This is another great question that we’ve received as we’ve introduced ourselves as a brand-new organization. Last week, we tackled a question about the limits of tolerance. This week let’s delve into free speech.
To begin with, we need to get on the same page about what free speech is, as defined by the First Amendment. Freedom of speech means that the government cannot limit or punish you for what you say. This is essential for enabling citizens to speak truth to power, and it’s rare to have this right, even among other democracies.
In America today, you can express any opinion about the president or other officials without fear of arrest. Of course, it is a two-way street. If you tweet mean things about them, they may tweet mean things about you. But that’s the point – there can be a conversation when no one fears being thrown in prison.
But the First Amendment has reasonable limits – the classic example being that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. You also can’t engage in libel or slander or lie under oath.
American free speech protections only apply to what is and isn’t legal. American citizens can and should set their own rules for acceptable conduct in their homes, organizations, social networks, and businesses.
Just like setting healthy boundaries is important in interpersonal relationships, it’s important in online forums. No one wants to be overwhelmed by spammers. Spaces designed to include children often take them into consideration. And social media companies need to keep the experience of using their platforms enjoyable in order to stay in business.
At NTC, we want to foster an environment for healthy discussion. We believe that means allowing all viewpoints, even the ones we disagree with.
However, as an organization focused on tolerance, we do insist on respectful treatment of others on our Facebook page. You can express your view about the subject at hand without personally attacking other commenters, using excessively strong language, or going on off-topic rants.
Do you dislike our comment policy? Think one of our campaigns is misguided? Feel free to comment about it on our Facebook page. We welcome your feedback. All we ask is that you keep it relevant and respectful. Want to go on a profanity-laced tirade about the Yankees pitcher? We support your legal right to do so. Just please do it somewhere else.