Free Speech vs Bullying Laws Research Paper
The issue of freedom as the integral component of a democratic society arises periodically and provokes disputes. Despite the implementation of relevant laws and regulations that classify the range of available freedoms and the responsibility borne by residents, difficulties and misunderstandings still exist. One of the topical aspects of modern democracy is the freedom of speech expressed in an ability to come up with personal ideas and the lack of restrictions on the right of expression through publicity. Nevertheless, there are frequent cases of legal proceedings related to the violation of this attribute of modern society and caused by discontent in connection with the adoption of controversial laws.
This paper is aimed at describing some of the current trends in the judicial sphere regarding the issue of the freedom of speech. Also, the relevant legislation will be considered, which is directly related to the issue described, and three individual court cases will be analyzed. The assessment and analysis of appropriate facts can help determine the extent to which state judicial boards are involved in monitoring the freedom of citizens’ self-expression of citizens and which laws provide for making decisions on special cases.
The relevance of the chosen topic is due to the significant resonance that, as a rule, various hearings about the violation of the freedom of speech cause. Moreover, some existing bullying laws are a significant threat to democracy. Therefore, the analysis of this issue and the assessment of the existing legislative framework are the important tasks of modern democratic forces.
The coverage of issues related to the freedom of speech and the limitations imposed by some official documents is reflected in academic literature. The scholarly article related to the topic under consideration and the laws that govern it is the work by Cotton and Law (2018). The authors focus their attention on restrictions on the expression of personal ideas and thoughts, the criminal prosecution of such cases, and the lack of justice in case people’s rights violation (Cotton & Law, 2018).
As one of the main legislative acts related to this legal topic, the First Amendment is mentioned, as well as its influence on the freedom of speech in the press, TV, and other media. Cotton and Law (2018) remark that any self-expression should have an opportunity to exist in accordance with legal regulations. If a specific text does not have an extremist or another unlawful context, the prohibition is unfounded.
Also, the authors cite specific examples that, in their opinion, “are generally free from government prohibition and punishment” (Cotton & Law, 2018, p. 137). They include video games, commercial advertisements, artistic works, military commentaries, and other areas where people can use personal opinions and ideas. All the considered aspects prove the clear position of the researchers regarding the issue and its implications.
Another scholarly article related to the considered topic is the paper by Gelber and McNamara (2015) who assess such controversial and ambiguous legal regulations as hate speech laws. According to the authors, these acts do not exist in the United States due to the First Amendment that guarantees people the protection of personal interests and, in particular, the freedom of self-expression (Gelber & McNamara, 2015).
However, when using the example of Australian cases, it is possible to note the dangerous nature of such practices that encourage racist and discriminatory statements. Gelber and McNamara (2015) note that “harassment, intimidation, fear, discrimination, and violence” are the consequences of the dangerous policy of encouraging hate speech laws (p. 634). Therefore, various arguments are made to support the rejection of bullying regulations.
The problem of restrictions and severe penalties for expressing free speech is also relevant on the Internet where people often place their personal opinions and views on various issues. Pasquale (2016) addresses this topic and pays particular attention to the comparison of legislation in the United States and the European Union. According to the author, the American principle of controlling the activity of users on the network and their expression is neoliberal, while the European approach is “nuanced and variegated” (Pasquale, 2016, p. 489).
However, periodic problems and controversial issues arise in both regions since contemporary legislation has tightened the rules of behavior on the Internet. Today, as Pasquale (2016) remarks, online correspondence, comments, and other public activities are subject to evaluation by relevant state control boards. In case of obvious violations, for instance, extremist appeals or the publication of illegal content (pornography, violence, and other similar materials), users can be held criminally liable down to imprisonment. At the same time, according to Pasquale (2016), public organizations are also forced to bear responsibility for their intellectual property. All these aspects indicate the tight form of control maintained by the state.
Finally, Petrina, Mathison, and Ross (2015) focus their attention on the manifestations of inadequate solutions in the academic environment and remark that the cases of bullying laws and “fixed boundaries on speech” take place (p. 62). Despite the natural opportunities of personal beliefs in a scholarly environment, the authors are convinced that many educational establishments suppress the freedom of expression deliberately (Petrina et al., 2015).
Anti-bullying laws promoted by the members of the academic community may not have enough power if government boards do not listen to the opinions of stakeholders. Accordingly, those practices of protecting the freedom of speech, which are the means of expressing natural professional interests, largely depend on the degree to which official legal agencies are interested in observing the law.
Laws and Regulations
Among all the legislative acts associated with the regulation of the freedom of speech, the First Amendment, which is the act of federal significance, is the most important law. In accordance with the country’s official jurisdiction, the Supreme Court defines citizens’ constitutional right to express personal will “without government interference or regulation” (Cornell Law School, 2017, para. 3).
In other words, this regulation confirms that a person cannot be held administratively or criminally liable for publicly expressing his or her views if they do not contradict the norms of morality and ethics. However, this law does not provide full and unconditional impunity for those who intend to express any belief in public. According to the First Amendment, if certain calls for the breach of peace or extremist remarks occur, it is the basis for taking counter actions by the representatives of the law (Cornell Law School, 2017). Therefore, this act cannot be called absolutely unconditional, and some conventions are to be taken into account.
Another legislative document related to the regulation of free speech was adopted more than 200 years ago. As Halperin (2016) notes, almost immediately after the American Revolution when the Constitution and the rights that it provided were still fresh in everyone’s minds, President and Congress decided to step over them. Fearing for the French threat to the country, in 1798, the US government passed the Alien and Sedition Acts (Halperin, 2016).
In comparison with the aforementioned First Amendment that had been adopted several years before, this set of laws had more stringent restrictions and conventions. It gave President the right to punish with a fine for opposing state orders or putting in press information or articles of an anti-government trend. According to Halperin (2016), this set of laws caused strong disapproval among individual states that condemned the restriction of free speech as an inalienable right provided by the Constitution. Ultimately, the allied agreement was signed with France, and the harsh measures of persecution stopped. This fact indicates that when striving to maintain authoritative positions, the government is able to make decisions in its support in order to avoid mass discontent.
The example of the trial involving claims for the violation of the freedom of speech and expression is the case called Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus (2014). To resolve the situation, this lawsuit was considered by the Supreme Court. Susan B. Anthony List demanded that Mr. Driehaus who she said had voted for sponsoring abortions should have been brought to justice. The defendant, in turn, denied the validity of this claim.
The plaintiff argued that the law on the freedom of speech had been violated, which was one of the reasons for her going to court. Ultimately, through trials and the assessment of both parties’ claims, the court ruled that the unauthorized management of people’s opinions is unacceptable since it contradicts the principles of democracy. This decision seems justified because, despite any requirements regarding the personal freedom of speech, the forms of expression should not contradict the ideas of legal society. Therefore, the outcome of the case in question is logical and justifiable from a juridical point of view.
The example of a trial where the freedom of speech was a key criterion for filing a lawsuit is the case of Lane v. Franks (2014). This hearing was under the control of the Supreme Court. Edward Lane filed a complaint against Steve Franks, and as a basic argument, the plaintiff claimed that Franks dismissed him because of retaliation for the testimony that Lane had brought against him. Lane argued that his right to free speech was violated because he expressed his personal opinion and counted on a fair trial but not dismissal.
In accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court, Lane’s appeal did not go against the First Amendment. However, it was announced that Franks could count on official immunity; therefore, the case was adjourned for further hearings. This decision seems reasonable since, despite the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant’s qualifications allowed him to make certain decisions, in particular, the dismissal of subordinates, and his immunity had to be respected.
Another case associated with the freedom of speech was dealt with at the Supreme Court level and was called McCullen v. Coakley (2014). As plaintiffs, a number of clinics in Massachusetts sought help. The reason for their indignation was the creation of a buffer zone adjacent to the clinic of reproduction and pregnancy planning. The problem was that the restrictions imposed were contrary to the freedom of speech and contradicted the First Amendment.
The opposition between abortion advocates and their adversaries could not be considered a reason to deny access to the clinic. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision taken by the Massachusetts institution discriminated against individual points of view. This decision looks objective because, despite personal convictions and moral principles, restricting freedom of access to an institution is not a legitimate decision. Consequently, the right to free speech was violated, and appropriate sanctions followed.
When analyzing the current legislative practice in relation to the issue of the freedom of speech, it is possible to conclude about the relevance of this topic and frequent resonances that it causes. Based on the literature review conducted, the assessment of the existing legislation, and the study of individual legal proceedings, one can state about guarantees provided by the official authorities to the public. In the future, problems with access to self-expression may be eliminated if responsible agencies monitor the violations of particular laws closely.
In the context of nursing practice, the findings can be used to advantage. Today, due to knowledge about what the violation of the freedom of speech is fraught with, nurses may discuss certain issues freely, for instance, on the Internet in specialized forums. Compliance with the existing laws will not allow employees to become persons involved in criminal cases. Moreover, nurses will be aware of their rights, which may open up for them prospects for self-expression and career growth. In general, respect for the principles of free speech is an integral component of a democratic society and the modern principles of jurisdiction.
Cornell Law School. (2017). First Amendment. Web.
Cotton, M., & Law, C. (2018). Improving access to justice by enforcing the free speech clause. Brooklyn Law Review, 83(1), 111-156.
Gelber, K., & McNamara, L. (2015). The effects of civil hate speech laws: Lessons from Australia. Law & Society Review, 49(3), 631-664. Web.
Halperin, T. D. (2016). The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798: Testing the Constitution. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.
Lane v. Franks, 573 U.S. (2014).
McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U.S. (2014).
Pasquale, F. (2016). Platform neutrality: Enhancing freedom of expression in spheres of private power. Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 17(2), 487-513. Web.
Petrina, S., Mathison, S., & Ross, E. W. (2015). Threat convergence: The new academic work, bullying, mobbing and freedom. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, 24, 58-69.
Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U.S. (2014).
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