist speeches have already succeeded in the modern cyberspace community generating cases of terrorism and extremism in countries all over the world. All negative intentions of the speech, which aims to insult other nations or races, contribute to the degradation of freedom of speech and its disappearance in the future.

Undetermined future of the free speech becomes a serious issue and threat to the whole humanity regardless of the national or racial characteristics of people. Firstly, if the radical actions are not taken, the government and social monopolists will succeed to manipulate the community and shape their attitudes, views, and behavior. What is more, cases of filtering information and political espionage will only grow in number forcing people to live in fear and will generate “chilling effect” of the population. Just-in-time blocking and political mobilization will become the most influential political tools and can cause political conflicts and misunderstanding between various groups within the community. In addition, the quality of films and broadcasting will decrease since all the production will be aimed only at gaining certain political purposes paying no attention to their aesthetic characteristics. Finally, endangered freedom of speech can lead to an endless number of conflicts between social groups and fragmentation of the community. All the facts about the condition of the free speech at the moment present the uncertain position of the freedom of expression now and urge the need to change the situation radically to make it possible for every human being to share their opinions freely without offending others and being imprisoned for critical words.

At the same time, some people support the idea that freedom of speech has only negative impact on the society and should not be protected. Thus, hate speech negates the insurance which was provided by the government to the specifically vulnerable groups. Speakers offend representatives of other nationalities, races or political views. What is more, such insult cannot be punished since it involves the freedom of expression and the rights of the offender are protected by the law. Thus, the First Amendment concentrates on the protection of the right of self-assertion and disregards completely the effect provided by the speech.  Such injustice leads to the appearance of numerous conflicts within the community and damages the social interactions between various groups. Hate speech hurts the dignity of other people provoking them to react aggressively and use sometimes physical strength. Yet, the governments of the countries ensure people that they should be tolerate towards hate speeches and ignore them. These people, who are managing the country, are never affected by the hateful expressions and have never experienced it, so they cannot understand the problem fully and solve it. Activists all over the world urge the need to introduce laws to protect those whose dignity is insulted. Sociologists underline the dangerous side of freedom of expression. Thus, Harris Zafar states that sometimes mockery and ridicule not just offend a person but can cause more dangerous social phenomena like Holocaust of Jew in the middle of the previous century. As a representative of a vulnerable group, namely Islam man, Mr. Zafar claims that the strict punishment should not be applied for hate speeches since it is intolerant to penalize a person for his/her disagreement with the common concept. The hateful speeches should be fought not with the help of laws but with the help of pluralistic and compassionate concepts.

In conclusion, the right of every individual to express freely his/her opinions, ideas, or views appears to be in danger. Although freedom of speech is evaluated by the modern population in two different ways, and now it is quite difficult to estimate its contribution and meaning to the society, it cannot be banned or penalized. Government and public companies are putting more and more control over the information people receive and filter the speech of every individual. Yet, even in such highly controlled community free expressions sometimes can offend others and cause misunderstanding. All in all, free speech, which is a key element of every democratic society and one of the most important human rights, are now under the threat of prohibition. Among numerous solutions introduced to improve the situation and save the important role of free expression, there are either too radical ideas, which propose no control over the stream of information, or those that concentrate on the preservation of the human dignity but disregard of the freedom of expression. Nevertheless, the problem of the free speech remains highly topical and important for the modern society. Perhaps, some regulations should be introduced, but they should be applied only locally and be controlled not by the government but by the independent international institutions which will have no relations to the governments and big social monopolists. What is more, to reduce the amount of hate speech people should reconsider their attitude towards each other, become tolerant, and respect other individuals regardless of their social status, color of skin, nationality, and age.  All people deserve to express their feelings and opinions, so the humanity should start to act right now to preserve free speech and provide its successful and peaceful functioning in the modern world.