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How Freedom of Speech has Been Abused

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Freedom Of Speech: Are We Abusing It?

The United States is home to millions of immigrants who have come and will continue to come to the United States to seek freedom—freedom from their government, freedom to practice their religion with being discriminated against, and freedom to express themselves. Once they are here, they gain access to many natural rights and freedoms. They receive natural rights and freedoms such as voting, freedom to bear arms, freedom to assemble, freedom of press, and many others. Since a lot of immigrants live in the United States, we are known for being a diverse country with much given freedom and rights. Among those rights and freedoms, Americans have the freedom to express their thoughts, feelings, and views freely and publicly; this freedom is known as the freedom of speech. However, I believe that Americans abuse this freedom much and often. There have been several occasions where this has occurred, events include the American flag burning, the Quran burnings, and the Cross burnings (Schmidt, Shelley, and Bardes 2013). In order to resolve this issue, I propose that Congress should pass a law that constricts what we post, send, surf, and search.

Lamar Smith, a United States Representative, introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. According to Kimberlee Weatherall (2012), it is written in the SOPA act: “The Attorney General’s office, when armed with a court order … will be able to demand the elimination of access and funding to infringing sites on behalf of copyright holders. When acting alone, copyright holders can use these mechanisms to cut off funding.” This means that any website that steals movies, music, television shows, and other goods without a copyright, can be shut down by order of court (Weatherall 2012) and that this act allows the court to order domestic companies to cut off all financial ties with foreign companies and to block all American users from accessing the site if the company engages in illegal activities (Aaronson 2012). The SOPA also gives the government the right to see what someone posts, sends, and searches online. Although many disagree with SOPA, I believe that SOPA should pass. I think that if you’re not doing anything illegal, then you should be fine and you have nothing to worry about. Even though, SOPA invades your privacy, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t pass—nowhere in the Constitution is it written that invading someone’s privacy is illegal. If the Congress passes SOPA, it will grant the government access to your emails, even if you do not approve. I see SOPA as a bill that will help prevent deaths, destruction, and chaos much like a preventative medicine that can reduce the ability to “catch” a disease of virus. In this case, the disease and virus are the riots and deaths and destruction caused online on the World Wide Web.

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I believe that we should determine which site is illegal by putting it through the clear and present danger test. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes proposed the clear and present danger test in which it determines when and if the government can restrict free speech; it is only permissible to shut down a site if only a speech shows a “clear and present danger” to the public order (Schmidt, Shelley, and Bardes 2013). The clear and present danger test does not deal with any sort of obscenity and slander. Even though, a vast majority of the posts online are hate crime relate (Leets 2001).

Hate crime related speeches are the most offensive and cause the most deaths. According to Laura Leets’ “Hate Speech Should Be Limited” article, hate crime related speeches causes several deaths such as the death of an homosexual African-American who was dragged behind a pickup truck in Texas, a homosexual student who was murdered in Wyoming, and there were two incidents where several individuals had died due to shoot-outs—one occurred had a Jewish community center in Los Angeles and one in bloody rampage caused by two students. In each case, the Internet played a major role in plotting each murder. For each for the cases, it is said that the culprits behind the deaths talked amongst each other using Internet mail, or emails. With SOPA, it gives the government the right to see your emails; thus, making the Internet a much safer place. However, many websites do not approve of SOPA.

In order to protest against SOPA, there was a day of both online and public protests; this included a day of Internet website blackouts as well as millions of communications that were directed towards the members of Congress (Weatherall 2012). Some websites that partook in the blackout include Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and many others. Many organizations and people oppose SOPA saying that the bill would “nuke” high-tech companies (Aaronson 2012). This means that high-tech companies would have to shut down their websites since they receive a vast majority of their good and wealth from foreign countries. Even though some disapprove of SOPA, some actually support it.

Chris Castle, a lawyer who represents musicians in Austin, Texas and a supporter of SOPA said, “… would benefit from a more clearly defined set of property rights, because the bill would encourage investment in legitimate Internet businesses that can profit from legally distributing artists’ work. SOPA would force American companies and individuals to take responsibility for promoting criminal activity.” (Aaronson 2012). What Chris Castle means is that by illegally distributing an artist’s work, websites cause that individual’s loss of profits. Chris Castle also talks about Americans taking full responsibility for promoting criminal activity by visiting that website and illegally purchasing items. I agree with Chris Castle on both subjects, that is why I purpose Congress should approve of SOPA.

The United States is a diverse country that gives its citizens lots of freedom and rights. Among those many rights and freedoms, Americans have the freedom to express their thoughts, feelings, and views freely and publicly—the freedom of speech. However, I believe that Americans abuse this freedom a lot. In order to resolve this issue, I proposed that Congress should pass the law that constricts on what we post, send, surf, and search. I purpose that Congress should pass the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA for short. The SOPA would shut down any site that illegally sells movies, music, television shows, and other goods (Weatherall 2012), it would also allow the government to have access to an individual’s emails, and see what he or she posts, send, and searches. The SOPA would be able to prevent someone’s death if it notices any sort of speech that shows a clear and present danger to anyone as well as the public order (Schmidt, Shelley, and Bardes 2013). Many websites do not approve of SOPA, because they believe that they would lose their businesses and “nuke” those high-tech companies (Aaronson 2012). But since everyone has his or her own beliefs and thoughts on the subject of SOPA, there are mixed feelings of it and Congress can not pass it unless the people vote on whether they approve or disapprove. Many tend to voice their opinion using Facebook or Twitter and that is why we have freedom of speech—even if we do abuse it.

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