Freedom of speech has been a very controversial topic throughout the course of history. In the modern era, there is more liberty for people to air out their thoughts but there are still numerous complaints and scenarios where the freedom is still being suppressed. No known society has successfully implemented the situation of entirely absolute free speech. Almost all freedom of speech scholars and activists emphasize that freedom of speech cannot be absolute whether in theory or practice.
Despite the fact that they all agree on the importance of freedom of speech, they also argue that unlimited freedom of speech might lead to the spread of hate speech, offending other peoples dignity and making the false statement.
Hate speech should never be considered or tolerated in the disguise of free speech. Although the government have put in place measure to counter hate speech, some individuals or groups break the law. It has very devastating impacts of the lives of the people and also pose a risk to their health and safety.
It is dangerous and causes divisions among communities and also hampers the social development in the fight against discrimination (Waldron, 2012). Left unmonitored, it can lead to a genocide as witnessed in Rwanda in the 1990’s where an estimated half a million to one million citizens were brutally murdered (Yanagizawa-Drott, 2014). Although the freedom of speech is an important value, it should never be allowed to outweigh the human rights of other people especially their right to live.
Freedom of speech can lead to another person being offended. Freedom of speech can easily conflict with other peoples human rights. As an example, the disparagement of and individual constitutes a direct violation of human dignity. This may have a direct impact on someone’s reputation thus raising the need to regulate defamation. For example, a Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson was awarded 4.5 million dollars after successfully suing Bauer Media for publishing defamatory articles on her (Davidson, 2017). The essence of defamation law is basically to regulate expressions that might arise which may affect someone’s reputation without any justification.
Presenting false evidence should not allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Many people might give false information under different circumstances. The given information might have a undesirable effects. Despite the fact that it is a felony and has serious consequences, numerous witnesses present false evidences against the accused in legal proceedings with the aim of preventing justice (Gudjonsson, 2011).
They achieve this through destroying or planting evidence, perjury and forgery. This may lead to people being wrongfully sentenced. For example, a man by the name Valentino Dixon has been set free after spending 27 years in prison for a murder crime he did not commit where there were three witness and no physical evidence (Reilly & Lan, 2018). This man’s life has been destroyed despite the fact that he did not commit the crime. This clearly shows how the freedom of speech and expression is easily abused.
Although freedom of speech is a universal human right, it can lean to undesirable consequences such as hate speech and incitement, upsetting other people and giving false evidences in the court of law. It can lead to genocides, defamation and wrongful convictions. Freedom of speech should have a limit for the wellbeing of the society. It should be everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they do not misuse their freedom of speech.
- Davidson, H. (2017). Rebel Wilson wins $4.56m damages from Bauer in a record libel settlement. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/sep/13/rebel-wilson-wins-more-than-45m-in-damages-from-bauer-media
- Gudjonsson, G. H. (2011). False confessions and correcting injustices. New Eng. L. Rev., 46, 689.
- Reilly, E., & Lan, T. (2018). Wrongfully convicted man free after 27 years. Retrieved from https://www.wkbw.com/news/freedom-man-wrongfully-convicted-behind-bars-for-27-years-set-free
- Waldron, J. (2012). The harm in hate speech. Harvard University Press.
- Yanagizawa-Drott, D. (2014). Propaganda and conflict: Evidence from the Rwandan genocide. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(4), 1947-1994.