Atlantic Beach, N.C.

July 28, 2021

TO THE EDITOR:

To some dismay, freedom of speech has its limits. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religious expression, and the right to a free press against government restrictions.

What constitutes “protected speech” and what methods should or shouldn’t be used to limit free speech are pretty controversial. Not all of our expressions are protected by the First Amendment.

Technically, the First Amendment protects a political figure’s right to express an unpopular opinion or a journalist’s right to insensitive posts, meaning the US government may not infringe on these rights.

Wikipedia notes that “Numerous holdings of the Supreme Court attest to the fact that the First Amendment does not mean that we are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship.”

Some disputed and subjective examples of what would not be considered free speech are: inciting a riot, obscenity, offensively addressing someone, threats, terrorism, blackmail, perjury, and defamation.

Efforts are taking place by political groups, activists, and the federal government to silence speech that they deem offensive or disinformation. Liberals define misinformation as “whatever hurts them politically.”

Many First Amendment advocates argue that silencing offending ideas is contrary to the “spirit” of the Constitution and counter-democratic.

So, the First Amendment protects us against government limits with our freedom of expression, but it doesn’t prevent a private employer from setting its own rules. Nowadays, we have the issue of Big Tech censorship.

The First Amendment protects your speech from government censorship, which would be unconstitutional. However, the Biden Administration colludes with Big Tech companies flagging/deciding what constitutes misinformation or what doesn’t, in effect circumventing the Constitution as it pertains to censorship.

While writing this letter and using Google to support facts, I pondered where the liberals were directing my searches for information?

Bottom line: our government shouldn’t be working with companies to stop whatever they deem as misinformation or disinformation, for this would gravely threaten free speech, plus the independence of the private sector.

MIKE PFAFF

(10) comments

drewski

This LTTE reminds me of Trump JR going on national media outlets and crying that Conservative voices are being censored. Joe Boden and big tech are colluding to censor. More nonsensical MAGA media talking points. The first admt only applies to govt, not to pvt companies. Ovt companies through their terms of use can and do dictate what happens on their platforms. There are many right wing platforms parler, frank, the nighty tirades from oann and fox opinion hosts. Free speech is not free, head into a biker bar and start running your mouth. As always the old MAGA double standard It sounds like businesses should be free of govt overreach and interference, unless they step on maga toes then its all a leftie conspiracy with big tech and the federal Govt should step in. Misinformation and disinformation are dangerous on so many levels and big tech is right to weed it out. IE: glass of bleach water to kill covid anyone?

mpjeep

Along with technology companies, the government is looking at software to uncover what may or may not be misinformation or disinformation. Alpha Vu is one such software company.

The software, aimed toward use by government agencies, monitors social media platforms, blogs, and other competitor sites. It will probably branch out to all media sites before all is said and done.

I wonder how accurate the software might be? What will the government do with the info that is collected? And since everything is political these days, who decides what misinformation or disinformation is?

One thing about this technology that’s unavoidable: Somebody needs to decide what counts as misinformation and disinformation. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you or your opinion doesn’t mean it’s misinformation.

It looks like we are growing from Big Tech censorship to government censorship of our thoughts, opinions, and speech.

David Collins

A biker bar , surely that is not an opinionated bunch . Private social media platforms , just like this one , can pick and chose what to post . They are private ! You are free to express anything your little heart desires , unless you break a law or two in doing so and boy oh boy do they ever . So what is in danger here ? Once again it is government involvement in private matters . This shows no signs of changing anytime soon because today most everyone is a victim and is clamoring to the government to do something , anything but something . Keep it up and they surely will sooner or later . Don’t know when they have a good thing going .

mpjeep

Yes absolutely, the government can take away your fundamental rights according to the law.

The Supreme Court case Schenck v. the United States: In 1919, Charles Schenk handed out pamphlets to the public expressing negative feelings towards the military draft and even encouraged people to take action to disobey the process. He was charged under the espionage act. The court decided that Schenck went outside of the legal limits of freedom of speech. They used the term “clear and present danger” to express that the freedom of speech is no longer relevant when it promotes dangerous behavior or endangers the nation’s interests.

And when harmful material is put on the internet that causes devastating results such as teen suicide, this limit on freedom of speech is still relevant as “clear and present danger”.

I'll be glad to play Vigil to anyone’s Dante and help guide them through an obsession with Trump and Bikers. It’s not that they have twisted the truth; they have rejected the truth.

You have the right to free speech. But, does this mean you have the right to yell at your neighbor's house through a bullhorn at three in the morning? Hopefully not!

SgtRock1968

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr rather famously wrote the opinion on Schenk ... but by the time Abrams v. United States rolled around only a few months later, he started having second thinks, expressing some dismay that the court was moving to allow punishment for ideas. Indeed, in that 7-2 decision, he wrote the minority opinion, in part stating:

"In this case sentences of twenty years imprisonment have been imposed for the publishing of two leaflets that I believe the defendants had as much right to publish as the Government has to publish the Constitution of the United States now vainly invoked by them."

In 1969, Schenk was partially overturned by Brandenburg v. Ohio, limiting the scope of banned speech considerably. See 'Brandenburg test' for more on that.

Schenk is often cited as one of the worst SCOTUS decisions of all time, up there with Dredd Scott, Buck v. Bell, Plessy, etc.

I draw your attention to this article from The Atlantic, a review, actually, of Thomas Healy's 'The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind- and Changed the History of Free Speech in America.'

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/08/the-most-powerful-dissent-in-american-history/278503/

I would suggest a read of not only Healy's book, but also former Chief Justice Renquist's "All the Laws But One - Civil Liberties in Wartime.'

JusticeForAll

"I'll be glad to play Vigil to anyone’s Dante and help guide them through an obsession with Trump and Bikers. It’s not that they have twisted the truth; they have rejected the truth."

Game on. Please provide evidence of the above statement. Please use facts and substantiated information.

The obsession lies with the Trump fan base. Not those who choose to expose the factual information of his lackluster/disastrous presidency.

mpjeep

We are headed toward censorship and being told that such restrictions are for our good. But free speech is hanging by a thread.

Censorship is being carried out not by libertarians or conservatives, but by liberals. The same people that advocated free speech decades ago are now advocating censorship.

Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, showed his contempt for not one but two fundamental American rights, saying that those who use hate speech on the internet should not have the right to bear arms.

“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.” ― Winston Churchill

drewski

Censorship is just the latest in a long and tedious list of MAGA falsehoods, Charlie Kirk's facebook page is a prime example of this untruth. They need to keep the base in a state of perpetual agitation to keep the donations flowing in.

If you want to be outraged Try Fl Gov. Desantis threatens to cut school funding for districts that enact mask mandates. Despite record hospitalizations, the unchecked spread of covid in fl. Their Gov, will threaten their children to enforce his anti mask mandate. Where justified outrage should be present we hear silence from the MAGA crowd. Where faux outrage is encouraged we have a crescendo. What a strange cult it is.

David Collins

...Of course all this is totally political , as usual . But then you say follow the science . How has that worked out ? Seems like so many political talking heads have taken a basic science class , usually at night and probably last night , and now are experts in epidemiology as well as all other disciplines . Sure , the virus is real and a problem . Some folks will meet their maker because of it , as they do every year with many other maladies . So really , other than politics , what has changed ? If EVERYBODY would zip their lips for a while , make your decisions quietly , use common sense and live with your decisions , life would be much better for all . Sadly , that will not happen . Bad news sells , bumps up viewership , which sells endless advertisements which brings in a massive revenue stream for ALL THE MEDIA OUTLETS . The old “ never let a crisis go to waste thing “ and we are falling for it all , big time .

(Edited by staff.)

Staff
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