Should Freedom of Speech be Limited

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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In this paper each author reflects their own moral opinion on hate speech shared with freedom of speech and the results from it containing negative content. There are several authors who discuss hate speech in considerations of freedom of speech. Despite strong objections I trust that society is obligated to protect its citizens and prevent any harm done in relation to hate speech under freedom of speech law.

First, In “Freedom of Speech” David van Mill argues freedom of speech in relation to the harm principle, he continues to argue two things: That speech can be limited due to the amount of offensiveness it causes and the effect on equality.

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Mill then moves deeper into the meaning of paternalism and the moralistic reasons to not protect speech at all, addition to the harm principle. Paternalistic being limitations for the better good of someone or something, and moralistic being showing someone the differences between right and wrong. Mill is saying that the harm principle is something that we can potentially use and prevent someone from acting in violent ways and causing potential harm, thus protecting the security of others. In agreement with Mill, I believe that words can potentially lead to harm as such words offend those in the process. As in a society there are such things as racial slurs and profanity, that can be taken the wrong way by anyone it was intended for. I feel as if harmful words shouldn’t be a give right to everyone if not everyone can have the same respect equally, one should be peaceful morally with high value standards to one’s safety, happiness, and health. As people we should want everyone to feel the same and not a single one person should be singled out for something they cannot control, or chose to life by.

Although, Alexander and Horton defend freedom of speech to be seen on a democratic level due to the information that could possibly affect the society negatively. They then outline:

“The task, therefore, is not to argue for an unlimited domain of free speech; such a concept cannot be defended. Instead, we need to decide how much value we place on speech in relation to other important ideals such as privacy, security, democratic equality and the prevention of harm and there is nothing inherent to speech that suggests it must always win out in competition with these values”

(Alexander and Horton, 1984).

Moral speech itself consists of many forms varying from speaking, acting, yelling, etc. Each form requiring diverse ways for one to express oneself to the public in any way; reasoning that one must protect the actions producing a fair democracy and promoting autonomy. People should be more focused on being moral when it comes to free speech, and become a moral person by using their rights to not express positivity not hate. David Mill strongly argues “That speech should be protected because it leads to the truth, there seems no reason to protect the speech of anti-vaccers or creationists” (David Mill, 1978). The concept of free speech is slightly difficult to defend due to, how we would have to decide as a country on how much we value the right to free speech and important ideas consisting of our privacy, security, and equality.

Mill believes that we should not value speech more than the security and safety of people, as the harm principle reflects a strong opposing view. While those points made were good points on the matter, John Stuart Mill makes a better argument with the harm principle in relation with free speech. John Mill argues the harm principle, which states that “…the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (John Stuart Mill, 1978). Looking at this view I agree with Mill strongly, as times it seems like those the law values the words of others more than the safety of those who have to live with the harm of those words. Free speech allows any words be spoken out which is fair, but to what extent does free speech becomes to harmful, like a threat that could potentially lead to a hate crime.

In some ways I agree with the points. Foremost, I agree that freedom of speech shouldn’t be a subject one would make changes to, as for all have the right to it, and the history of those written rights. I do reach agreement that limitations on the value of free speech would be debatable to limit. It is societies objective to make the rights of all, equal, safe, and right for all to undergo which is why we must protect its citizens from harm in any fashion. We would need to put a higher value on the security and safety of those as speech can potentially lead to becoming a possible violent altercation. Although, to argue this one can’t exactly put forceful restrictions on speech as that would be limiting rights of the people. Not only that but it’s difficult to relate just free speech to lead to physical encounters as there’s no hard evidence to prove that relation. If one could safely protect the rights of free speech and protect the safety of others without limiting the morality, it would make this argument more positively moral.

Applying this to our society, the initial obligation would be absolute freedom of opinion and speech moral or theological. This gives the obligation of everyone to say what they want to say which could lead to their logical limit and break into social embarrassment. Mill points out that in society one could have the right obligations to serve for the purposes of the people, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (John Stuart Mill, 1978). I believe society is obligated to protect the citizens and prevent any harm to them, to meet peaceful standards. Once the appropriate standards are found and met such actions could produce speech that doesn’t limit our safety, or make one feel threatened in our society.

One could argue this, stating that those who use targeted speech like hate speech doesn’t necessarily mean they want to do harm, not all those who use such words mean a direct threat. As Garcia’s response on racism claims that racism in relation to speech is merely an opinion and shouldn’t be blamed but looked at as a perspective. “we cannot classify a remark as racist hate speech simply on the basis of what was said, we need to look to why the speaker said it” (Garcia, 1996). Garcia shows that racism in relation to hate speech shouldn’t be a restriction on speech as it is speech expressed and should be disregarded.

To argue this, morally all should be treated with the same equality and rights we all share, to prevent and avoid doubt about the security of the people. I also argue such harms can be regulated justifiably, as some forms of hate speech can cause a type of harm and wrong doing to those its directed towards. Andrew Altman argues that “ Even when it involves no direct threat of violence, hate speech can cause abiding feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity in those whom it is targeted” (Altman, 1993). On a different aspect one person may not think their harmful words or hate speech may not be harming but it’s merely just a start of the abuse of freedom of speech. One’s free speech shouldn’t be used to bring or direct hate onto someone else, even if it may be how one feels its unnecessary to bring that upon someone. That’s morally wrong and should be looked down upon as that’s directly hateful in society itself.

To conclude, I strongly argue that speech expressing hatred to a certain group of people to shouldn’t be considered be morally considered free speech. As I stand on the societal obligation of equal rights, treatment, security, and protection of the people; that it shouldn’t be overlooked as anything other than such. We the people should feel safe and protected as a whole with no limitations unnoticed to protect this given right, as freedom of speech is a broad topic allowing negative aspects into society. I boldly believe hate speech is morally wrong to people and society should be strongly obligated to protect its citizens and prevent any harm, including speech that can lead to harsh casualties.

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Should Freedom of Speech be Limited. (2021, Jun 13). Retrieved from