The issue of freedom as an integral component of a democratic society arises periodically and provokes disputes. Despite the implementation of relevant laws and regulations that classify the range of available freedoms and the responsibility borne by residents, difficulties and misunderstandings still exist. One of the topical aspects of modern democracy is the freedom of speech expressed in an ability to come up with personal ideas and the lack of restrictions on the right of expression through publicity. Nevertheless, there are frequent cases of legal proceedings related to the violation of this attribute of modern society and caused by discontent in connection with the adoption of controversial laws.
This paper is aimed at describing some of the current trends in the judicial sphere regarding the issue of freedom of speech. Also, the relevant legislation will be considered, which is directly related to the issue described, and an individual court case will be analyzed. The relevance of the chosen topic is due to the significant resonance that, as a rule, various hearings about the violation of the freedom of speech cause. Moreover, some existing bullying laws are a significant threat to democracy. Therefore, the analysis of this issue and the assessment of the existing legislative framework are the important tasks of modern democratic forces.
The coverage of issues related to the freedom of speech and the limitations imposed by some official documents is reflected in academic literature. Gelber and McNamara (2015) consider such controversial and ambiguous legal regulations as hate speech laws. According to the authors, these acts do not exist in the United States due to the First Amendment that guarantees people the protection of personal interests and, in particular, the freedom of self-expression (Gelber & McNamara, 2015).
However, when using the example of Australian cases, it is possible to note the dangerous nature of such practices that encourage racist and discriminatory statements. Gelber and McNamara (2015) note that “harassment, intimidation, fear, discrimination, and violence” are the consequences of the dangerous policy of encouraging hate speech laws (p. 634). Therefore, various arguments are made to support the rejection of bullying regulations.
Petrina, Mathison, and Ross (2015) focus their attention on the manifestations of inadequate solutions in the academic environment and remark that the cases of bullying laws and “fixed boundaries on speech” take place (p. 62). Despite the natural opportunities of personal beliefs in a scholarly environment, the authors are convinced that many educational establishments suppress the freedom of expression deliberately (Petrina et al., 2015).
Anti-bullying laws promoted by the members of the academic community may not have enough power if government boards do not listen to the opinions of stakeholders. Accordingly, those practices of protecting the freedom of speech, which are the means of expressing natural professional interests, largely depend on the degree to which official legal agencies are interested in observing the law.
Laws and Regulations
Among all the legislative acts associated with the regulation of the freedom of speech, the First Amendment, which is an act of federal significance, is the most important law. Following the country’s official jurisdiction, the Supreme Court defines citizens’ constitutional right to express personal will “without government interference or regulation” (Cornell Law School, 2017, para. 3). In other words, this regulation confirms that a person cannot be held administratively or criminally liable for publicly expressing his or her views if they do not contradict the norms of morality and ethics.
However, this law does not provide full and unconditional impunity for those who intend to express any belief in public. According to the First Amendment, if certain calls for the breach of the peace or extremist remarks occur, it is the basis for taking counteractions by the representatives of the law (Cornell Law School, 2017). Therefore, this act cannot be called unconditional, and some conventions are to be taken into account.
An example of a trial involving claims for the violation of the freedom of speech and expression is the case called Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus (2014). To resolve the situation, this lawsuit was considered by the Supreme Court. Susan B. Anthony List demanded that Mr. Driehaus who she said had voted for sponsoring abortions should have been brought to justice. The defendant, in turn, denied the validity of this claim.
The plaintiff argued that the law on the freedom of speech had been violated, which was one of the reasons for her going to court. Ultimately, through trials and the assessment of both parties’ claims, the court ruled that the unauthorized management of people’s opinions is unacceptable since it contradicts the principles of democracy. This decision seems justified because, despite any requirements regarding the personal freedom of speech, the forms of expression should not contradict the ideas of legal society. Therefore, the outcome of the case in question is logical and justifiable from a juridical point of view.
When analyzing the current legislative practice about the issue of the freedom of speech, it is possible to conclude about the relevance of this topic and the frequent resonances that it causes. Based on the literature review conducted, the assessment of the existing legislation, and the study of an individual legal proceeding, one can state about guarantees provided by the official authorities to the public. Respect for the principles of freedom of speech is the integral component of a democratic society and modern principles of jurisdiction.
Cornell Law School. (2017). First Amendment. Web.
Gelber, K., & McNamara, L. (2015). The effects of civil hate speech laws: Lessons from Australia. Law & Society Review, 49(3), 631-664. Web.
Petrina, S., Mathison, S., & Ross, E. W. (2015). Threat convergence: The new academic work, bullying, mobbing and freedom. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, 24, 58-69.
Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U.S. (2014).