The Instigator
Con (against)
14 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
28 Points

U.S. Free Speech vs. EU Free Speech

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Judge Point System: Select Winner
Started: 2/26/2016 Category: Society
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,257 times Debate No: 87283
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (126)
Votes (6)





I believe this debate arose from a hangout discussion in which I defended a pro-Europe position and in which Max noted his willingness to debate me on topic. I am, to be honest, quite excited and nervous about debating Max on this topic, and I am looking forward to a high quality back-and-forth. For however cute they are, Axolotls are pretty intimidating debaters.

I would ask Max not to accept until the afternoon of Feb 28th. Because this is a highly controversial, bias-prone topic, I have nominated several great judges to serve for this debate, namely, TUF, Proph, Raisor, Tej, DK, Whiteflame, Zaradi, Hayd, and Endark. Judges, by accepting their nominations, agree to disregard any preexisting opinions they may have whilst adjudicating the debate. If Max would like to strike anyone from this list or add anyone to it, he should PM me before accepting and we can discuss it. I am open to changes. The debate is 4 rounds, with 10,000 characters per round, and 3 days to post.

Full Topic

On balance, the U.S. approach to free speech is preferable to the European approach to free speech.


On balance - generally-speaking; or, with both good and bad considered
Approach - a method of dealing with something
Preferable - having greater desirability

About the Topic

This debate is not about individual laws or rulings (though these may be cited), but rather it is about a holistic assessment of the way two major world players, both largely Western, approach free speech as a broad socio-legal concept. Debaters should draw thematic contrasts between the two models in order to distinguish which model, generally-speaking, is more desirable.

For this debate, the U.S. model of free speech refers primarily to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well any currently valid precedent set by the Supreme Court around and about it and its application. The European approach to free speech primarily refers to Articles 10 and 11, Section 1, of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECvHR), and to relevant European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings around and about them and their application. European free speech will be confined to ECvHR member countries only. If debaters would like to talk about other legal structures regarding/grounding free speech, they can, and they may also debate the topicality of those other legal structures.


1. No forfeits
2. Citations should be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final speechs
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (challenging assumptions in the resolution)
7. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolutional definitions
8. For all undefined terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate (unless otherwise specified in R1)
9. The BOP is evenly shared; both debaters should affirm the desirability of their respective approaches
10. Pro must accept in R1 and must not present arguments, rebuttals, or debate summary in R4
11. Rebuttals of new points raised in one's adversaries immediately preceding speech may be permissible at the judges' discretion (debaters may debate their appropriateness)
12. Violation of any of these rules, or of any of the R1 set-up, merits a loss


R1. Pro's Case
R2. Con's Case; Pro generic Rebuttal
R3. Con generic Rebuttal; Pro generic Rebuttal and Crystallization
R4. Con generic Rebuttal and Crystallization; Pro waives

Thanks... Airmax for this debate; I have truly been looking forward to this debate for sometime, and I am eager to have an excellent and productive dialogue!


Before moving on to my opening statements about the debate itself, I'd like to thank Bsh1 for participating in this debate. I am sure it will be an interesting experience for each of us, and I hope it will be similarly interesting for anyone reading it.

This debate is the result of several conversations Bsh1 and I have had in google + hangouts that broadly touch on the subject of freedom of speech. Throughout these discussions, it become clear to us that, while our views may not be vastly different, there is enough divergence in our opinions that could make for an interesting debate.

The challenge of taking on a subject like this, with an opponent like Bsh1, concerns me for two major reasons. The first challenge being that the concept of freedom of speech is complex (in terms of properly defining these things, and understanding the scope of what is actually being discussed here), but ultimately very simple. For myself, and ideally, the culture in which I live, the value of liberty, and therefore by extension freedom of speech, is self evident and inherent. This means that for me, part of the challenge of taking the position that I am, is to very succinctly make the case for something that I believe is not just "truth", but so thoroughly ingrained culturally and personally, that it wouldn't be dissimilar to me trying to prove something like the health benefits of drinking water. In other words, it's so obvious to me that I realize I've become so complacent with the truth of my position, that I haven't considered critical thinking on the topic necessary for some time.

As an extension of that, the second challenge is that I respect Bsh1 as an intelligent person and an excellent debater. I know that even if he were taking a position that I believe is nearly impossible to support, which is what I believe he is doing here, that he would still be capable putting up a good challenge to the extent that he could very well win. So it is with that in mind that I cautiously take on this debate, and respectfully wish Bsh1 good luck.

So with that said, let's move on to making my case.

I went through several different drafts of this of various lengths, waxing poetically about the importance of freedom of speech, and each time that I read it, I felt that a lot of it was redundant and unnecessary. So ultimately, I believe that my case can be stated in the following sentence.

The risks to society for sanctioning speech, outweigh any benefit they might have.

The above statement assumes several things that I believe are out of the scope of this debate (there are naturally restrictions in the US, but those are the rare exception), so with that in mind, I believe this statement is consistent with western beliefs and values, and is also in direct conflict with my opponent's position.

To expand, I accept that there are risks to freedom of speech, some of which my opponent will have articulate, but ultimately, those risks are worth the benefits in all cases.

I believe that there is nothing worth silencing speech for. In other words, acquiescing to those that are offended by such speech, harms society to a greater extent than dealing with the consequences or risks of that offense. I do not believe there is a single example one can give where this isn't the case in either the US or Europe.

Since we've already excluded the non-applicable examples, I can confidently say therefore that there is no speech too damaging to society to allow, and no speech too dangerous for society to restrict. To the contrary, speech perceived to be the most dangerous, is often speech that is the most necessary, and restricting that speech is therefore inherently and directly damaging to that society.

Any society that is restricting freedom of speech for, what I believe will become the crux of this debate, avoiding offending groups of people through what is defined as "hate speech", is in fact acquiescing to fascism. This is not in some type of down-the-road theoretical way, but in a very direct way that concedes liberty out of fear, with immediate consequences.

To summarize, freedom of speech is entirely necessary in modern liberal societies. It is impossible to separate an ideal democracy, with the greatest allowance of speech possible, and any restrictions on freedom of speech, restrict freedom, liberty, justice, and democracy at every point of restriction. Sanctioning speech for anyone is therefore sanctioning freedom for everyone. The risks of freedom of speech is a low price to pay for the inseparable value it provides to free societies. We can always come up with excuses to restrict speech, but it will always be reactionary, or out of fear, and always ultimately lead to far worse consequences.

I hope to provide clear reasoning and examples for the above throughout this debate, and finally to show that European "hate speech" laws covered under the laws my opponent has cited for support, are arbitrarily applied, and aren't merely a slippery slope to tyranny, but show that Europe has already ceded to fascism, even if it has the best intentions.

Freedom of speech isn't just necessary, it's intrinsically inseparable from freedom, liberty and justice. Any watering down of this fundamental aspect, breaks the very foundations upon which freedom and liberty are built upon.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks, Airmax, for this debate! He's a formidable opponent, and I hope to present a worthy challenge. I will now present my case.


A. Intro

The world may be our oyster, but our rights are our shucking knives.

Okay, so I admit that's kind of a corny analogy (not even "kind of")...but it also effectively captures the utility that rights have. Without our rights, life and the opportunities it affords us, could not be explored or enjoyed effectively. Without them, we would be subject to such indignities as arbitrary arrests, unjustified seizure of our property, and intrusive surveillance of our homes and devices. Our rights empower us to not only enjoy what we have, but to pursue a better future, much like the knife that opens the oyster gives us a chance to discover the pearl inside.

We are, in fact, due many different kinds of rights, and it is important that we realize that no lone right or set of rights can be pursued to the exclusion of all others. Rather, all rights must be balanced against one another. To have safety without freedom, equality without property, or free speech without privacy would deny people an important share of the rights owed to them. It would be like having only half a knife.

In this vein, absolute free speech is something that very few endorse--even the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) does not go that far, preventing someone from falsely crying "fire!" in a crowded theatre. [1] Here, the conflict is between a fundamental right to safety and the right to free speech. What this shows us is that for any rights model to be desirable and workable (i.e. "preferable"), it must balance rights against each other to create a system that respects the integrity of a wide range of rights. The winner of this debate, therefore, will be the one who can show that their rights-model best situates and balances free speech among a pantheon of other rights and social goods.

B. Legal Structures

The key difference between the way the European model (EUM) and the US model (USM) are formulated lies in how they allow rights to interact. The USM employs very absolutist language in constructing its free speech rights, notably that Congress shall "make no law" that limits this right. [2] Given the categorical nature of this statement, as well as the First Amendment's primacy at the start of the Bill of Rights, a legal culture has developed in which it is harder to balance free speech against other rights. [14] While some balancing does take place, the courts must go through hoops to make their rulings comport with the strongly worded nature of the amendment. Because free speech is protected so strongly, it becomes inordinately difficult to put it on a scale of values. [3] In the EUM, however, there is a recognition that free speech needs to be balanced against many other important concerns. The ECvHR puts free speech among a variety of other rights, none of which use categorical phrasing, and many of which have stated exceptions. [4] This eases the burden on judges seeking to weigh the various interests at stake. Thus, the EUM is better able to avoid giving short shrift to other important rights in the face of free speech, while still respecting the goals and practice of free speech. Simply put, free speech in EUM is placed on a scale of values, which allows this model to better protect rights in general. [3]

C. Legal Methodology

To compare the systems more directly, we can note that "the Supreme Court has evolved a complex set of rules for deciding constitutional cases, especially those involving the application of the free speech clause of the First Amendment...The rules go by such names as 'strict scrutiny,' 'heightened scrutiny,' 'intermediate scrutiny,' and 'rational-basis review,'...The courts of the European Union, by contrast, follow a much simpler approach, known as 'proportionality.' They ask, Breyer explains, does 'the [regulatory] limitation' on private conduct 'impose a restriction that is disproportionate to the legitimate interests the governments seeks to achieve?' As Breyer points out, answering that question 'requires the judge explicitly to balance the harm to the protected interest (e.g., speech) against the need for the limitation to protect a critically important objective." [5] This passage, which reviews Justice Stephen Breyer's own scholarly work, is illuminating for several reasons.

The way the EUM has structured it's legal processes force it to balance various rights, social goods, and interests, and to do so unambiguously. This has various pedagogical benefits, in the sense that it reinforces and, in a sense, teaches, the importance of balancing rights within the legal system. It also is likely to impact the thinking behind legal rulings; rather than simply asking, does X pass test Y, justices can directly tackle the question of whether the values and interests trade-offs of X are worth it. Next, the gap in complexity between the two systems simply gives the EUM a procedural advantage--there is less theoretical red tape to work through to reach a decision. Lastly, the USM is so structured such that it is harder to strike a balance, because the assumption is always against violating a right, even if the trade-off would be beneficial, esp. for strict scrutiny. As Justice Clarence Thomas noted, "[t]his most exacting standard [of strict scrutiny] 'has proven automatically fatal' in almost every case." [6]

D. Levels of Freedom

So far, I have made two core arguments. The first stems from the basic law in which the rights involved are enshrined, i.e. the Constitution and the ECvHR. The second uses a question of procedure to make a similar point, but from a different angle, focusing instead on the methodology with which justice arrive at their verdicts. To contextualize these arguments and to endeavor to learn how the EUM and USM affect the state of free speech in their respective jurisdictions, I want to take a look at the broad levels of freedom in each area.

The Press Freedoms Index shows that a majority of topical European nations have scores that are better than America's score. The average for those European nations is also better than the U.S.--22.02 vs. 24.41, respectively (lower numbers are better)--with a medium of 19.95 among those European countries. [7] The World Freedom Index shows that the vast majority of European nations are "free"--the best rating. [8] In the Human Freedom Index Report, EU nations scored an average of 8.97 in "Personal Freedom," compared to the US's 8.71 (larger numbers are better). In the Freedom of Expression subcategory, EU nations scored an average of 8.7, a medium of 9.1, and a mode of 9.6, virtually comparable to the US score of 9.3. [9] And, Europe is heavily democratic; 9 of the world's top 10 democracies are in Europe, with the other being New Zealand. [10] The impact here is clear: Europe is a free and fair place to live.

E. Values

I estimate that many of the next speeches will include examples of balancing rights to see the approaches in practice. In order to better understand what rights free speech needs to be balanced against, we can look to one widely accepted list of basic human rights, which has been adopted by both the U.S. and supported by the EU: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [11] In order to emphasize the utility and importance of these rights, I will briefly review some.

The right to due process, for instance, is vital to ensuring that people aren't arbitrarily detained or punished, and that they have a fair chance to defend themselves. Property is similarly important; without it, there's no incentive to work--which damages the economy--we have less control over our personal spheres, and we have less ability to pursue our desires. Privacy is also key: "Friendship and intimacy would be impossible...without the ability to reveal oneself more fully to some people than to others...[B]y protecting the ability to have moments...when one can 'be oneself', privacy facilitates emotional release and promotes liberty of thought and action. This is in turn viewed as a vital precondition for meaningful participation in democratic society. Freedoms such as...freedom of expression lose much of their value if people do not first have the chance to learn to think for themselves." [12] Also, "'[i]t is the essence of the dignity and personal autonomy and wellbeing of all human beings that some aspects of their lives should be able to remain private if they so wish.'" [12] Privacy and reputation protections have a "serious impact on the ability of a person to engage in communicative processes...Accessibility and durability of information may lead to self-censorship and...persons may hesitate to act and to participate in social and public life, which...affects the development of democratic citizens." [13] This information should lay the groundwork for future analysis.

F. Conclusion

Happiness and self-actualization are life's pearls, but to get at them, people need the tools that rights are. Pursuing any right to the exclusion of all others is like only having half a knife, only half of the toolkit. There are a panoply of crucial rights, each enriching our lives in different, yet needed, ways and the EUM is best suited to handle that reality. Thank you for reading; I hope to earn your vote. Thus, I negate.

G. Sources

1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 - Richard Posner. "The Law of the Lands: How the U.S. Supreme Court Engages With the World." Rev. of The Court and the World, by Stephen Breyer. Foreign Affairs November/December 2015: p. 138-39. Print.
6 -
7 -!/
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -


I'd like to thank my opponent for this debate.


My opponent and I don't disagree here.

We also don't disagree that there are necessary limits. The whole crux of this debate though, is determining those limits, and based on what values those should be established. We certainly agree that the absolutist language used by the US first amendment is what distinguishes the US from Europe, and the only thing differentiating our opinions, is that I believe that the US language is far superior.

"The winner of this debate, therefore, will be the one who can show that their rights-model best situates and balances free speech among a pantheon of other rights and social goods."

This breaks it down perfectly.

In the US, we limit speech (fire in a crowded theater) that might cause very real harm through the use of speech. I already concede this in my opening and reasonable people recognize that there are always limits.

In Europe, speech that is limited is X.

What we need to get to in this debate is what is "X". I will do my best in this round to be specific, and show that not only is Europe not better off, not only aren't reasonable values being supported, but it's just outright absurd.

Legal Structures

My opponent and I don't disagree on this, with the exception of:

"Simply put, free speech in EUM is placed on a scale of values, which allows this model to better protect rights in general."

Again, as said above, we'll have to get to the particulars on this, which we'll get to soon.

Legal Methodology

My opponent and I again, don't disagree much on this.

The only divergence of our opinions is where I believe it's better that the US legal system has to bend over backwards to conform with the first amendment, in contrast to the European legal system, which simply has to strike down certain speech for whatever motivation is pressing at the time. We'll get into this further soon.

Levels of Freedom

This is a bit too abstract for me to reply to directly here, so I hope to touch on this broadly later.


Again, my opponent and I agree on all of this.


This is naturally where my opponent and I disagree.

"Pursuing any right to the exclusion of all others is like..."

I don't believe that this has been shown to be true in any way. The readers of this debate need to ask themselves, what right is being lost by having unlimited speech? What rights are being gained by limiting speech?


My opponent has very articulately made a case for something in his above round, but, perhaps because it is grounded in far too much abstraction, I honestly don't know what that case is aside from the value of weighing various rights. To be clear, I don't mean that as a slight to Bsh in any way, this is a complex debate and the legal formulations of these things themselves require a full textbook to really establish.

So with that in mind, I want to break this down in layman's terms as much as possible, and to provide real world examples of this contrast so that readers can make the evaluations themselves. Certainly these wont be all encompassing, but we are talking about the benefits of these two approaches, and the outcome is best shown in the way in which it actually effects the lives of the people in each system.

Hate Speech

Most of this is taken from the following article:

Hate speech is broadly left up to each member state of the EU's national laws, though all must comply with articles 14-17 of the ECHR. For example, the Polish Criminal Code criminalise individuals who intentionally offend religious feelings.

"Article 13 prohibits any programmes or activities that promote racial or national hatred....Television is restricted by the Broadcasting Act, which states that programmes or other broadcasts must “respect the religious beliefs of the public and respect especially the Christian system of values”

As you read the above example, and the ones to follow, keep your thoughts within the context of what is being debated here, and the way my opponent has framed this. We are indeed weighing the various values and assigning a hierarchy to them. So, in the above instance, not offending Christianity is placed above the ability to speak freely. Again, as we weigh these values, we can accept that these may be well meaning, but we should also consider its broader ramifications.

Other specific examples:

1) In 2010, two singers, Doda and Adam Darski, where charged in Poland with violating the criminal code for their public criticism of Christianity.

2) Singer Bob Dylan faces the possibility of prosecution for hate speech in France. The prosecutor’s office in Paris confirmed that Dylan has been placed under formal investigation by Paris’s Main Court for “public injury” and “incitement to hatred” after he compared the relationship between Croats and Serbs to that of Nazis and Jews.

3) The European Court of Human Rights ruled in a landmark judgment, Vejdeland v. Sweden, upholding the decision reached by the Swedish Supreme Court to convict four individuals for homophobic speech.

4) Germany pushed for the criminalisation of Holocaust denial, culminating in its inclusion from the 2008 EU Framework Decision... Full implementation of the Framework Decision was blocked by Britain, Sweden and Denmark, who were rightly concerned that the criminalisation of Holocaust denial would impede historical inquiry, artistic expression and public debate.

The article concludes:

"Hate speech legislation, particularly at European Union level, and the way this legislation is interpreted, must take into account freedom of expression in order to avoid disproportionate criminalisation of unpopular or offensive viewpoints or impede the study and debate of matters of historical importance."

With all of the above, I think that we can only ask ourselves in the context of how my opponent and I have laid out the crux of this debate, what values are being weighed by restricting any of the above?

On the one hand, you have speech possibly intended to offend, to deny historical claims, or to equivocate historical events, and on the other hand, you have value in contrast, that are intended to do what?

Put another way, we have the values of freedom of expression on one side, weighed against the values of being free not to be offended. Which value should be placed higher? I think this is ultimately where my opponent and I disagree.

What harm comes from any of the above aside from offending people? I think very little, and even offending people has minimal consequences - with one exception, the elephant in the room regarding European speech issues at the moment, and I hope to touch on that at some point in this debate.

What value can come without restrictions on being able to say what one wants without the fear of legal consequences? Well, a lot, and modern social progress proves this to be true.

The following article articulates this even better:

"Given the nebulous standards on which much of Europe's hate speech laws are based—indeed, there is not even a universally agreed upon definition for what constitutes hate speech—it is little wonder that such legislation has ensnared speech it was likely never meant to punish. "

"Delineating the line between speech that is considered rude and that which is considered insulting for the purposes of criminal prosecution is an utterly subjective undertaking..."

"while European authorities have at times appeared reluctant to go after Islamist firebrands spouting hatred, those engaging in legitimate debate about Islamism are frequently targeted for prosecution."

The article provides several examples that very well drive the point home, but more importantly, it refutes my opponents contention that the US absolutist language regarding free speech is problematic since we can see from world events like these that the oft applied arbitrary alternative is far worse. So yes, my opponent is correct that it is a challenge for the legal system to reconclie the borderline and rare exceptions to freedom of speech, but in these cases, which are at best, only nibbling at the edges of US freedom of speech problems, it is by far a greater system since it actually allows for freedom of speech in contrast to the alternative system that vaguly has a permissiveness of speech determined by political and social convenience.


Real world examples show that while the US first amendment is a challenge to deal with legally, it does in fact allow for citizens of the US to speak freely without fear of legal consequences. Conversly, the European system criminalizes certain speech due simply to the possibility that it may offend someone.

My opponent has correctly stated that this debate comes down to weighing values and establishing how we apply those values to our legal systems. In the US we consider free speech to be such a value that it supercedes other values in chronology, especially this idea that one can be free of offense through speech, that appears to be the value being weighed above speech rights that my opponent is advocating for.

If I am misunderstanding my opponent, I hope that he clarifies, but at this point in this debate, I am left with only two options on the hierarcy of values 1) Speech that may offend and 2) A society in which speech may be resricted because it may offend someone.

It sould be clear that my position is that the choice of those two options is obvious, and that society is far greater by accepting freedom of speech with all the positives and negatives it may imply. Indeed, the negatives of possibly offending someone is rarely even worth society taking seriously - especially if it means infringing on far more important rights.

I'd like to once again thank my opponent, and I very much look forward to reading his next round.
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks, Max!


A. My Case

Pro agrees with my weighing mechanism for the debate. He agrees that it's harder, in the USM, to trade-off against free speech for the sake of other rights. This is where the disagreement lies between Pro and I: the EUM protects all rights more effectively because it does not heavily privilege any one right over the others, unlike Pro. Pro talks about a hierarchy of rights, where free speech is near the top, but my whole case argues that the EUM isn't hierarchical, it is a nexus of rights that recognizes the equal importance of all rights in crafting a healthy society. Pro never contests that all rights matter, and has done nothing to show why the USM protects all rights best or why free speech is superordinate to other rights and goods. Any analysis from Pro on these points would be new in his last speech.

Pro agrees with my assessment regarding the legal methodologies of both approaches, and he drops some of the impacts I made from my assessment. Extend these impacts: (1) the EUM reinforces the importance of balancing rights and impacts the thinking behind decisions, adjusting them toward balancing, and (2) the EUM has less unnecessary red tape. Any dropped points cannot be responded too later by Pro, because they would be new arguments in his final speech.

Pro drops my data re: freedom in Europe. Pro also drops my values arguments; both points will be impacted later in this speech.

B. Pro's Case

B1. Overview

Pro's R1 argument lacked substance and was essentially a precis of his R2 argumentation. His R2 case pretty much comes down to "restricting hate speech is bad, and the EUM restricts hate speech." This is hardly an "on balance" assessment of the two systems. The resolution requires Pro to affirm the topic "on balance;" inasmuch as he talks about only one small slice of free speech-related jurisprudence, he cannot affirm the topic. Pro cannot bring up fresh examples in his final speech as these would be new arguments.

Pro's main source catalogs instances of what it views as censorship; any data coming from it is going to be cherry-picked and not necessarily reflective of the EUM on balance. Pro also tries to use his hate speech claims to paint Europe as un-free or fascistic; yet my data from last round shows that freedom in Europe is, in many ways, better than in the US. So, what exactly is the negative impact of these hate speech restrictions on freedom writ large? Pro offers no meaningful analysis.

B2. Hate Speech

Pro provides examples of hate speech laws in Europe. His first example is Poland's Article 13. I cannot find any evidence that this statute was upheld by the ECtHR. While all laws must comply with the ECvHR, as Pro notes, this does not mean that they actually do; Federal laws must comply with the Constitution, but they do not always. Only ECtHR or SCOTUS rulings can clarify whether a law actually passes legal muster. In this sense, just excerpting a law that is on the books in a European country does not tell us whether this law is actually legal.

Of Pro's enumerated examples, his first regards a case that never went the the ECtHR, and which was eventually dismissed [1]. His second example was about Bob Dylan, who had those charges against him dropped. [2] Pro's third example deals with a case of homophobes distributing literature at a school, and, upon examination of the ruling, it seems clear that the court's reasoning hinged more on the "school" issue than on the speech itself. For instance: "the distribution of the leaflets took place at a school which none of the applicants attended and to which they did not have free access." [3] Pro's final example concerns 1 issue that effects a very limited group of people and so has limited impact on the debate.

We should also keep in mind that in countries with recent and deep-seated ethnic conflicts, e.g. Bosnia, hate speech laws may be essential for keeping the peace; hate speech in such countries could spark real violence.

I also want to set straight the record with some examples of my own on the EUM's outlook on speech designed to shock, offend, or disturb. In "Gunduz v. Turkey," a man was convicted of inciting religious hatred with his extremist views. The ECtHR found that his remarks were not inciting violence, overruling the lower court. [4] In "Lehideux and Isorni v. France," authors were convicted of defending the war crimes of Marshall Petain, and were cleared by the ECtHR in large part because of the historical value of their explorations of Petain's legacy. [5] In "Dink v. Turkey," Dink had been convicted of "denigrating Turkishness" for expressing pro-Armenian views. The ECtHR vacated that conviction because "his resentment toward attitudes he regarded as a denial of the 1915 events, he was not but expressing his opinion on a matter of public interest in a democratic society." [6] This ruling was "in line with...established case-law." [6] In "Jersild v Denmark," a journalist was convicted of inciting racial hatred by airing an interview with racists; the ECtHR again cleared the journalist on the basis that impartial interviews for informational purposes are not inciting racial hatred. [7] Clearly, protections are in place for offensive speech, particularly for historical or journalistic purposes, or for speech that does not incite violence. Prefer my examples to Pro's since they pertain to actual ECtHR cases.

The EUM isn't overly restrictive of speech as "D. Levels of Freedom" in my case shows. That Europe outperforms the US in personal freedom may be explained by its unique and holistic approach to balancing rights; it treats all rights as valuable.

C. My Examples

The EUM better accommodates privacy rights in a variety of ways. For instance, in terms of data privacy, the EUM only allows data collection/interference when it complies with the law, pursues a legitimate goal, and is necessary in a democratic society. Data controllers are required to disclose certain information to the data subject about how their data is being processed, and data subjects have clear rights. [8] US data protection laws are far weaker and more scattered. [9] Insofar as access to information, and its distribution, is a free speech issue, this is topical. Consider also: "In recent history, several European nations have suffered through totalitarian governments that tracked citizens" movements and compiled dossiers against them. As a result...[European] laws are stronger than in the U.S." [10]

Reporting restrictions, restrictions on exposing the accused, are also useful. Withholding their identity protects the presumption of innocence for the accused. When the media latches on to a case, the populace often hears so much commentary and opinion that it poisons the potential jury pool (or judges) or risks doing so during the trial. It also can destroy reputations--even if someone is exonerated, they have had themselves mentioned negatively on media outlets, and that is all many may remember of them. So, not only is this an issue of privacy, but it is an issue of due process of law. The EUM has affirmed the importance of reporting restrictions, while the USM has not really done so as a whole. [11, 12]

The EUM also has made room for a right-to-be-forgotten (RTBF) which protects a variety of interests. RTBF gives people "the right--under certain conditions--to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. This applies where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive for the purposes of the data processing." [13] Data permanence, the phenomenon that online material is permanently available, stunts a person's ability to grow overtime. Rather than being judged on one's present maturity and credentials, one youthful indiscretion (e.g. a pot conviction) could limit a person's job prospects for the rest of their life. Data permanence is also problematic in that it leads to self-censorship; rather than creating an atmosphere where people can be frank or express themselves, fear of things you say online haunting you for the rest of your life often dulls speech. RTBF helps fix this. RTBF can also address issues like revenge porn, i.e. posting explicit pictures or video of your ex on the web in order to get revenge. "While pictures of women branded as sluts, victims, home-wreckers (etc) stay accessible on the internet, job opportunities, new relationships, college entry and basic self-esteem are wrecked. On many US based sites, images stay up till blackmail is paid...because websites hosted in the US benefit from a law which gives them complete immunity from prosecution or action relating to content posted by users, smaller, less reputable sites...can refuse to take down revenge porn without incurring legal liability and do so as a lucrative business model." [14] Deleting the links from search engines, as RTBF would do, solves for these problems and protects victims from this content. Unfortunately, RTBF would not survive in the USM. [15]

Privacy is needed for personal dignity, as a check on government abuse, and for effective free speech (as I noted in "E. Values" of my case). Given the last point, the EUM actually strengthens free speech through protecting privacy.

D. Conclusion

Pro hasn't offered sufficient analysis to prove his case. I have shown the EUM best builds the knife to shuck the metaphorical oyster; i.e. I best protect the full panoply of rights and goods. Thus, I negate.

E. Sources

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I'd like to thank Bsh. He has done a brilliant job defending his position and I've enjoyed partaking in this debate.

My opponent appears to agree on most of these issues, and he characterizes our differences sufficiently. Ultimately he is correct that our disagreement here is with regards to weighing different values. My position is that freedom of speech is paramount, and that its negative effect on other rights is minimal. His position appears to be that restricting certain speech is necessary to maintain other rights, and while he gives some examples, I thoroughly disagree that the benefit is worth the cost.

Ultimately, the readers of this debate need to ask themselves the following: Is it worth restricting your freedom of speech for anything my opponent has cited?


Since this is my final round and I can't make any new arguments, I will essentially be clarifying my points in this round.

To this point I have essentially made two arguments.

In round one, my entire round can be summarized with: Freedom of speech is good.

In my last round, my entire round can be summarized with: Freedom of speech is good, and European legal/social attempts to discourage speech are a cultural/legal reality and bad.

My opponent rebuts the examples I gave, though whether or not someone was convicted and imprisoned for unpopular speech wasn't entirely the point. Rather the point is that unpopular speech is very much discouraged to the extent that for any reasonable person, it's just not worth the hassle.

Furthermore, I was specifically asking my opponent to weigh what rights he is talking about here. On the one hand you have freedom of speech to criticize some group, and on the other hand you have.... what? Is my opponent asserting that there is, or should be, some sort of right to be a group above criticism?

The elephant in the room for Europe these days is with the cultural scism with Islam. While debating the various aspects of that takes many more debates, and I'm certainly not going to go into much depth here or assert whatever opinions I have about it, or say much about Islam broadly, it is undeniable that there are Europeans that feel there is a problem, and addressing it bluntly is absolutely necessary.

One such European is politician Geert Wilders. While Wilders is certainly a controversial figure, his controversy appears to be entirely related to his blunt criticism of Islam. Whether you agree with him or not, I doubt anyone in favor of freedom of speech would approve of banning a person from a country, as the UK did to Wilders, simply on the basis of unpopular speech.

Wilders has also been put on trial for hate speech, and though this legal action failed, the fact that someone criticizing a group of people could be put on trial with a chance of serious consequences in the first place, reflects the reality the freedoom of speech at odds with a political climate, is probaly not worth the hassle, and is therefore discouraged.

Again, I ask my opponent, what rights were being weighed here? We have the right of one individual to bluntly criticize Islam on the one hand... and what right on the other?

There are only two possible answers to this, and none of them are good ones.

1) Islam has the right not to be criticized.

This is, as poor of an answer as it is, actually the better of the two.

The case could be made that Wilders goes too far with his criticism, and Islam has a right "not to criticism" that is too blunt leveled at it and therefore the rights of Islam supercede the rights of those to criticize it. That's absurd, but I guess those are the rights being weighed. I don't know if any other group in Europe has the right not to be offended, so perhaps this is a unique case if this is the answer my opponent is going to go with.

2) Islam should not be criticized.... because of fear

While this is a far more problematic response, at least it's honest and we can work with it.

It is however, ultimately, a far worse response of these two because it acquiesces to social bullying and is just insulting to everyone including Muslims. So, this "right" of freedom of speech needs to be curtailed because Muslims lack the agency of being able to not cause social harm through violence if provoked. In other words, Muslims have the right to not be offended which outweighs your right to the freedom to criicize, because we fear them.

Yes, that is pathetic.

Unfortunately, my opponent actually justifies this in one of his responses to me:

"We should also keep in mind that in countries with recent and deep-seated ethnic conflicts, e.g. Bosnia, hate speech laws may be essential for keeping the peace; hate speech in such countries could spark real violence."

I'm sympathetic to my opponent's assertion here and I understand the point he is making, but again, the right to freedom of speech for the modern world supercedes the needs of those who are unable to avoid killing each other because they are offended. Is it problematic that something I say might cause someone to go on a murderous rampage? Sure. But it's the problem with the individuals incapable of dealing with words, and not those that are expressing ideas and opinions, regardless of how offensive and ridiculous those words may be.

Yes, ignoring the social consequences of this might have some short or even long term consequences. Saudi Arabia might face a civil war when blasphemy laws are recinded and its populace beings to realize just how ludicrous and insane their society actually is. But, and this is cricual to my argument, TOO BAD. The only way the world will modernize is when we say enough is enough, your quirky nonsense has gone on enough, this is what I think about it, get over it.

"Freedom of speech - but" is not freedom of speech, and acquiescing to those fighting for the right not to be offended with the threat of violence is not something anyone who cares about freedom should take seriously in the least.

There are many examples of this, but I think pointing to a politician, someone with power, who is discouraged from mere speech, is a good enough example to show why this is a problem.

To reiterate, the entire point here, and in my previous round, is that the legal system is discouraging speech to an extent that any reasonable person would and should reconsider whether or not they should direct reasonable (or even unreasonabe) criticism towards a group that most certainly should not have the right not to be offended.


My opponent and I don't entirely disagree on other aspects of this. Yes, it's a problem in the US that people can harm individuals through speech, and again, this is part of the weighing of these values.

Ironically, while I think much of what I have said above is this generations defining issue for Europe, I believe privacy issues are becoming a paramount issue in the US. long time major issues like abortion, gay marriage, and communication media are all, and not just tangentially, privacy focused issues, and it is something that the US will continue to struggle with.

In the context of this debate though, privacy appears to be the only value my opponent has weighed, and has therefore ignored the broader issue above. Again, I don't disagree with him on this broadly, but rights to privacy aren't enough to cede to irrational restrictions on how much and in what way, I can direct speech at a group.


I'll ask once again, what I asked in the beginning of this round: Has my opponent convinced you that you need to have greater restrictions on what you can say, for any of the reasons he has cited?

I think we all recognize that there are reasonable restrictions, and that there are things done through mere speech that have intentional and specific harm as an outcome. These aren't the things I am debating, and if Europe was only restricting these in the way that the US necessarily has to as well, then I wouldn't criticize, and there wouldn't be anything worth debating.

Instead, due to politics, or fear, or whatever agenda it might be, there is a legitimate attempt to discourage certain speech, and Europe is NOT better off for doing so. While I realize the US isn't perfect in really any way, there is one thing that it has that no other nation does, and that is the ability for its populace to fearlessly criticize and condemn whatever it likes. I believe this society has only progressively gotten better due to that, and I fear that Europe's approach will progressively cause it harm.


My opponent has done a great job taking a broad approach to this debate, and while there are specific arguments that I wish I could examine in greater detail; space, format and time restrictions prevent me from doing so. I realize I have simply dropped and ignored certain arguments that my opponent has made, but I have decidely taken a more philosophical approach. If I were able to do several of these debates, I would like to expand and rebut some of those other arguments, but instead I will close my final argument by simply reiterating the only 2 points I have made

1) Freedom of speech is good

Accepting this, in the limited space I have to really prove this, requires that you understand that modern societies are in fact better than those that aren't, and a major feature of these societies is freedom, including freedom of speech. It's not coincidence. FOS allows us to openly criticize governments and groups in such a way that we improve and marginalize those perpetuating nonsense.

2) The European approach to FOS discourages certain speech

Some speech is going to be discouraged in any society, but the European examples are arbitrary and when considered on a long enough time line, are extremely detrimental. I wish I had more time and space to really get into every detail of this, but I believe it is very clear.


With that, I conclude my time in this debate, and thank Bsh once again.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to Max for this debate, and to the judges.


A. Intro

This debate is about shucking oysters, nothing more and nothing less. Of course, these oysters and shucking knives are metaphorical, but they are nonetheless important both to this debate and to how we construct our societies. The oyster shells block the pearls inside, and the knife cuts through to the pearl. Our rights--not just free speech, but ALL of our rights--are necessary tools to take charge of our lives and to create meaning within them. The pearls we seek can only be obtained if we have all the rights needed to cultivate them.

The USM, with it's more absolutist approach, is not conducive to collecting these pearls--it's like only having half a knife. The EUM protects more rights, more fully, than the USM. So, if we want to shuck the oysters, the EUM is the knife-shop to buy from.

B. Overview

I said last round that "Pro talks about a hierarchy of rights, where free speech is near the top, but my whole case argues that the EUM isn't hierarchical, it is a nexus of rights that recognizes the equal importance of all rights in crafting a healthy society. Pro never contests that all rights matter, and has done nothing to show why the USM protects all rights best or why free speech is superordinate to other rights and goods."

In his final round, Pro asks you, the readers and judges, to ask yourselves whether free speech is worth restricting for the reasons I give. In point of fact, it is Pro's job, not the judges', to present arguments in favor of unrestricted free speech. Pro has not once in this debate given a reason why free speech should not be restricted in the face of safety, privacy, or due process concerns. His failure to do this necessarily dooms his case, because it is predicated on the notion, as he put it, that "there is nothing worth silencing speech for." Pro has failed to prove this core claim.

C. Hate Speech

C1. Overview

Pro drops that his focus on hate speech is not an "on balance" consideration of the topic, thereby rendering it impossible for him to affirm. My structural arguments, which I extended last round, apply system-wide. Moreover, I offered multiple examples (reporting restrictions, RTBF, and data privacy) which impact both privacy and due process rights; Pro offered just one example. Pro drops that his source cherry-picks data.

C2. Cases

Pro drops my analysis of his examples as well as my own examples. Pro also drops that many of the laws or cases he cites may not even be legal themselves under ECvHR doctrine. As I wrote earlier: "While all laws must comply with the ECvHR, as Pro notes, this does not mean that they actually do; Federal laws must comply with the Constitution, but they do not always. Only ECtHR or SCOTUS rulings can clarify whether a law actually passes legal muster. In this sense, just excerpting a law that is on the books...does not tell us whether this law is actually legal."

He then brings up the example of Geert Wilders, who was also "acquitted of all charges. A Dutch court said that his speech was legitimate political debate." [1] So, it seems that Geert Wilders will not be stopped from saying the kinds of things he desires to say; certainly, he was permitted to address his views on Islam "bluntly." Moreover, as a parliamentarian, Wilders could always take advantage of parliamentary privilege (immunity from prosecution for things said in parliamentary debate), which the ECtHR has seemed respectful of. [2]

As for the "hassle" argument, this is new in the last speech, and should be disregarded. Even if you don't dismiss it for that reason, it isn't weighty. First, there will always be downward pressures on speech, whether legal or social. Second, ambiguity is part of why hassles occur; with each case heard before the ECtHR, it becomes clearer what the system will and will not tolerate, so people will know what can be said, hassle-free. Thirdly, obviously, hassle isn't much of an issue when you have groups like UKIP, Le Front National, PEGIDA, Golden Dawn, Freiheitliche Partei Oesterreich, and Wilder's own Partij Voor de Vrjiheid, voicing their borderline (or not) racist views.

Pro's analysis about Islam and the reasons for being unable to criticize it is new in the final round. Please disregard his point here for that reason; but, even if you don't, the reason why such speech is prohibited is to prevent inciting violence. Pro responds to this more directly when he rights: "the right to freedom of speech for the modern world supercedes the needs of those who are unable to avoid killing each other because they are offended."

Suppose for a moment that you are a government and told you that you could stop the deaths of 100 of your people in an attack tomorrow. You have two options to stop the attack: (a) engage in massive, fairly indiscriminate surveillance of your own citizens, or (b) prohibit a certain kind of speech that would trigger the event. Pro chooses the first option, I choose the latter. Whether or not you like hate speech laws, Pro never attacked their ability to prevent the incitement of violence. And, either way, a rights violation is going to occur. Pro thinks (a) is better because free speech, for some unspecified reason, is more important than privacy. I think (b) is better because the total world of things you are allowed to say shrinks only a little, without the large-scale and often unnecessary privacy intrusions. This is, of course, all hypothetical, but it illustrates a broader point here: the EUM, because it doesn't prefer free speech in virtually all cases, is better able to protect rights like privacy. When faced with two scenarios, it can go with the one that violates all rights the least, rather than with the course of action that protects free speech the most. Moreover, as I noted last round, by making sure privacy rights are upheld, the EUM actually fosters healthy free speech. Finally, the right to life of the victims should outweigh the right of someone else to speak--something about "fire" and crowded theatres...? Is the principle so different here that Holmes's logic is not applicable?

So, Pro tries to make Europe out to be the big bad wolf, when he has been virtually unable to produce a single case in which someone was penalized for hate speech. This is not to say that cases don't exist, but it does a lot to show that Europe does not censor or suppress hate speech as much as Pro would like to make it seem like they do. His impacts are small because Europe does, as the cases I cited last round prove, protect individuals' ability to say things that shock, offend, and disturb.

Pro tries to paint Europe as un-free. In fact, we can look at the freedom ratings for Europe and we can see that they are as good or better than the U.S.'s ratings. In fact, Europe has a higher press freedom score than we do. So, if hate speech laws don't really do as much as Pro thinks they do in terms of restricting speech, and if Europe is as free as it is (they have a freer press than the U.S.), what exactly is the negative impact of these hate speech restrictions on freedom writ large?

Moreover, my system can better balance all rights; it does not take the approach of "free speech above all else" that Pro supports. This approach both (a) harms other rights, which, as I showed in round one, are important for us as individuals, and (b), paradoxically, undermines free speech itself in the long-run. As I said earlier: "[P]rivacy...promotes liberty of thought and action...Freedoms such as...freedom of expression lose much of their value if people do not first have the chance to learn to think for themselves." And, without privacy, "persons may hesitate to act and to participate in social and public life, which...affects the development of democratic citizens." Thus, I better uphold the full pantheon of rights we as people need to live fulfilling and enjoyable lives.

D. My Examples

Pro drops all of my analysis here. For the record, I am not just balancing privacy, but also due process. Pro writes: "rights to privacy aren't enough to cede to irrational restrictions on how much and in what way." Pro never once explains why privacy rights aren't enough, but I did give reasons to the contrary. Look to my "values" section in my case where I said that privacy was key to personal happiness and democratic participation. as well as to last round, where I pointed out that: (a) limits on data collection are crucial checks against state authoritarianism (shown historically), (b) limits on reporting names of accused persons are crucial to ensuring that they have free and fair trials, (c) RTBF is crucial for personal growth, (d) data permanence leads to self-censorship, (e) RTBF solves revenge porn. I gave reasons; Pro gave none. Extend my examples: I protect privacy and due process better than Pro.

E. Conclusion

Last round, Pro dropped that the EUM forces structurally judges to balance rights in their decision-making and that it had less red tape. This round, Pro drops that focusing on "hate speech" cannot affirm an "on balance" topic, that many of the laws he cites may not be legal per the ECvHR, and my examples which show that I better protect privacy and due process rights. Pro's hate speech impacts are small, as the EUM does clearly protect lots of offensive speech and as hate speech restrictions limit just a small slice of total speech. Pro never explained why free speech should be so heavily preferred to other rights, nor even why it is the most valuable right. Moreover, I actually protect free speech best, since strong privacy is a prerequisite.

Thus, I protect all rights better than Pro does--maybe that's why the EU scores higher on personal freedom than the US. In other words, Pro only has half a shucking knife, while my knife is already ready to get at the pearl. Thank you! Please, VOTE CON!

F. Sources

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Debate Round No. 4
126 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Biodome 5 months ago
Just had a read through this debate, and it was indeed very interesting. I would find it hard to pick a winner though, as it seemed very close. Hope to see more free speech debates in the future - these topics are always fascinating.
Posted by dylancatlow 6 months ago
I know. Voting is closed anyway lol
Posted by bsh1 6 months ago
@Dylan - Max did not make those arguments in the debates, so judges should not evaluate those arguments.
Posted by dylancatlow 6 months ago
The "Levels of Freedom" argument has some issues. First, the index is not a ranking of which countries' press are the most free from governmental interference. That's only a small piece of it. It also takes into account other factors, including pluralism, transparency, and independence. Thus, the fact that European countries score higher in the index than the United States does not prove that European media are freer than the American media in the relevant sense.

Second, when anti-hate speech legislation has been in place for many years, the people whose views are silenced get pushed into the margins, and are thus not part of the questionnaire on which the index is largely based. More and more, the media become purged of journalists whose views are at odds with hate speech legislation, resulting in a situation in which most journalists feel free simply because they don't have opinions that the state deems unfit for expression.
Posted by whiteflame 7 months ago
Hey guys, I wanted to write a more extended RFD for this, but I ended up running out of time before I could post the full thing. Here it is, though, in case anyone's interested:
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 7 months ago
>> "F16, are the comments of this debate really the appropriate place to has out your policy grievances?"

I wasn't complaining about the policy. I was discussing with Raisor in the main thread about proposing a system that lies between the standard voting guidelines and the No RFD required option. I was hoping to better understand exactly how this policy vs judge voting is different. I don't see what the issue is with discussing it in the debate's comments section. If your issue is not enough people can weigh in, that's fine. I'll start a thread in the main forum so the discussion can be more open.
Posted by bsh1 7 months ago
Posted by bsh1 7 months ago
F16, are the comments of this debate really the appropriate place to has out your policy grievances?

Judge debates limit the pool of people (up to 10) who can vote. Oftentimes, it has been my experience, that usually only a fraction of those people vote. More to the point, even judges who are pre-screened can be in a rush and not provide the best RFD. The opt-in system opens the debate to a wider pool of possible voters, and ensures the highest quality on the RFDs themselves.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 7 months ago
So help me understand the point of an opt-in system when judge voting is a seemingly superior option to people who want very good votes.
Posted by bsh1 7 months ago
Because I can pre-screen judges for their record of impartiality and fairness.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 7 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by Raisor 7 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD: Both sides acknowledge the value of FOS, con calls out pro for failing to provide a substantial argument for the primacy of this right over all others and I never see this argument from pro. Con points to several values that are better protected by the eu model, these arguments are even by pros admission not addressed. I grant that there is some harm to free speech in the EU model, but I find cons data measuring freedom of press etc in conjunction with the point that most of the conyroversial eu cases are ring settled with reasonable deference to the value of FOS to show that the deterrence to free speech is not especially damaging. IMO there needed to be a robust explanation of the value of FOS thy was not provided. Good debate, interesting, vote con
Vote Placed by Hayd 7 months ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Pro wins, great debate, I learned a lot
Vote Placed by tejretics 7 months ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: See thread (#1, #2 and #36):
Vote Placed by EndarkenedRationalist 7 months ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: See comments
Vote Placed by TUF 7 months ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: