A Re-Examination of Free Speech

22 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017 Last revised: 18 Sep 2017

See all articles by Sarah Joseph

Sarah Joseph

Monash University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 22, 2017


Recent controversies over free speech in numerous liberal democracies (eg over "no-platforming", s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (Cth) in Australia) have prompted the author to re-examine free speech itself. Is it the progressive right that is commonly assumed to be, or is it a right which is likely to do more to entrench existing power dynamics rather than disburse privilege and power? Is free speech, in fact, a regressive right? Is the so-called marketplace of ideas, which we apparently need in order to uncover the "truth", rigged in favour of the powerful? In this paper, it is concluded that that could be the case, at least in "free" societies.

If free speech is a regressive right, can this be "fixed"? Can speech, for example, be redistributed or can "affirmative action" be implemented? Such "solutions" are examined and ultimately rejected.

Alternatively, has the "fix" already arrived, in the form of the internet and social media, which have done much to expand the marketplace of ideas? It is concluded that it may have, but this "fix" has brought with it new problems, including a new marketplace of ideas where it may in fact be impossible to uncover the "truth".

Keywords: Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, social media, media, hate speech, human rights

Suggested Citation

Joseph, Sarah, A Re-Examination of Free Speech (March 22, 2017). Monash University Faculty of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017/05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2938819 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2938819

Sarah Joseph (Contact Author)

Monash University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

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