Free speech is as American as apple pie, at least it was in 1791 when states ratified the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting constitutional protections, in general, to popular and unpopular speeches. against unjustified government intrusion. Over time, after the ratification of the First Amendment, the United States Supreme Court developed some narrow exceptions to the constitutional right to freedom of expression, recognizing freedom of expression as a basic and fundamental right guaranteed to all Americans. As a result, Americans have historically enjoyed the strongest speaking rights of any population in the world, an essential part of American identity that we should appreciate and be proud of.After the assassination of French professor Samuel Paty for his critical cartoon drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, the French government has again come under fire for selectively promoting freedom of expression for some of their citizens and not for others, which has earned criticism of civil rights. human rights defenders and organizations.
Although France is hardly a model of freedom of expression in the world given its internal challenges, the current crisis of French freedom of expression forces us to engage in self-reflection and ask ourselves a question. important and timely: what is the current state of free speech in America today?
In danger, I would say, and I believe the Internet is a driving force behind this threat to free speech in America. Over the years, the internet, especially social media platforms, has selectively censored political speech, supposedly due to public pressure, using unpopular (not mainstream) speech, or alternatively, extreme forms of speech, such as hate speech, to justify their censorship practices. and mitigate negative public reactions in response to such censorship. This has opened the door for social media platforms to ‘check the facts’ and censor political speeches on issues that are not technically considered hate speech, such as human rights, guns and crime. political candidates. Such censorship would likely be declared unconstitutional if done by the government.
Although private entities like social media companies are generally exempt from the First Amendment since the First Amendment applies to government, these restrictions on political speech are made on some of the most important and most important online news sources. popular, are designed, I believe, for a culture of contempt and contempt for free speech, and ultimately, the acceptance by Americans of more restrictions on free speech in the future, which many too many Americans, I believe, have come to accept. Indeed, a cursory research of political discourse on speech issues in American newspapers in the past few weeks only suggests that this is the case. American Journalists Recently Said Americans Are “Rethinking” freedom of expression, that the standards of freedom of expression “are in danger” and “maybe that is a good thing”, and that “belief in freedom of expression is rapidly eroding in the United States” This is of serious concern and raises the question of why some Americans would agree to restrict such a basic, fundamental and revolutionary right like freedom of speech.
In a healthy democracy where freedom of expression is respected, it is the “market for ideas”, or competition for ideas, and not the Internet, Facebook or Twitter, that should determine which ideas and arguments prevail over others, what is the real news versus the fake news, and what is reality versus fiction. Efforts by social media platforms and other online news sources to selectively censor the content of political speeches not only run counter to the spirit of free speech, which is to encourage a open political discourse and debate, fostering the growth of knowledge and independent thinking and judgment. in society, they open the door to complacency regarding free speech and the acceptance of greater restrictions on speech in the future, unless Americans, collectively, are willing to oppose such efforts.
Just as the police are on the front line of public security and the military on the front line of defense and national security, we, the people, are at the forefront of our rights and the Constitution. To fend off the current threat to our speech rights, Americans, collectively, must develop an awareness of their constitutional rights. Awareness of our constitutional rights begins with knowing what our constitutional rights are as Americans. As for freedom of expression, it is a basic and fundamental right, not a privilege, which is guaranteed to all Americans, subject to a few narrowly tailored exceptions. Awareness of our constitutional rights also means recognizing the various ways and means by which our speech activities may be threatened, barring explicit government censorship. It also means exercising the highest level of skepticism about speech that encourages restrictions on political speech. It also means fighting against intrusions into freedom of expression, not for freedom of expression, but because we understand that freedom of expression is vital for a vibrant democratic society and that it is part of what makes us Americans.
Noor Fawzy is a lawyer and former candidate for the Town of Coral Springs commission.