Freedom of Speech

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. " -- U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1.


Above is how we here in the United States define the term "Freedom of Speech".  All of the laws concerning speech in this nation revolve around this one simple statement.  This statement protects your right to say what you feel and not fear for your safety afterwards.  It also protects someone else's right to say whatever they feel to you.  This quickly turns Freedom of Speech a double edged sword.  It is only human nature to always feel that what you have to say is the correct and morally right thing even though it is sometimes not..  Similarly, there are always a number of sides to every issue, each one feeling that their way is the correct way.

All of the information presented in these pages is intended to help you take away a better understanding of what Freedom of Speech means with respect to the internet and world wide web.  The internet is by far the fastest growing medium of communication since the advent of the telephone.  Therefore, many issues quickly arise concerning Freedom of Speech and the rights of the netizens (those who use the net).   Since the internet is not confined to the borders of the United States, the issue is made even more difficult. 

But, what is appropriate for such a medium as the internet?  This single question has become a major issue.  While Freedom of Speech supports most everything a person may say or do, there is also the question of ethics and appropriateness.  But then there is the issue of who defines appropriate?  Whose ethics do we use?   Everyone has a differing sense of morality, so to simply choose what is appropriate and inappropriate would be a serous infringement onto some people's freedom of speech.   This is why this issue is not as simple as one may first believe.

These pages will tend to focus on a few major areas of this issue.  The areas the will be discussed will show that there is never a simple solution.  There are always two or more sides to every issue.  The following areas just tend to create more debate in the public arena than any others.

To understand what is currently happening with respect to the law, you have to first understand what has been happening recently.  There is also a timeline available to show this progression of the law over the past few years.



February 1995

September 1995

PICS homepage:

February 1996

February 1996

October 1996

June 1997

August 1997

Full article:

October 1998

January-February 1999

Related Readings and Web Sites




Events In The Past

Current Events

In The Future

Relevant Links




    What is Cyberhate? Well, I think the most general definition we can give is any writings, pictures, or other electronically transmitted information that advocates violence against, separation from, defamation of, deception about, or hostility toward other people based upon race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. There are many examples of Cyberhate sites and situations dealing with Cyberhate, only a few of which will be covered in this report. But your view of Cyberhate and whether it should be allowed under the first amendment may depend on which you value more; freedom of speech, or stooping people from voicing their hate.

Current Status

           - We must find room for hate speech, too
           - Free Speech or Decency?


    If the present is any representation of the future, Cyberhate will increase. People will continue to express their views about politics, religion, sports, TV shows, and yes people of different race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation as long as they are allowed too. Will they continue to be allowed to? I don't think that is easy to say. The internet is a very large form of communication, expression, and advertisement, and as long as the first amendment come before how people feel, the internet will also be a forum for people who hate to express it. Whether they should be allowed to or not, depends on who you ask.

Relevant Links




    Cryptography is an ever growing form of computer security that very well affect individuals, businesses and the government in the coming years.  This topic has been known to be quite a debatable one.  It seems as if everyone has a differing opinion on how cryptography should be used today.  Many citizens believe that they should have the right to use encryption software for their own purposes without any intervention from the government.  Some in the government feel that they should regulate how encryption can be used and what can be done with them.  

Current Status


  Who knows exactly what PC crypto will hold for us in the future.   Surely the government will continue its attempts to push on-demand recoverable crypto technologies.  This all depends on how other governments respond to this issue and how the corporations that create the software feel on the issue.  Other government agencies, such as the European Council, will most likely suggest their own crypto strategy, in an attempt to reach a happy medium with the US government.  It's really hard to say what may happen in this ever dynamic field, with the varying views on how crypto should be used and if it can be recoverable. 

Relevant Links



    As you can see Freedom of Speech has many applications,   and as a result, can cause several problems.  Only a few topics of application were discussed and summarized here, there are certainly several others as well.   There never seems to be a quick and dirty solution to any of these problems, and there may never well be in the near future.  When Constitutional Freedom of Speech was drafted, computer technology hadn't even been dreamed of yet.  The problem that we're having today is that these older Freedom of Speech rights and policies didn't apply to our newly created virtual world and as a result these problems arise.  We are merely at the beginning of the computer technology revolution and so we should expect the debate about how to apply the Freedom of Speech to these new realms to change accordingly.  This may mean continued controversy over what should or shouldn't be done about Internet pornography, Cyberhate and Cryptography.   From what we can see in our future today, computers and the Internet will become less constricted by bandwidth issues in such a way that the Freedom to use it will change completely.  New issues will arise and older ones will most likely subside.  Who knows what the future will hold for these topics, only time will tell.   Let's just hope that we all will continue to have the Freedom to discuss it electronically in the future.


Copyright © 1998 by Richard Baker, Michael Buonaccorsi, Conrad Jenkins, Ryan Hagan and Shad Reynolds
Updated by J.A.N. Lee, 99/02/26.