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We should have absolute freedom of speech

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,983 times Debate No: 71712
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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For this debate, I will be arguing that we should entirely have freedom of speech. To further explain, should be protected by the first amendment, however, the high court has introduced an array of laws that abridge freedom of speech, such include imminent lawless action and many other laws (all of which in my opinion are reasonable laws to be introduced). Although, in doing this, is freedom of speech still a right or a privilege? Since the US constitution states rights, is introducing laws unconstitutional that compromise the first amendment unconstitutional? In commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, and Britain, their constitutions do not explicitly state that they have freedom of speech, however, the high court has implied they do but only as a privilege. Furthermore, are laws introduced abridging freedom of speech (which the US constitution clearly states not to do) unconstitutional? As such, I believe that we should have absolute freedom of speech.


While the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of that document and their power to interpret the constitution cannot be contested. Over the years, the Supreme Court has limited the absoluteness of the first amendment and I would argue that it is for the best.

Speech, which is not just limited to spoken words, can be very harmful to people in a society. The classic example is screaming "fire" in a crowded place, which incites panic and can ultimately lead to injury or death. Additionally, walking into a bank and falsely claiming you have a gun would be protected under absolute freedom of speech. Both these actions, while only words, have potentially dangerous consequences, and should therefore be restricted by law. On a larger scale, divulging secrets (such as designs for nuclear weapons) to foreign enemies of the State are treasonous. These actions are not and should not be protected by the first amendment.

Another example, which is not actual speech but still pertain to the freedom of speech clause, is the distribution of child pornography. Claiming that we should have absolute freedom of speech due to the first amendment would mean selling, distributing, or putting child porn online would be a constitutional right of all Americans. You could prosecute those who made the porn, but not those who distribute it.

Freedom of speech is broader and more protected in the United States than it is in most other nations. However, it is not absolute, nor should it be.
Debate Round No. 1


Before I begin, I will state that I highly reprimand illegalities such child pornography and treason. As with imminent lawless action (I.e. yelling "fire" in a public domain, if there was a fire, wouldn't sounding the alarms be a more promising way of approaching the situation. In addition, the majority of people would know not to panic in the incidence of a fire. Furthermore, if people were to be killed in a public stampede, then the individual who screamed fire should be charged with murder or manslaughter.

The same legal ramifications should ensue in the incidence of someone yelling "robbery" in a bank.

Where is the line drawing if someone discusses child pornography? This debate partially entails the discussion of child pornography. We aren't advocating it, we aren't suborning it, we are merely discussing it as an illegality.

As for treasonous negotiations and the possible aiding and abetting of criminals from non-allied nations. People like this should be charged with treason and not with violation of free speech laws.

If any constitution states rights that are written in black and white, then isn't abridging these rights with newly introduced laws unconstitutional, and therefore the first amendment is no longer a right?

Please do not get me wrong, treason, child pornography and other previously mentioned illegalities are indubitably reprehensible.

Furthermore, I actually live in Australia and as such the constitution does not explicitly state that my nation has free speech, however, the high court and nit the supreme court has implied that we do and as such it is a privilege and not a right. Likewise, the high court and not the supreme court has compromised the first amendment with the introduction of new laws.


First, I must clarify the fire example. I have heard that story many times in the past so I wrongly assumed you had some context as to what I meant by it. However, I realize it is not a universal metaphor. Usually, when the story is told, its intended to demonstrate that a person cannot yell "fire" when there is no fire. The idea is that you cannot use speech with the primary intention of creating unnecessary panic (e.g. yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater). You can and should be prosecuted for this because your words can cause physical harm to the people around you.

Freedom of speech should be guaranteed and protected, but adding absoluteness to that idea can lead to disastrous situations. Under absolute freedom of speech, I would be legally protected to make death threats to a person or threaten to kill someone they love. Technically speaking, I have only exercised freedom of speech and haven't committed any physical harm. The police would be unable to arrest that person until they literally attempted to cause physical harm. To take it one step further, I could state "Rob that Bank of America or I will kill your child." If they actually commit the crime, they would be entirely accountable for their actions. I would walk away with no legal ramifications.

Our court system would be completely compromised under absolute freedom of speech. Currently, it is against the law to lie under oath. However, under the government you're proposing, forcing a person to tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" is compromising their right to free speech. We'd switch from a legal system that criminalizes lying under oath to the honor system, where we politely request them to tell the truth.

The Supreme Court of the United States has determined in multiple court cases that the Freedom of Speech clause is not and should not be considered absolute. Therefore, laws which contradict absolute freedom of speech do not violate the US constitution.

Many things should be and currently are protected as free speech. People have a right to express political and personal opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be. Expressing oneself through words, speech, or behavior is also protected, assuming it doesn't physically harm someone in the process.

Treasonous words or actions, inciting imminent lawless action (yelling fire when there is no fire), obscenities, defamation, and threats should be clearly defined and illegal in certain cases.

If you believe any of the negative uses of free speech listed above should be made illegal (treason included), then it would be difficult for you to argue that you believe in ABSOLUTE free speech.
Debate Round No. 2



You are right, I cannot vindicate absolute free speech. Illegalities such as imminent lawless action and child pornography as well as many others are egregious and compromising free speech is nothing but a sensible judicial decree. At the risk of losing this debate, I will begrudgingly concede and advocate the abridging of free speech.



Thanks for the debate. I hope we do battle again sometime.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by UnendingRevision 3 years ago
No, we don't have absolute freedom of speech in the United States. I don't think that point can be argued. However, if you start a new debate entitled "we should have absolute freedom of speech" and take the pro side, I'll glady accept that debate asthe con.
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