Should Internet Speech Be Restricted
For several weeks, the Islamic world has expressed outrage over an American-made film which denigrates the prophet Muhammad. The film’s director, who has a reputation for hating Muslims, inaccurately portrayed Muhammad as “a fraud, a womanizer, and a child molester,” (Santana) and posted the film on YouTube. After the film was dubbed in Arabic and viewed by millions, widespread violence occurred throughout the Middle East and resulted in the deaths of the American Ambassador to Libya, three other Americans who worked at the United States Consulate in Bengazi, and over fifty other individuals. The violence also stirred debate in America over whether Internet speech should be restricted, given that one cannot control into whose hands it might fall or for what political purposes it might be used. The Internet is a highly effective tool for individuals to spread their ideas to millions of people; even ideas which are hateful and false. In the United States, ideas, even those which are hurtful or purposefully inaccurate, are not censored, and this policy should be continued. Censoring speech on the Internet would be contrary to the fundamental principle of freedom of expression which is at the foundation of American democracy.
The concept of freedom of expression is deeply rooted in the country’s legal traditions. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution governs free speech and provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” On numerous occasions, the Supreme Court has addressed whether the government has the right to control speech. Although
it has ruled that some speech, such as child pornography and fraudulent advertising, is not protected, the right to free speech and expression is not usually limited. In cases where the Supreme Court has limited free speech, the government was concerned with immediate public safety; the government seeks to protect...
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