Free Speech & Hate Speech

Free Speech

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all else" - John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
The right to free speech was affirmed in 1948 with the introduction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly. As outlined within Article 19 of the Declaration: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also notes that there shall be limitations on the exercises of rights and freedoms, for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, as well as keeping up the requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare of a democratic society. (UDHR, Article 29 (2). According to Stanley Fish, 'Free Speech' is 'just the name we give to verbal behaviour that serves the substantive agendas we wish to advance' (Fish, 1994:102).

Free speech is the notion of being able to speak both openly and freely and without restrictions. Yet Fish suggests that free speech doesn't exist because such an activity is always restricted - there are times where certain opinions or thoughts are inappropriate to express or do not serve the agenda of the speaker. As Fish puts it, “free speech in short, is not an independent value but a political prize” (Fish,1994:102.) There is no society where speech has not been limited to some extent. As John Stuart Mill argued in 'On Liberty', there is always a struggle between the competing demands of liberty and authority, and we cannot have the latter without the former:
“All the makes existence valuable to anyone depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed—by law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law” (1910, 69).

  • Stanley Fish


Fish (104) uses Section 1 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom to compare the use of restrictions on free speech in Canada versus the 'supposed' non-restriction of speech in the United States of America.
His thesis is that " constitutive of expression"(Fish,1994:103). He denies the existence of free speech based on the idea that the meaning or value that is given to any form of expression, is reliant on limitations. Restriction is therefore inextricably linked to communication.
In this sense, Fish highlights the moral imperative of a contextually restricted approach to speech in Canada. The prosecution of Keegstra, who let his anti-Semitism colour every aspect of his high-school teaching, was driven by the primacy to protect rights and freedoms regarding speech "only to such reasonable limits prescribed by the law". (1994: 104-105). Fish explained that "any right or freedom can be trumped if its exercise is found to be in conflict with the principles that underwrite the society" (1994: 105).
The other point Fish makes with regard to this case is that the reference to Section 1 of the Canadian charter (guarantees the rights and freedoms....only to such reasonable limits prescribed by laws as can be demostrably justified in a free and democradic society) effectively cleans the slate after every contest over expression, given that the primary battle is fought under Section 2b (Everyone has the folllowing fundamental freedom...freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression including freedom of the press and other media of communication) that declares freedom of thought/belief/opinion before allowing qualification, whereas the US First Amendment (1789) the right to 'free speech' unqualified - is a precedent without qualification that is more difficult to contest. The preferred strategy is to reframe speech as action, to attach responsibility for the consequences of "fighting talk" (1994:105).
Fish also highlights the importance of exclusion in creating the meaning that a society attributes to expression. He thereby holds that "free expression could only be a primary value if what you are valuing is the right to make noise." (Fish, 1994:107.) By his standard, any expression without boundaries is mere "noise" existing in a vacuum. As such, not only is free speech non-existent, but if it were it would threaten our ability to understand and shape value and meaning through expression - which is ultimately the primary function of expression in the first place. Fish introduces this idea in one of his explanations of the significance of the First Amendment in this discourse. He suggests that while the First Amendment is seemingly concrete and "absolute" (Fish, 1994:105) there is a manner through which it can be bypassed, as such securing his argument that there is no such thing as true and absolute freedom of speech. Fish says, "in general, the preferred strategy is to manipulate the distinction, essential to First Amendment jurisprudence, between speech and action" (Fish, 1994: 105). This suggests that, according to Fish, the extent to which free speech is acceptable depends on the actions that the free speech promotes.
Restrictions on expression can also be seen as instituted to uphold the idea of a greater social good - as they promote the right to protect others from offensive or destructive information. However, this claim to the "greater good" can only be advanced where the sacrifice to 'liberty of expression' is considered justified. This can be judged in formal settings such as in Courts, in Parliament and Censorship Boards. Also, limitations on personal expression can occur by default or subconsciously as we curb our thoughts and speech to conform to social ideals. Personal censorship is perhaps then symptomatic of these formal expressions of 'legitimate' restrictions on expression.

  • J.S. Mill OL108289A-M.jpg

Based on John Stuart Mill's arguments, free speech is today understood as not only the right to express, or disseminate information and ideas, but as three further distinct aspects:
- the right to seek information and ideas;
- the right to receive information and ideas;
- the right to impart information and ideas. (Puddephatt, 2005:128.)

J.S. Mill presented the most famous liberal defense of free speech. Mill made a very bold statement: "If the arguments of the present chapter are of any validity, there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered (1910, 79).
This strong defense of free speech, tells us that any speech should be allowed no matter how immoral it may seem to everyone else; "If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind (1910, 80).
This liberty should exist with every subject matter so that we have "absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral or theological" (1910, 75). Mill claims that the fullest liberty of expression is required to push our arguments to their logical limits, rather than the limits of social embarrassment.
However, Mill also suggests that we need some rules to regulate the actions of members of a political community. The limitations he places on free speech is the"Harm Principle", which states that " the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent to others" (1910, 73).

One objection to Fish's argument is that he has confused the political meaning of Mill's use of free speech with a literal one. It is clear Mill understands that in order to speak one makes decisions of self-censorship - whether it be via employing specific words, phrasing, or simply in tone of voice. Mill's concept of free speech is simply the general ethical principal that one has a right to freedom of expression. Clearly if human beings are capable of expressing themselves through speech, then there is such a thing as free speech, and it's a good thing too! We can thus see that Fish is applying a completely different definition of free speech to that of J.S Mill, and therefore, Fish's criticism of free speech does not correctly apply to a criticism of the ideas of J.S. Mill.

A wise approach according to Stanley Fish is he suggests we have to find a practical compromise that gives a variety of values. When dealing with free speech, we are not dealing with speech in isolation; what we are doing is comparing free speech with some other good. We have to decide is it better to place a higher value on speech or the value of privacy, equality, security, or the prevention of harm. Stanley Fish implies that we need to find a balance in which “we must consider in every case what is at stake and what are the risks and gains of alternative courses of action” (1994, 111). Is speech promoting or undermining our basic values? “If you don't ask this question, or some version of it, but just say that speech is speech and that's it, you are mystifying—presenting as an arbitrary and untheorised fiat—a policy that will seem whimsical or worse to those whose interests it harms or dismisses” (1994, 123).

There should be reasons to support the argument to allow speech; not the First Amendment says it is so, therefore it must be so. We need to decide what a bad and good speech is. A good policy “will not assume that the only relevant sphere of action is the head and larynx of the individual speaker” (Fish, 1994, 126). A question we need to ask is do we keep with the values of a democratic society, where every person is considered equal, to allow or prohibit speech that singles out specific individuals and groups as less than equal? According to Fish, it cannot be settled by simply appealing to a pre-ordained ideal of absolute free speech, because this is a principle that is itself in need of defense. Fish's answer is that,“it depends. I am not saying that First Amendment principles are inherently bad (they are inherently nothing), only that they are not always the appropriate reference point for situations involving the production of speech” (1994, 113). But, all things considered, “I am persuaded that at the present moment, right now, the risk of not attending to hate speech is greater than the risk that by regulating it we will deprive ourselves of valuable voices and insights or slide down the slippery slope towards tyranny. This is a judgment for which I can offer reasons but no guarantees” (1994, 115).

According to Fish, we should ask three questions: “given that it is speech, what does it do, do we want it to be done, and is more to be gained or lost by moving to curtail it?” (1994, 127). He suggests that according to the context the answer will vary. In the military free speech it will be more limited, where the underlying value is hierarchy and authority, compared to at a university where one of the main values is the expression of ideas. Even on campus, there will be different levels of appropriate speech. A campus is not simply a “free speech forum but a workplace where people have contractual obligations, assigned duties, pedagogical and administrative responsibilities” (1994, 129). Almost all places in which we interact are governed by underlying values and hence speech will have to fit in with these principles: “regulation of free speech is a defining feature of everyday life” (Fish, 1994,129).

Hate Speech

The legal definition of the term "hate speech" refers to a speech which disparages a person or a group based on their status; race, religion, gender, age, social class or sexual preference. This term includes both the oral and written form of speech as well as behaviours in a public place.

[Block of text deleted due to plagiarism of frist paragraph from Wikipedia article //"Hate speech laws in Australia"//]

The following is a copy of Wikipedia's section on Australia's Racial Discrimination Act (the full text can be found here:

The //Racial Discrimination Act 1975// forbids hate speech on several grounds. The Act makes it “unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person, or of some or all of the people in the group.” An aggrieved person can lodge a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. If the complaint is validated, the Commission will attempt to conciliate the matter. If the Commission cannot negotiate an agreement which is acceptable to the complainant, the complainant's only redress is through the Federal Court or through the Federal Magistrates Service.
In 2002, the Federal Court applied the Act in the case of Jones v. Toben. The case involved a complaint about a website which contained material that denied the Holocaust. The Federal Court ruled that the material was a violation of the Act.
Section 85ZE of the Crimes Act 1914 makes it an offense to use the Internet to disseminate material intentionally that results in a person being menaced or harassed. This offence includes material communicated by email. Federal criminal law, therefore, is available to address racial vilification where the element of threat or harassment is also present, although it does not apply to material that is merely offensive.

  • Katharine Gelber images1.jpg

Hate speech 'enacts hatred' and 'prejudice' according to A/Prof Katharine Gelber .
It is a concept which is not just a 'psychological dislike for a human being' (Gelber), but it can offend a person or group of people based on their race, language, ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance, mental capacity and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability'. Fish (1994:114) explains that we must take 'responsibility for our verbal consequences', as there is ultimately 'complex and negative consequences' (Gelber) for our targets and actions.
The degree of offense of the 'Hate Speech' needs to be defined. At what point can we call speech hateful?
Mill's "Harm Principle" takes effect but Mill has contradictory views on 'Free Speech'. Mill strongly supports the notion of Freedom of speech in a footnote of Chapter II 'On Liberty':
"If the arguments of the present chapter are of any validity, there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered."
The exercise of free speech is necessary to push the limits of logical discussions, not being limited to social constraints.

The 'Harm Principle' then over shadows this idea of free speech in its purest form when speech 'enacts hatred' towards another therefore, restriction on this right is placed to "prevent harm to others."
  • Owen Fiss images2.jpg

Owen Fiss writes that "Hate speech is regulated by the state on the theory that such expression denigrates the value and worth of its victims and the group to which they belong" (Fiss, 1998:11)
Thus is not the 'Harm Principle" in action here? In that it is no longer 'free' speech if one is impinging on the freedom of others. Mill's "Harm Principle"

A former school teacher Dr. Fredrick Toben of Adelaide began a website called the Adelaide Institute in 2000. The website contains material which denies the Holocaust of Jews in the Second World War. Since the start of publication, several attempts have been made to remove the site from the World Wide Web. “According to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, cyberspace is no place for material claiming that say the Holocaust is a myth” (7:30 Report ABC, 2000). The Adelaide Institute possesses an interesting question with regards to free speech in Australia. Should websites such as this be able to be displayed on the internet? Dr. Toben argues, If we're in a democracy, then we must have the ability to have opposing points of view openly aired, even if it's hurtful and somewhat offensive” (7:30 Report ABC, 2000). However, Fish argues do we define speech as inconsequential meaning "sticks and stones will never hurt me" or do we acknowledge the consequences of speech, but suffer them in the name of something that cannot be named (Fish, 1994: 110). In regards to Australian law, Dr. Toben has recently been found guilty of contempt for breaching the Racial Discrimination Act over a Holocaust denial (The Age, 2009). Dr. Toben is the first person in Australia to be found in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act and was sentenced to three months imprisonment as a result.

Fish gave several examples of the North American First Amendment and the Canadian Charter of Rights with regards to free speech. However, Australia has neither. The question should be posed:
“If Australia had its own bill of rights, should websites such as the Adelaide Institute be allowed to be posted on the internet? A bill of rights would surely include a section on free speech, however where can the line be drawn?
Fish argues, “That truth is not that freedom of speech should be abridged but that freedom of speech is a conceptual impossibility because the condition of speech’s being free in the first place is unrealizable” (Fish, 1994: 115).
One man or woman’s liberty ends where the other begins…
The Australian government is currently conducting a national forum on the question of an Australian Bill of Rights.

Restricting and Protecting Speech

Katherine Gelber comments on the ways in which speech is restricted or protected on the Australian front. Gelber finds that although there is no direct legislation that restricts or protects speech, there are indirect methods and legislation which does this (Gelber; 2007).
Gelber finds that:
(a) common law plays a role in restricting or protecting speech
(b) such restriction and protection can be found in other Australian legislation - particular anti-discrimination legislation, and the Victorian Charter Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (Vic) (Gelber; 2007).

Anti-vilification laws in Australia, such as the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is an example of direct legislation that restricts speech. Section18c states that an act of racial vilification (other than in private) is unlawful and that an act that constitutes racial hatred includes speaking. Nevertheless there are exemptions within the Act that provide for the 'protection of free speech'.

Legislation regarding hate speech is part of NSW anti-discrimination law. Vilification is any act, usually public, that could incite others to hate, have serious contempt or severe ridicule for others on the basis of a number of areas, including race, ethnicity, HIV/AIDS status and sexuality. The aim of this law is to ensure that people can coexist peacefully and in a dignified manner, free from hate speech. (Anti-Discrimination Board

Kenan Malik makes an interesting point on Hate Speech in a Plural Society that restricting free speech is in fact denying free speech. He states that different beliefs, ideas are unavoidable and it should be dealt with for social progression rather than suppressing them. "I want to suggest that the giving of offence is not only acceptable, but necessary in a healthy democratic society. The fomenting of hatred may well create political and social problems; but these are not problems that can be solved by legislation to restrict free speech. The incitement to violence should be an offence, but only if incitement is tightly defined, much more so than it is at present." He also mentions that judging an idea as 'offensive' is limiting the chance for a rational debate.

There are also philosophical perspectives on the rights of people to place restrictions on free speech. Arguments that provide grounds where free speech should have limitations are classified as either procedural or substantive. Procedural are focused on the time, place and manner of the speech, and substantive are focused on what the speech consists of and the motives. (Honderich; 1995). This turns more of a focus on the overall benefits of free speech. It seems almost impossible to weigh up the benefits. How do we know that suppressing someone's free speech is in fact just slowing the development of our ideas? How do we know that someone's completely ludicrous and offensive idea will be in fact regarded as one of the world's most revolutionary ideas in that particular field in the next century? Some people can argue that pornography is a good example of where censorship is justified, which could be in some ways justified. After all, it is quite openly ridiculous, but does that not mean people have no capacity to use their human abilities to just ignore it? If we are offended by something, does that really give us the right to prevent that person from publicly exploring that idea altogether? It seems that the idea of being "offended" by someone's open speech could potentially be a threat to society's development or realisation of ideas.

Others provide a completely new spectrum to the idea of limitation on freedom of speech. For example, on July the 29th, the breakfast show hosted by Kyle and Jackie O on Sydney Australia's radio station 2Day FM had a 14-year old girl connected to a lie detector and asked questions about her sexual activity. The show had to be stopped after the girl confessed she had been a victim of a rape. Such incidences provide good examples of where people have been rightly vitally offended by the show's use of speech, and where the meaning of 'freedom of speech' needs to be completely reconsidered. This also leads on to the idea of responsibility in the use of speech.

Free Speech to counter Hate Speech

In Sheila Musaji's article of Free speech to counter hate speech- Dove World Outreach Center incident has raised the problem on whether free speech can become hate speech and whether there is any limit for free speech? This argument is raised becuase of the Dove World OUtreahc Center, a church in Gainesvile posted a sign on their lawn that read "Islam is of the devil". Furthermore, the center decided to have tee-shirts made repeating the "Islam is of the devil" message and have students in the elementary, middle, and high schools wear them to school. Parents of the children have said that they believe this is an issue of free speech, and the Center's pastor suggested that America is a Christian nation.

Althought, the first Amendent prohibits the government from limiting speech, but there are exceptions for things like defamation ot inciting to riot, and for harassment. However, public schools are for all children, and no child should be expected to deal with speech that degrades, insults or frightens them. Moreover, the aformentioned statement may influence the children's opinions in a highly biased and misinformed manner, inculcating ideas that are considered derogatory and harmful to ceratain members of society. Issues like this one raise a lot of questions. Is there any point at which free speech becomes hate speech and might be curtailed? Are there any limits to free speech? Are some locations different than others for freeodm of Speech (e.g. the workplace or schools). People can believe anyhting they want-but is there any limit on the public expression of their beliefs. Does it make any difference what group is being disparaged? Just because you have the right to say anything you want, does that mean it is always the right thing to do?

There are no clear guidelines at this point in time, but it is certain that the least we can do is counter such hateful speech with more speech. If those with negative and hateful messages have the right to speak their 'mind', then the rest of us also have the right to let them know what we think of their speech .

Australian Bill of Rights

There has been a longstanding debate in Australia (which has recently been in the spotlight) regarding the lack of a federal charter of rights in Australia. A 1992 survey commissioned by Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University indicated that 71% of Australians were in favour of a bill of rights, with 22% undecided and only 7% against (NSWCCL, 2009). However, while the ACT and Victoria have passed their own human rights charter, there has been much controversy regarding similar policy being added at the constitutional level (Collerton, 2009).
Opponents of the proposition, such as former Prime Minister John Howard, suggest that a constitutionally protected charter of rights takes power away from the elected government and puts it in the hands of unelected judges (Collerton, 2009). This is owing to the fact that the US Bill of Rights (arguably the most well known in the world) is interpreted by the judicial system and decisions made by the courts cannot be contravened by the government (Kilcullen, 2000). Proponents may counter this argument by suggesting a system similar to that used in Canada, where the charter of rights specifically allows for the government to enact a law that contravenes the charter (Kilcullen, 2000). Thus, while it is only done in the most extreme of circumstances, the final decisions on law do essentially lie with the popularly elected government.
Two examples have been cited above as possible models for an Australian Bill of Rights and they are discussed further below.

  • US Bill of Rights
One of the favourable consequences of a lack of a Australian Bill of Rights similar to that in the US is that the Australian government is allowed to legislate against hate speech. In the US however, the first amendment states that "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech" (US Constitution, 1st Amendment). The law prevents the US state from intervening with anybody's right to free speech or press thus nullifying the opportunity afforded in Australia of acting against hate speech which, while although still free speech, is deemed harmful.

  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows all citizens "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication" (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1, Article 2b). At first this appears to be very similar to the Bill of Rights for the US but is qualified by the first article of the Charter which states "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society" (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1, Article 1). The key term in this initial article is "reasonable limits" which, in relation to the free speech/hate speech debate, reflects J.S. Mill's assertion in his Harm Principle that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others" (J.S. Mill, On Liberty). By qualifying the proceeding articles within the charter with the first, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects any individual or group from hate speech as - although technically a repression of the right of freedom to expression - the individual or group responsible for the offense is outside the reasonable limits they can expect from their rights as a Canadian citizen.

Both the US Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provide Australia with a direction to take should its government choose to adopt its own similar legislation and, considering the general agreement within parliament that unrestricted free speech which does not allow government intervention would be a harmful statute to decree, the Canadian path could be seen as a more desirable option for the Australian government.

Speech and Responsibility

"Because speech is never free... we must take responsibility for our verbal performances" (Fish).

It is important to note that amongst all the discourse about the need for freedom of speech and a lack of restrictions, there does need to be some responsibility and onus upon each person for their words. After viewing Ricky Gerveis' performing Adolf Hitler and Nietzche, one begins to recognise the seriousness of speech and action. Of course while in this context the repercussions of Nietzche's words are misinterpreted, it is important to recognise the relationship of speech and action. JL Austin, in his work "How to Do Things With Words" explains that the permittivity of word (or utterance) is an action in itself. "The term 'performative' is derived, of course, from the word 'perform' indicates the issuing of the utterance is the performing of an action, the uttering of the word is, indeed, usually, or even, the leading incident in the performing of the act" (Austin,1976: 6-8). What Austen doesn't address here is the issue of inciting performance or action for another through ones words. A sense of responsibility comes when one demands free speech, the knowing of one's audience and the adjustment of one's language in order to cater to the emotions and understandings of their audience is vital in enacting responsible use of free speech. While it seems obvious that one would decide not to address an opposing opinion in front of a group of activists, it is important to recognise how addressing this issue in front of a group of supporters may insight violence, or action upon the opinion.

One recent incident that could be considered a lack of responsibility or recognition of the audience in the arts, was the performance of a rape scene in a movie based on a comic book. In this movie a superhero from the comic was seen raping (or forcing sex) upon another female superhero. The male superhero was then never public (or even privately) disciplined for his actions, and was in fact still glorified as a superhero. The lack of discipline, whilst for an adult audience may not have been completely necessary, was possibly detrimental to the younger audience that would have been target for this movie. While continuing to glorify a man without discipline for such actions is not a direct support for such action, it is the lack of condemnation that may have affect on the opinions and actions of a young audience.

While the example above does highlight the responsibilities that directors have when creating a film, especially with regards to the audience, it should also be noted that restrictions are placed on films which limits the target audience and notifies the public of its content. In the US the film received an R rating and in Australia a rating of "MA15+ Strong violence and sex scenes". The director is creating material that can be accessed by viewers of all ages, there is an obligation to think about the film’s content and how it may affect the audience, but should this alone compromise the plot, and the director’s freedom of expression? Cinemas can control who watches movies with a high rating, and it’s up to the parents and guardians to restrict children from adult content, but if it happens to leak into the younger audience, is this the direct fault of the filmmaker?

This discussion of ratings is important and is something that was neglected in the above statements. While it can be accepted that the Australian Classifications Board has done its job in classifying this content, it is important that some responsibility is taken by the creators or creative developers. While an MA 15+ rating will eliminate children under 15 accessing this material at the movies, is it this age group we need to be worried about? Or is it the group of teens between 15 and 19 who are now developing their understanding of relationships, respect, personal opinion, and consequences in light of this information? It is a difficult question that is posed. With reluctance to demand that all sexually explicit, or violent scenes be censored, or that art itself be censored to protect those few that cannot handle it, it can simply be questioned, should not the director, producer, script writer, artistic director, or artist contemplate their intended and likely audience during the creation of the art?

In relation to a case such as Bill Henson's censored artwork (which will be discussed later in the course) it appears that the artwork was in fact aware of it's intended audience. The art was showcased in a small gallery in Sydney, with no huge public opening, unllikely to break out into the mainstream field. The photos only became innapropriate as soon as it was displayed to the wider, possibly less artistically minded world, where they were viewed by many as pornography. Their initial staging was in no way pornographic. Therefore it can be considered in this case the artwork needed not be censored as the intended audience was taken into account upon its creation.

Suggested Websites

I would like to propose to have a look at couple of pages that are related to free speech and to events that probably all of you are familiar with. First have a look at the website of the Dixie Chicks where they recently published their movie "Shut up and sing" where they say basically freedom of speech is good as long as it is not in public. Here is the link:
Another thing that i'd like to share with you is when in 2005 a Danish newspaper published a cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Here are the links:

Works Cited:

Adelaide Institute,
Anti-Discrimation Board, 'Anti Discrimination Law', July 2009,
Austin, J L (1976) "How To Do Things With Words" pp 6-8
Collerton, S. (2009), Howard ‘fear-mongering’ on bill of rights [online], available:
Fish, S (1994) 'There's No Such Thing as Free Speech' There's No Such Thing as Free Speech and its a Good Thing, Too. Oxford UP; pp. 102-119
Fiss, O M (1998) The Irony of Free Speech, Harvard University Press
Gelber, K (2007).; 'Hate Speech and the Australian Legal and Political Landscape'; Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech in Australia; pp. 2-19.
Honderich, T. (1995). "The Oxford Companion to Philosophy" Oxford University Press Inc. New York; pp. 293-294
Kilcullen, J. (2000), An Australian Bill of Rights [online], available:
Malik, K (2005) Hate Speech in a Plural Society.
Mckew, M (2000) "Anti-semitism hits the web" 7:30 Report ABC.
Mill, J.S. (1910) "On Liberty". Utilitarianism, Liberty and Representative Government, p65-80
Milovanovic, S (2009) "Holocaust denier makes appeal bid" The Age.
Milton, J (1868) "Areopagitica: 24 September 1644" A. Murray & Son
NSW Council of Civil Liberties (2009), a Bill of Rights for Australia [online], available:
Puddephatt, A (2005); Freedom of Expression, The essentials of Human Rights, Hodder Arnold, pg 128

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 1948,
United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment

Extenal links:,21985,25852406-661,00.html
The American Muslim, 'Free Speech to counter Hate Speech-Dove World Outreach Center Incident', August 2009,
free speech and interent :

Student Comments on Free Speech

Is free speech really that free? The reason I ask this question is because if we are actually asking whether or not free speech is free, then we are creating this thought process which would mean that we are thinking and not acting freely. The boundaries that are set in society provide this normative behaviour that becomes the standard of thinking; speech is the direct result of thought. (if we are to divorce the intellectual process of speech from emotion) So how is adapting to societies norms justify free speech? If we all as individuals have subjective thoughts then how does it remain within the confines of the expected boundary of free speech without harm. The harm principle supersedes the notion of freedom to speak because it is an adaptation to the norms of society. When we understand positive freedom, one is able to view the state as an enemy of freedom and this implies this thought of freedom being constantly addressed as a concept not a way of just purely being.

To further your comments:
Is free speech not essentially a myth? Firstly, and most obviously, who determines that which is free? Freedom is a construct of the society in which the individual exists, and that changes with national boundaries and/or cultural beliefs. For the sake of this argument, freedom is the state of being unrestrained by governmental regimes and the liberty to act provided it does not inflict harm on others – the ‘harm principle’. Using this definition, free speech seems like a simple enough concept, and one can apply the harm principle effectively because with speech comes slander. But one always, and often subconsciously, moderates speech to suit the audience. Does this then become an identification of free speech as ‘truth’ and then, inversely, the obfuscation of truthful speech a ‘lie’?

On the other hand:
Speech is essentially an act. To deny the impossibilty of speaking freely is to deny the possibility of acting freely. This all depends on our conception of free will. I understand free will to be our ability to do something we want to do. My interpretation of free will does not necessarily require the presence of multiple options for us to act freely. For example, one may find themself in a classroom enjoying a lecture. In fact, the lecturer is so good that the student does not wish to be anywhere else at that particular moment. Most people would agree that this student is acting freely (i.e. they want to do what they are presently doing). However, hidden from the student's knowledge is that the room they are in is locked. They cannot leave. The dilemma that arises is deciding whether the student is really acting out of free will despite having no other options other than to remain in the classroom. This brings forth an important distinction between freedom and free will. Perhaps one might say the student has no freedom as they have no choice. However, I maintain that this student is still acting freely for the simple reason they are doing what they want to do. Therefore the emphasis is on desire. If we are saying what we want to say then I contest that this is indeed free speech. It is easy to conceive of examples where people say exactly what they want to say and no more than that. It is also very conceivable to think of an example where someone is restricted from saying what they want. My main point being that free will (and hence free speech) is indeed possible and is part of our everyday lives. If you wish to deny this conclusion (and I welcome this) you must deny that saying what we want to say does not entail free will.

Other comments:
Free speech is often regarded as a sign of democracy that everyone should have the right to express their feelings and the right is as well protected. In the democracy country, "Free Speech" is the basic right which provided the people power to say anything they want to say. The people can talk about everything or everyone even their government. They can blame their government when they think the government is doing the wrong thing or ask their government for change policy and brings them a better society. Hence "Free Speech" provides opportunities to the government which allows them to listen the people's opinions and aware the needs of the people. Although it is impossible for the government to listen everyone's opinion, it still gives a chance for both the government and the people to communicate. So i think "Free Speech" is a bridge which connected the government and the people and allows them to build up a better society country together.

We are very much aware of 'Free of speech'. It can be made within certain limitations such as no fraud, no swearing, no sexual harassment, inducing suicide, exposing legal classified information and harming other’s reputation. Within these boundaries we can easily present our ideology, opinion, belief and idea through ‘Free speech’. However we might have to consider one more factor that our ‘Free speech’ could cause an affect in the future. When someone presents one’s own opinion in the society, people interpret it with their own judgement. No one enforces us to be bias towards one side and we cannot be sure whether our judgment matches with an actual intention of one’s ‘Free speech’.

"Free speech" is essentially expression of opinion. However, this cannot exist in its entirety, without violating the Harm Principle. Free speech may turn into "hate speech", purely through the stating of an opinion which may offend another (eg racial comments). I disagree that free speech connects the government and the people, as everybody has different opinions due to their different situations, and if we were to 'freely' express this, the government could never take on any changes,as someone would always be dissatisfied. The government must take on a neutral stance, listen to the community, then make an educated decision on what they think will benefit the community as a whole, instead of mere induviduals.