yFreedom of Speech, Personal Privacy, and Harassment

In many ways the world has become more open and receptive to different ways of life, ideas, and civil rights. One of those civil rights includes freedom of speech. If you already know where this is going feel free to move on. Everyone that’s still here lets explore how freedom of speech can conflict with personal privacy.

When speaking your mind about other people there’s a thin line between freedom of speech, defamation of character, and Harassment even if someone is a celebrity or public figure. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if, when your talking about that person, you’re only criticizing their skill or job performance in relation to what made them famous or the office they hold. The major point is it’s OK to say this person is doing a bad job and that you or someone else can do better, but it’s not OK to bring up details about that persons personal life, address, and phone number.

My personal reasoning about this might be different from yours, but allow me to explain. In my opinion if you find out someone does something in their private life that you don’t like it’s only available for freedom of speech if their activities are illegal. Just because you don’t think someones personal life is moral that doesn’t give you right to put their lives in the public eye to be shamed and harassed. Making that person’s personal phone number and address public can leave them vulnerable to 24/7 harassment and possible physical attack.

How about some examples. You don’t like how a politician is voting on a specific bill so you talk about why you disagree with their position and why you believe that politician should be replaced. Great job you’ve exercised your right to free speech. What happens when you make your argument about the fact that said politician enjoys adult entertainment or something else that’s legal, but frowned upon. Now you’ve violated the politicians personal privacy and possibly committed libel or slander if you can’t prove the statements are true.

Here’s another example. You don’t like how the new pitcher on your favorite baseball team throws so you criticize their technique and suggest some replacements. Great job that’s fine. What if you talk about how they rarely take their family to church? You guessed it that’s private and has nothing to do with their skill nor legality.

Let’s take the same politician and pitcher then say they’ve been randomly punching people in the face. Now you can put that in the news because it’s illegal, but you still gotta prove it when the lawsuit or criminal case comes because you could just be making it up because you hate that person and would love to see them destroyed by any means.

When it comes to someones personal life ending up in the news and the info being exposed is not illegal it’s usually because that person is a celebrity or holds public office and what they're doing is not considered “Wholesome”. That’s a big story for some news companies. Sometimes people are willing to face a lawsuit based on the possible profits from website and TV advertising, book deals, etc. Trust me their’s a reason we have laws related to libel and slander.

There is a possible gray area. Using your free speech in a way that promotes division and inequality or advocates the harm of people that are different should be illegal. I see it as terrorist ideology, but it isn’t to some so maybe there’s just something I’m missing here. I like Australia's law about urging violence and 18 U.S. Code § 2102 could use some work. I believe both of these laws can be applied to people promoting the divisive dehumanizing ideals of any group, historical or currently active, that can lead to violent behavior.

I guess movies, YouTube, and TV are allowed to show violence because the creators are often required to say don’t try the actions at home, have age restrictions, remind everyone it’s not real, and they don’t want anyone to repeat the acts shown. Even though I’m a fan of action movies when people actually advocate division and violence, outside of acting, they shouldn’t be able to hide behind beliefs or advocating ideas when it comes to these laws.

Usually America is all about censoring speech that leads to harm. You can read my typed information about censorship in my other story. That’s how I feel about this subject. What do you think?

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Michael R. Wright

I hold two certificates in blockchain technology from INSEAD. I write solid info for you to stay informed. So, stay for a while if you’re interested.