The Limitations of Free Speech


Freedom of Speech, it’s the first part of
the first amendment. And it means I’m allowed to say whatever
I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. Right? Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones
of the America and has since been adopted by countless other countries. But it’s also one of the most misunderstood,
and let’s face it, abused rights that we have. So today, let’s take a look at what the
First Amendment actually says and what Freedom of Speech actually is… “Congress shall make no law… abridging
the freedom of speech” Seriously, that’s the entire thing. The first amendment contains five rights,
and this is all it has to say about freedom of speech. So that’s it right? End of video. You can say whatever it is you want. No. Not even close. While you are afforded the ability to say
99.9% of whatever you want to say, wherever and whenever. It’s that .1% of things that people often
misunderstand and think they are protected against, when they’re not. If you just look at the ten words in the constitution
that afford you the right to free speech, you would think there would be no rules. But there are. The prime example everyone brings up is that
you’re not allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded theater or “bomb” at an airport. Why not? Because you’re inciting a panic that may
itself cost the lives of more people than an actual fire or bomb. So it’s against the law. Now let’s look at lying. Most of the time, lying is okay. The dog farted. I finished my homework. I love you too. You know, the standard stuff. We all know it’s bad but for the most part,
you’re allowed to do it. Except when you aren’t. Like when you’re on the witness stand and
you’ve sworn to tell the truth. That’s perjury. Or if you’re being questioned by the police,
if you’re caught lying, that’s obstructing justice. Those are pretty obvious examples that most
people know about though. If you’ve been following any of the recent
Youtube drama, first of all shame on you. But you’re also probably aware of the recent
wave of false rape and pedophile allegations made against some pretty famous youtubers. Is calling someone a pedophile within your
first amendment rights? Only if they actually are one – and have
been either legally convicted or medically classified as one. The same goes for calling someone a sociopath
or psychopath, another favorite word youtubers like to throw at each other. Or when your angry ex goes around telling
people you have aids. You’re not protected by freedom of speech
if you are lying about someone’s mental health, criminal background, or medical status. This is called slander if you say it and libel
if you write it. And while it won’t land you in jail, you
can be sued in civil court for defamation of character. Freedom of speech does not protect you against
falsely accusing someone of a crime or spreading lies about someone in order to hurt them socially
or professionally. On the topic of hurting people, you’re also
not allowed to actually say you are going to hurt someone. Duh. Threatening statements are criminally illegal,
even if you’re joking. In 2013, a League of Legends player names
Justin Carter made a facebook post where he said he was going to shoot up a kindergarten
and eat their still beating hearts… lol jk. He was arrested and charged with terroristic
threatening, and as of this video, is still awaiting trial – two and a half years later. He could face up to 8 years in prison if convicted. Many people have claimed this was just a sarcastic
joke taken out of context and that his charges are an infringement on freedom of speech. Threats are not protected under freedom of
speech… but since he has not been convicted, I cannot tell you whether this is a joke or
not. I leave that for the judge and jury to decide. Most of these laws were written before the
days of the internet. The days of being anonymous on the internet
are long gone. You are accountable for what you say and can
very easily be tracked down. Think long and hard about anything you want
to post. Posting a threat on the internet is now no
different than if you were to say it to the person’s face in a school hallway. Which is a nice segue into cyberbullying and
online harassment. Recently, Youtube updated its terms of service,
saying that harassment, cyberbullying, and negative or hurtful statements about other
users will no longer be allowed and could lead to videos being removed or channels being
shut down. Which has caused many large youtube channels
to get out their torches and pitchforks saying that this is a violation of free speech. Again, let’s take a look at the first amendment. “Congress shall make no law… abridging
the freedom of speech.” The first amendment protects you from the
government infringing on your freedom of speech. Youtube is a private company providing a mostly
free service to users who must agree to their terms in order to use their platform. They are completely within their right to
say what is and is not allowed on their website. Private companies are allowed to set their
own rules regarding the speech of people who use their service or work for them. When you click “I agree” on all of those
website terms and conditions or sign an employment contract or endorsement deal, there is almost
always something in there regarding what you’re allowed to say. If you are a vegan who works at a restaurant
and you tell every customer who orders a steak that they are evil baby cow murderers… you
are not protected from losing your job by freedom of speech. If you host an afternoon cooking show or own
a basketball team and decide to use the n-word a few dozen times in public, your employer
or advertisement deals are within their rights to cut business ties with you. Freedom of Speech protects you from the government
throwing you in jail – unless you say one of the few things I mentioned earlier. It does not protect you from the social and
professional consequences of saying whatever you want. Which brings us to everyone’s favorite posterchild
for freedom of speech, the Westboro Baptist Church. While they say some of the most awful things
ever uttered by man, they don’t break any of the previously mentioned laws. If they had some sort of endorsement deal,
they could lose it. If they were on private land while protesting
a funeral, they could be arrested for trespassing. But there is nothing preventing them from
saying the things they say. Can they say “thank god for Orlando” or
“god hates –insert epithet here-?” As horrible as it is, yes they can. But have they ever said “We’re going to
go shoot up a gay night club… lol jk?” The next time you choose to say or post something,
stop and ask yourself: “Would the Westboro Baptist Church get away with saying this?” If the answer is no… you may want to rethink
hitting that send button… along with a few of your other life choices… Freedom of speech gives us a wide range of
things we’re allowed to say. There are a very few things we can be put
in jail for saying. A few more things we can be sued or fined
for saying. And a lot of things that we can lose our reputations,
careers, and privileges for saying. I cannot stress this enough, the first amendment
protects you from the government in most cases. It is not a magic “just kidding” button
you can hit whenever you say something that lands you in hot water. The next time you want to exercise your right
to free speech, I hope you take a second to think about what you’re about to say, because
now, you know better.

79 thoughts on “The Limitations of Free Speech”

  1. Such a fundamentally misunderstood right. I can't count the number of times I've seen a video where it's being cited incorrectly or where it's lead some to the belief that they hold the right to not be offended. Great Video

  2. …75…76…77…78….can you flip the pillow over, I needsess, I musssssst count the dotsses my precioussssssss dotsssesss
    I always tended to remember "You can't yell Fire in a crowded theatre" example.  As always, you re-educate me, and somewhere in my head a brain cell get's overwritten.

  3. I am not American so what does the American constitution say about "hate speech" and using slurs against social groups? Does the constitution also protect hate speech?

  4. As a future police officer, I'm sure I'll learn everything I need to when the time comes, but until then, I have a question I hope you have the time to answer for me.
    If you abuse your freedom of speech in most establishments, obviously, the management has the ability to deny you service and have you removed from their business.

    But what about instances where one is, for the sake of an example, in public transit like a subway – A finite area where they cannot as easily just remove themselves from the situation. Assume someone on said subway is homosexual, or perhaps muslim, and they are being yelled at, cursed at, and having bigotry tossed at them, are there laws to protect their civil liberties and the social discord this could cause? To my understanding, one has to be threatened for it to become criminal, or if their property is damaged in any way. So they have to justifiable cause to feel 'threatened'.

    But, even if the person verbally assaulting them does not directly threaten them, can you imagine being a timid person or female who is too afraid to speak up or genuinely believe that speaking out against this type of verbal abuse would provoke the hostile party into physically retaliating? When someone is aggressively calling you a 'faggot' or 'terrorist' within these confined public spaces, just how much does the law do to ensure protection from this kind of harassment? As I mentioned, I plan to be a police officer, but I've not yet entered college for my criminology degree nor attended the police academy just yet. The first and only thing that comes to mind that, is that they could possibly be to charge them with disorderly conduct. But for the individuals themselves, when faced with this kind of scenario, are there more laws to protect them from going through this sort of humiliation, and is there any justifiable time when out of intimidation that makes them feel their safety is at stake, allow them to retaliate for self defense?

  5. I didn't think free speech included an audience. For example, if YouTube took down a video for hate speech, then the youtuber sues for violation of his/her free speech rights…YouTube isn't actually violating their rights, they can still say all the things they said in their video, they're just not being granted a free audience. The fact that you have freedom of speech rights doesn't mean anybody or any company is required to promote, distribute, broadcast or sponsor whatever it is you have to say. You can say it at home ALL you like.

  6. Free speech doesn't have limitations. You've merely identified some things which are not part of the definition of free speech in the first place. I mean, how can you actually argue that a right is limited while still calling it a right? Is the illegality of murder a limitation on the right to liberty? The answer is, of course it isn't. Murder is outside the definition of liberty in the first place. Just the same, the illegality of incitement or true threats is not somehow a limitation on free speech.

  7. From one YouTube channel to another thank you so much I have dealt with so much bullying and harassing my number was released my address was released and nothing was ever done about it I had to track down the perpetrator myself all across the United States in California I am so thankful for you to changing the rules but the bullying continues and YouTube continues to not respond to my Flags I've got no emails so when I posted a video clearly stating he forfeited his right to keep where he lived a secret and all I did was released the city and state and YouTube removed my video I'm still waiting to hear about my Appeals but thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank

  8. It says CONGRESS may make no laws restricting freedom of speech. It says nothing about non-governmental entities restricting it. Businesses CAN restrict your speech if it hurts their public image, or profitability or well-functioning of their employees. Private schools are based on contract law, not constitutional law, so they can also limit your speech rights.

  9. You can say anything you like. That doesn't absolve you from the consequences of what you say. You are not entitled to a platform, or to be taken seriously. If what you say offends people, those people are free to say that they are offended. Freedom of speech (or better, of expression) includes the right to register collective disapproval of speech by legal, non-violent forms of protest, such as picketing, demonstrations, boycotts, etc.

    Excluding speakers from university campuses because of their views is more problematic. There is a Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH) that tries to push for on-campus debate with Holocaust deniers; we (I'm a Holocaust historian) don't engage with them because there is nothing to debate. They are not acting in good faith, they are not interested in real debate, they just want to recruit followers. They are free to speak; we are not obliged to pay attention to them or waste our time on them.

    However, the reasonable principle of not giving disreputable people a platform is abused when people like Bill Maher or Ayaan Hirsi Ali are disinvited from campuses. This is by no means a left-wing issue: back in the day, Betrand Russell was invited to speak at Colombia, but was denied an entry visa on the grounds that he was a "Communist sympathizer". Yes, folks: back in the McCarthy era, there was a massive assault on freedom of speech from the right that makes little campus protests here and there look like kid stuff.

    To the left: picket, protest, petition, boycott, but don't exclude speakers or shout them down just because you disagree with them.

  10. You went through those points too fast and it would have been helpful if you used a powerpoint type support to people could see and hear your points. I wish you would do this video again with those suggestions.

  11. i like how you mix in bullshit with some truth, so that when people calls out your bullshit, you can just point to the truth and say look, i didn't lie.

  12. Yes the 1st amendment protects you from Congress (and recently from state and local governments and their employees as well) and doesn't protect you from private companies, you failed to mention a key point. Private companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter often get subsidies and tax cuts for being politically neutral. Some people think that if the government can't infringe on your freedom of speech, then it can't send your tax dollars to fund someone (company) who does. This is similar to the complaint against the Boy Scouts of America being allowed to use government campuses to meet without paying the fees that others pay. BSA is(was) a Christian organization and the ACLU complained that taxpayer money was partly subsidizing a religious organization. Many people now are concerned about partial subsidies going to organizations that inhibit free speech.

  13. I just wanna say there is nothing wrong with being a sociopath. While we may lack in interpersonal skills, we do excel in decision making. A good example of this was a study by Dr.iforgotthename in which subjects were told to decide which set of tracks a train traveled but each choice resulted in loss of human life. For instance 1-a one infant 1-b two middle-aged people, 2-a subjects own mother 2-b a doctor of equal age to subjects mother and so forth. The point of the study was to see who could act the quickest on behalf of the greater good with less degradation of sanity and sociopaths came out on top

  14. I appreciate how you express complicated ideas and cultural misconceptions. Thank you for taking an interest in improving peoples understanding of what is happening around them. You are a credit to us NAVY guys. Aloha

  15. I will use my YouTube User Agreement Right to express myself via comment to politely and non-threateningly express my extreme gratitude for having a thoughtful and well researched YouTube show.

    If I were some vile internet troll, who thinks the First Amendment applies to everything, I would lash out and viciously point out that your videos have crappy editing, bad lighting, and terrible sound.

    But, I'm not that mean. 😉 Your content more than makes up for any shortcomings. Plus I see the videos get better as they go along.

    If you ever want some help with editing, and/or if you ever happen to be in Michigan, reach out. I'd love to make a video with you!

    Keep up the good work!

  16. Right off the bat you're wrong with the classic "crowded movie theater" example. It was never against the law. This example was based on a Supreme Court decision U.S. v Schenk where Oliver Wendell Holmes used this analogy in his dictum in that case over 90 years ago. It's important to note that that SCOTUS case was overturned over 40 years ago as unconstitutional. It's a BAD analogy. People need to stop using it.

    It's actually very simple. You can't knowingly incite measurable harm to other people with your speech. That covers all the perjury stuff, sharing government secrets, riling up protestors, etc. In fact that's generally what ALL the "negative" rights entail. The right to be left alone, so long as your actions don't harm others. That's the very essence of liberty and it's why America is so great and so unique.

    The reason this is an important Hard Line is because of other statement you made, that "many other countries" have adopted freedom of speech. That's simply not true. Though there are measures of free speech in many nations, there are numerous subjective limitations that can land you in jail. In Canada, you can be jailed for making offensive jokes. In the UK, you can be jailed for any statements deemed racist or sexist. In France, Islam is protected under anti-blasphemy laws. I'm not defending stupid, racist, or sexist speech, but it is highly important that it remains legal. Because there is no limiter to that slippery slope once the government is allowed to punish (or even compel) self-expression. Compelled speech is already on the books in Canada.

    America is the final bastion of free speech, and it must be protected at all costs. This is paramount.

    Edit: It's also not as simple as "Youtube has the right…" etc etc. As we speak there's a very legitimate discussion about whether these massive public forums ought to be considered public utilities, in which case application of free speech rule must be applied uniformly (for instance we've already seen a number of conservative voices purposefully silenced on these platforms). There are several trials in action currently.

  17. Hmmm. Posted 2 years before the banning of AJ. Funny thing is, even non-americans as myself can understand these things. How come some americans don't get it?

  18. Does freedom of speech have limitations?

    Yes and you should be glad it does.

    If it didn't, I could share confidential / private information. I could tell fire, or bomb in crowded areas. I could lie through my teeth about something I'm selling does. I could intimidate or threaten people without legal prosecution.

    Worryingly, even 2 years later, I see people crying "freedom of speech" when people have done some of those things.

  19. It is worth noting that the US Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that 1S Freedom of Speech protections are enforceable in any place designated as a "public forum" – whether said designation is applied externally (as with any publicly-accessible communal gathering location such as a local park or the playground of a public school) or self-defined. The latter is of particular import as most social media platforms have specifically put forth in their respective mission statements that they are to be a publicly-accessible 'forum' for the exchange of information and debate. Ergo, by their own admissions, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, et al are self-identified as public forums, thereby placing themselves under First Amendment protections for Freedom of Speech.

    PS ~ The US Supreme Court has also ruled several times that opening oneself up as a public forum is non-revocable; similar to offering intellectual property into the public domain is forever, so too is offering a particular venue up as a public forum.

  20. Whether or not someone is joking shouldn't be up to a judge and jury, this is just the count dankula thing again

  21. USA is probably the most liberal country for freedom of speech. In France, it’s forbidden to deliver racist or homophobic speechs, or to deny Holocaust. In 2014, french government stopped a comedian tour because he made antisemitic jokes !

  22. Great video. I'd add that jurisprudence via stare decisis has time, place and manner restrictions as well. Can end up in jail for mouthing off to a judge in court. You can also be in legal trouble if you use your speech to commit a crime like asking someone to punch someone else or worse.

  23. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR THIS! Gods I can't tell you how many times I've heard people whine about their freeedom of speech being infringed upon by employers or other random people without apparently realizing that "Freedom of speech" ONLY applies to government action, and even then has limits. I will link this video to everyone from now on. EVERYONE!

  24. Dude I love your work but am starting to wonder… I'm sure you said "long and hard" at least three times in this video. What are you trying to tell us?

  25. Actually YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google are not just 'private' companies. They're Big Tech Oligopolies monopolizing all forms of communications including social media supressing, throttling, censoring dissident voices and political speech in general. P.S.: The Bill of Rights doesn't just apply to the federal government. It also applies to corporations since big companies are taken to court at the time for rights abuses. For example that's why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos isn't allowed to own slaves.

  26. Freedom of Speech isn't just a law protecting you from the government, it's also a moral principle – the idea that a person shouldn't face discrimination or retribution for voicing their opinion. A good example of this principle is the Charlie Hebdo massacre – even though it wasn't done by the French government, those murders were an attack on the principle of freedom of speech. Your government is not the only entity that can oppress you for your views – if you're fired, threatened, or attacked for saying something, then you were never free to say it. Verbal abuse, threats, and direct calls for violence are clearly different from the expression of a personal opinion.

  27. Freedom of speech protects you being arrested for speech, unless it's obscene, it's sedition, your speech aids the enemies of the US, it's fighting words, it would cause a public disturbance, etc.

    Is there anything free speech actually protects at all?

  28. The issue of what private companies can, or cannot, allow you to say is a bit more complex than just: They're private, they can do whatever they want.
    It's a lot more than I care to get into on a YouTube post, but essentially when a company uses their platform (whether it is in the terms of service or not) to curtail the rights of some based on certain characteristics (including political affiliation) they run the risk of moving from "platform" to "publisher." While this is already in question due to demands from the public that companies like Twitter and Facebook take more personal responsibilities for harassment made on their platforms, it could also be brought about by their own actions. Becoming a publisher would allow them to ban anyone they wanted, but would also require a massive framework and an overhaul of their reporting systems to ensure that everyone was in compliance with their rules. Basically, the precedent of Supreme Court cases would make it much costlier for them to legally curtail free speech in favor of curated speech. Sure, the Bill of Rights protects us from government infringement, but many court cases have forced the hand of the judicial branch, requiring the government to lay down the law regarding things like "hate speech." Appealing to the First Amendment isn't sufficient anymore, and neither if disregarding it when declaring someone's speech as offensive and not protected.

  29. If anyone ever uses the "fire in a crowded" theater fallacy while talking about the legal limitations of freedom of speech: You can stop listening because they don't know what they're talking about.

  30. "censor" vs. "censure" The former is the government infringing your rights; the latter is society shunning and shaming you for being a terrible person. They sound the same, but they're two very different things. Lots of people who complain they're being "censored" are actually being "censured."

  31. Two types of speech you did not mention, both of which causes no harm to anyone:
    1) Speaking to someone about planning a murder (hiring someone to kill somebody without actually killing)
    2) Speaking to someone about engaging in prostitution (even when no prostitution actually happens)

  32. Conservatives be like: "corporations can do what they want!! They shouldn't be regulated!!"

    Then they be like: "why did you tube remove my channel for calling for a second holocaust?!?! Muh free speech!"

  33. Okay, wait, in Holmes' analogy of the fire cry in the crowded theater, how did you miss the premise that THERE IS NO FIRE? It's not a question of weighing out the harms done by telling the truth vs. not telling the truth. It's a question of where harm to the public outweighs our interest in allowing maliciously false speech. In Holmes' hypothetical, the fact that there is harm done (risk of a stampede), the fact that the statement is a lie told for a malicious purpose, AND the fact that the speech has no political content ALL combine to make it so that the government's interest in restricting the speech is legitimate. This is the balancing act that courts perform, and your discussion of it is very wide of the actual mark.

  34. You tube is a public forum at this fucking point show me someone under 60 that doesn’t use it they are ether lie in or in some flavor of cult

  35. It's a very dangerous thing when they begin censoring free speech thank God for YouTube Zuckerberg does not like the things people are saying and that's why he band Farrakhan when they destroy YouTube and make it censored that's the end of the voice of the people yes there's free speech only when you're saying what they want to hear

  36. It's the people who don't expect anything to happen from threatening to shoot up a school are the ones I worry about

  37. The 1st ammendment may not leagaly apply to internet platforms, but that does not make it any more right for platforms that claim to be for free speach, to be cencoring people based on their pollitical opinion.

  38. Regarding youtube and other on-line platforms and restricting speech. If they are a passive conduit for that speech (for example a cell phone signal carrier), they typically are not held liable for what goes over their site. However if they get involved in editing or controlling the speech on their site, they are acting as active publishers and can be held liable. It is not as straightforward as private property therefore they can control whatever is posted without redress. By allowing certain speech and not other speech (playing favorites), these tech firms open themselves up to fines, suits and regulation.

  39. Wrong, Freedom of Speech shouldn't have limitations, otherwise there's no point of calling it ""Freedom of Speech"".
    Ok I understand threatening, but harassment and trolling is just crossing the line. If you cannot take the criticism then you shouldn't be online at all! My wife is FOS and you all should respect her! It doesn't have to be this way guys! WE ARE NOT NORTH KOREA!!!

  40. unfortunately, the internet and social media gives us the power to say really stupid and insensitive things to millions of people simultaneously instead of just to a few friends chatting outside school, work, or our home.

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