Free Speech

In the United States, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the highest law in the land. This law protects what individuals say, what they write, and their right to meet freely with other people in just about any forum: clubs, demonstrations, organizations, and rallies. This cherished protection applies to everyone in the United States.

The advent of the Internet and the huge variety of data it makes accessible has been hailed by free speech advocates as an incredible boon to the United States and the world. On the other hand, the notion that such a vast array of speech can be disseminated so easily and broadly, all without any restrictions or review, concerns and offends many individuals and groups. Some groups have called for an array of content regulations and restrictions, for example, legislative initiatives that would force electronic communications providers to censor the material they distribute or to deny access to various potential users. On the other side of the debate, there are concerns that such regulation contravenes the protections of the First Amendment, ultimately providing control at the cost of free speech.

The Internet poses certain challenges to traditional First Amendment law. Some groups assert that the Internet should be allowed to regulate itself. These groups assert that government regulations would lag behind the rapidly developing technology. Even so, there have been many attempts to regulate the Internet, and these have frequently raised legal questions and challenges.

Inside Free Speech