Articles on Free speech

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The free speech wars rage on but there is an essential difference between free speech and hate speech. Words shape the way we think about the world. (Jason Rosewell/Unsplash)

Confronting hate speech with the geography of freedom

Most Canadians are more than happy to support free speech, believing it to be the foundation of democracy. But for speech to be free it must be aligned to freedom itself.
Students from South Plantation High School, carrying placards, protest in support of gun control. Carlos Garcia/Reuters

What the National School Walkout says about schools and free speech

When students walked out of school to protest what they see as lax gun laws, some risked punishment from their schools. But it may be worth it to send a message, a First Amendment scholar argues.
The apparently growing practIce of governments and government officials blocking critics on social media has serious implications for freedom of expression. (Shutterstock)

Why governments must not block social media criticism

Citizens should be free to criticize government authorities on social media platforms, and muzzling such criticism may well be unconstitutional.
The framing of Motion 103, combatting Islamophobia, may seem like a distant concern to the free speech debate in universities, but it is in fact related in the way the so-called “alt-right” uses free speech as a rhetorical prop in their campaigns of ideological intimidation. Here: Protesters rally over motion M-103, the Liberal anti-Islamophobia motion, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in March. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Transphobia, Islamophobia and the free speech alibi

Right-wing ideologues use free speech as an alibi for their transphobic and Islamophobic rhetoric.
Thomas Hart Benton’s murals at the Indiana University Auditorium depict the social history of the state. Joseph

The misguided campaign to remove a Thomas Hart Benton mural

A controversial panel on Indiana University's campus depicts Ku Klux Klan members, but Benton had a reason for including them. Is avoidance really the best way to deal with dark episodes of the past?
A client whose hair she had been cutting for 20 years came in as usual, and then, without any prompting or preamble, launched into a tirade against Muslims. Shutterstock

The Hanson effect: how hate seeps in and damages us all

In a suburban hair salon, a Muslim woman suddenly feels unwelcome in the country she has loved for 40 years.
Notorious Holocaust denier Brian Ruhe gives a Nazi salute as alt-right protesters and anti-racism protesters take part in rallies in Vancouver in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canadian social rights activists are legitimizing the alt-right

The backlash against the alt-right has ignited debates about free speech. But not all right-wing thought constitutes hate speech, and we need to identify the dividing line.
A crowd gathers before a speech by Ben Shapiro at University of California Berkeley. AP Photo/Josh Edelson

Is free speech alive and well? 5 essential reads

From the football field to the library, this roundup of archival stories explores how the First Amendment applies to various aspects of our lives.
Online hate isn’t always as easy to spot as it might appear. Lukasz Stefanski/

What is the online equivalent of a burning cross?

Two websites, one taken offline, the other still active, raise hard questions about how prepared Americans are to deal with free speech about white supremacy, in both monuments and domain names.
Private companies are policing online hate without independent oversight or regulation, which has serious implications and poses risks for basic human rights and freedoms. (Shutterstock)

Why it’s a mistake to celebrate the crackdown on hate websites

After violence in Charlottesville, internet firms are erasing bigoted content. But should private companies serve as unaccountable regulators and be responsible for policing complex social issues?

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