by olicard.carriere on September 20, 2013 - 11:22pm
Despite being but 9 years old, Facebook is now a ubiquitous part of our lives. For many people, it is hard to imagine how they would get news of their friends or their "friends". However, how Facebook can be used is still a confusing matter. What is socially acceptable on Facebook and what isn't is poorly defined, which can get serious when it coincides with legal matters. Recently, a US Court of Appeals clarified things a bit more by stating that "liking" on Facebook is equivalent to putting a sign on one's front lawn, which makes it free speech protected by the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is an issue that is important to me, and the intersection with technology is one that fascinates me. This story may seem odd at first, as "liking" is an everyday, trivial action. However this brings up an interesting question:
If "liking" something on Facebook is free speech, should we even make a distinction between speech and free speech, or should we simply consider all speech to be free?
On one side, drawing a distinction is good as a social safety measure. By making this distinction, we allow the possibility of restricting or controlling certain kinds of speech. This is useful as certain kinds of speech are inherently hurtful, such as hate speech, while others may be inadvertently harmful to specific groups. By drawing this distinction, we can reduce the amount of harmful speech that happens, which reduces potential suffering.
However, drawing a distinction requires someone to set the line between good and bad speech. This opens the possibility for a person to judge opinions he is opposed to as "bad speech", effectively creating a form of moral censoring. Aditionally, restricting hurtful speech does not solve the underlying problems, but simply hides them. In a sense it is only postponing the problem.
This argument does require an unproven assumption about speech . Do you think speech can be inherently hurtful, and is speech that cannot be interpreted as harmful even possible?