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Free Speech for a Price

Updated on February 14, 2018

Seven Times in which Speech is Not Protected

When I was first asked the question "Should our right to free speech ever be restricted?" My knee jerk reaction was something like "No, America is a free country." But upon researching the topic I realized that there are certain times when one's freedom of speech is restricted, and rightfully so, for instance it is not unlawful to yell "fire" in the mall when there is not actually a fire. This example of speech restriction does not directly present an impediment to our right to free speech but instead protects our freedom to have a peace of mind wherever we are.

Free Speech "Conditions Apply"
Free Speech "Conditions Apply"

Hate Speech

In fact there are seven instances in which freedom of speech is not protected under the constitution. Hate speech is not protected under the First Amendment if it is violent in nature, or direct. Hate speech is defined as speech directed at a specific group that is derogatory or violent in nature. Secondly inciting violence is not legal which I believe makes it illegal for someone to go around striking fear or threat of violence into people.

"Material Support" for Terrorist Groups

A third interesting area not protected by our First Amendment right to free speech is material support for terrorist organizations. Material support is defined as training, giving expert advice or assistance, and providing personnel. Although it seems obvious why it should be illegal to give support to terrorist groups some rights groups believe it violates the First Amendment saying that things like donating money and passing literature even when intended to promote lawful and nonviolent activities can be criminalized. I believe the definition of what constitutes terrorism may be the issue with this exception to the law as it leaves ambiguity to the rule. However I definitely agree that supporting terrorist groups whether foreign or domestic should be outlawed as they are.

Defamation, Libel, and Slander

Defamation is not protected under the first amendment which I believe is a good thing because if it were anybody could write or say anything about anybody regardless of if it is true or not. This would make deciphering what on the news is real and what is not even harder than it already seems to be sometimes. This restriction allows for us to get at least relatively accurate information from media. Slander and libel fall under this exception which makes it illegal to publish false claims about people or their personal lives.

Speech by Public Employees

Speech by public employees is sometimes not protected under the First Amendment. This pretty much gives employers the right to fire you if you make statements that are objectionable, this is one exception that I am really on the fence about. On one hand it makes sense that someone could lose their job for making hateful posts on Facebook but on the other, I do think you should be able to say pretty much whatever you want on social media without fear of losing your job and I believe that this allows people to be fired for simply saying something that his or her boss does not agree with regardless of how silly it may be. In conclusion I believe it should probably depend on your profession whether or not you can be fired for having opinions your employer disagrees with.

Intellectual Property

Publishing intellectual property that does not belong to you is not protected under the First Amendment. This is very fair in my opinion it allows people to take pride in their own work and makes it illegal for people to steal credit. It also makes it illegal to publish or share trade secrets or confidential information which is very important to maintaining our security and economy.


True threats are not protected under the First Amendment. Threatening someone is putting them in fear of physical violence and I believe it is obvious why this is outlawed. I completely agree with this exception, people should not be able to go around threatening people and making them scared for their lives.


Writing this blog has really opened my eyes to the times when it is important for free speech to be restricted sometimes. When I first started researching I believed free speech should never be restricted but after I did some reading I realized it makes sense that people can not go around threatening people or selling other people's ideas as their own. I am glad for the restrictions to free speech we have as I believe they make the United States a better and safer place to live.


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