Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In Defense of Free Speech Online

Source: Flickr Commons
Free speech online is a great idea, but there are some problems. Some say free speech online should not be limited, but some say it should. Sometimes, the posts teenagers and adults put online are highly racist, sexist, cruel, and can be a huge harassment to people or termed cyberbullying. Calling people names, such as retard, is like a “slow-acting poison.” When people keep targeting mean and cruel things toward someone, it can be very hard for the target to live with hatred from people and it can sometimes influence them to commit suicide. In spite of things like this, however, I personally think having free speech online is a great idea. Most language used in social media is not offensive, it is positive. I think the reason why people know free speech is harsh is because we focus more on the negative side than the positive.

The negative side gets more attention from people than the positive, which makes people feel that free speech is always a negative thing. But according to Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Sites, a study released in 2011, about 69% teenagers are most likely to be kind in social media. Only 29% of teenagers and 18% of adults sometimes saw meanness in social media and 47% of teens and 44% of adults saw bad behavior once in a while. These statistics about teens and adults show that people use good words more than bad. People also say that a lot of people get harassed online but it is not necessarily true. In the 2011 report, only 15% of teenagers and adults experienced harassment in the past 12 months, but 85% of them did not. The percentage of people being treated bad online is low and there is a very low percentage of harassment. The percentage shows that most adults and teenagers are kind to each other rather than mean. This shows that free speech is not a big problem online.

Even though there is still negative language online, positive language has more power than negative. Free-speech expert Adam Thierer states, “Positive speech is the best way to drown out hate speech.” A teenager named Molly started a group about stopping hate speech. As they go through sites online and find something mocking to people, they contact the organizer to shut down the site. With all her positive comments, she has been able to make a difference. People can express what they think and feel on social media, which can lead to better things. Thierer said, “When advocacy groups work together and use the new technology at their disposal, they have a way of signaling out bad speech and bad ideas.” If a group speaks out online, they will most likely be able to get rid of bad language online and can interact better with people.

From Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites
  • 65% of people reported feeling better about themselves online.
  • 58% of teenagers experienced that teenagers felt close together to one another online.
Unfortunately, for negative language online, the “First Amendment provides broad protection to offensive, repugnant and hateful expression.” But the First Amendment also gives people the right to say good things online. There are more good things online than bad, so fewer people are getting harassed or bullied than people think. Free speech should not be limited just because there are mean words online; people still should be able to say whatever they want.

Conclusion: November 14 2013

Thank you everybody for reading and posting comments on this blog, I really enjoyed reading and replying to them. My argument was that having free speech online is great and there should be no limits. People should be able to write and post whatever they want online. After reading the comments on this blog, however, my view on free speech online has changed a little bit. Even though positive speech is powerful and can takeover the negative speech, I do agree that some hate speech can be pretty awful. Although it can be protected by the First Amendment, there will still be a lot of hate speech online. I said that free speech was okay because a very low percentage of people are getting harassed or cyberbullied (only 15 percent), but that is actually a really large amount of people. Far more people have positive experiences online, but because people focus more one negative side, as it said on the comment, it is hard to ignore them. Even though my opinion changed a little bit, I still think free speech online is okay. I think instead of just posting mean, cruel, or other things online, people should definitely think before they post, and consider if it is too harsh or not. While I was replying to the comments, I saw some more news about cyberbullying incidents caused by free speech online. The news that I saw changed my argument a little bit. Overall, the blogging process was very fun, being able to share ideas with people without sharing names. I liked how we shared our opinion through this blog and comments and changed the argument of mine.


  1. I am a huge advocate of free speech, too, but feel very troubled when I read mean-spirited or bullying posts online, or blatant untruths that are meant to spread hatred or even crimes. Do you think there should ever be language or images NOT allowed online? Or websites shut down because their language is too provocative? This post has me thinking about people who post instructions on how to build homemade weapons, commit suicide, harm others, cheat, exploit minors, etc. Offline, we do have some limits on free speech, such as yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, slandering others, etc. Thank you for posting this. It provides much to consider.

    1. Hi. Thank you for reading this blog. I personally think that every language and images should be allowed online. I believe that people should write and post whatever they want online because they are just expressing what they feel and they have the right to do so. However, if the language and images are very mean, hateful, offensive, or inappropriate, instead of shutting the website, the website should suspend the user accounts or others, such as to charge them for felony. I think shutting down the website for provocative language is too extreme.

  2. I think that, yes, positive speech can be powerful, but I think that a lot of the time hate speech can be even more powerful. I think it's a lot easier to focus on the negative rather than the positive, and with us being constantly surrounded by the media, it's a bit hard to avoid coming into contact with cyberbullying in some form. I think more teens need to be educated on where the line is between free speech and cyberbullying.

    1. Hello Thing3. Thank you leaving a comment, I appreciate your opinion. I totally agree that it is a lot easier to focus on the negative rather than the positive and it is hard to avoid when you see them, but there are actually a lot more positive side online in the world than the negative. People see a lot of negative side because people just don't usually notice or focus much of the positive side because it doesn't shock them or interest them. I think instead of people only focusing on the negative side, they should also focus on the positive and they will know most of the speeches online are not bad. I also agree with you that teenagers should be educated where the line is between free speech and cyber bullying. Just because free speech is allowed online, it does not mean they can cyber bully people. Thank you so much for reading this blog.

  3. I really liked your blog. I was wondering in paragraph 2, when you said that people saw bad behavior once in a while, what that means. How often is once in a while? And when you say that 15 percent of people got harassed online, and regard that as not a lot, that really is a lot of people. fifteen percent may be a low percentage, but think of how many people use the internet...if these people are lead to suicide or depression, that is too many people. But on the other hand, I can really appreciate the fact that all the positive speech can drown out the negative. Still, I do think that there is too much negative speech online. Good job on your blog.

    1. Hi. Thank you for reading this blog, I really appreciate it. When I said once in a while, I meant that bad behaviors are not so often online as people think. People usually see more bad behaviors than good because people easily get attention towards bad side rather than the positive side. And I do agree that 15 percent of people getting harassed is a lot, but compare to 85% of people who are not getting harassed, it is pretty little. There are more people in the world who are not getting harassed than they do. Thank you for sharing your opinion.


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