Free Speech Controversy and other issues

Free Speech Controversy and other issues. The freedom of speech is a human, civil and political right recognized and appreciated by the United States government and its citizens. Every citizen has a right to communicate their ideas and opinions using their properties or bodies to anyone who wishes to receive the information. The freedom of speech also involves any act of seeking, receiving and disseminating ideas or information regardless of the medium used. The right to free speech is included in the first amendment to the United States constitution. The constitution states that “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” (Cornell Law School, 2018). Additionally, through the Gitlow versus New York ruling, the United States’ Supreme Court stated that the first amendment’s protection of free speech also applied to state governments (Beaumont, 2018). Although the United States’ constitution provides the right to freedom of expression, the rights are subject to certain restrictions according to the law.

Free Speech Controversy

Although the government cherishes the freedom of speech, this freedom is given certain restriction. Often, this restriction brings about controversy. An example of free speech controversy in the United States is the Bradley Manning and Wikileaks saga. Bradley Manning was serving as a soldier in Iraq when he was arrested in 2010 following a report from a computer hacker informing the United States’ army criminal investigation command that manning had disseminated classified information to Wikileaks, a whistleblower website (Savage & Huettemanaug, 2013). Manning was charged with multiple offenses including aiding an enemy, communicating the military information to an unauthorized source, computer fraud and stealing the government’s property. Manning pleaded guilty to some of the offences. Although he was acquitted of the aiding the enemy charge, manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving secrets to the whistleblower website (Savage & Huettemanaug, 2013). In addition to the imprisonment, manning would forfeit all his pay and allowances, receive a dishonorable discharge and reduction in pay grade.

Apart from the Manning versus the United States ruling, there are other federal laws that address similar free speech controversies. For instance, the Espionage Act of 1917 prohibits the interference with the United States military operations and prohibits individuals from supporting the country’s enemies during a war. In fact, through the Schenck versus the United States, the supreme court ruled that the Espionage Act of 1917 did not violate the freedom of expression right by convicting those who aided the enemy during war (Chen, 2017). According to the supreme court, the freedom of speech that is afforded in the United States’ constitution can be restricted if the information spoken or printed could present danger to the country. As a result, the relationship between the Espionage Act of 1917 and the freedom of speech have been debated ever since.

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