How Speech Codes affect Freedom of Speech

An example of the policy or controversy and how it affects freedom of speech.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech simply refers to the freedom to communicate and express oneself without fear of government retaliation or censorship thereof. However, the government restricts speech to specific limitation which includes libel, slander, incitement, pornography, classified information, graphic content, and copyright violations among others. Additionally, governmental as well as other organizations have policies that restrict the freedom of speech for political reasons for instance, speech codes at state schools. Offense principle is a term used to expand the limits of free speech restrictions to prohibit those forms of speech that are offensive to the society, special groups or even individuals (Williams, 1960).

Public universities have been at the center of controversies as far as freedom of speech is concerned. Universities are made up of people from various economic, social and political backgrounds and therefore, most of these people always hold strong yet very controversial views about issues that affect them. These universities have their own platforms of expression such as university magazines more often than not, written and produced by the university. There are policies that objectively seek to balance between expression and community order. This policy is primarily aimed at dealing with issues to do with hate speech; that is those utterance that point at a given group, race, ethnic group etc. Universities have adopted those policies that were once banned and the adoption of speech codes have been viewed as the best way of controlling speech so as to improve the climate for different races as well as other minorities. This has been a major source of controversy with the state laws that provides for limits to free speech.

How Speech Codes affect Freedom of Speech

Speech code refers to any regulation that not only forbid but also punishes and restricts significant amount of protected speech or what would be defined as protected speech by the society at large. The most common type of speech code embraced by universities is harassment policies. This policy protects students from violating other students’ rights through harassment. The scope of this policy includes language that degrades, insults, and taunts another individual through communication, especially verbal that provokes violence.

While freedom of speech provides people with the right to express themselves without fear of government retaliation and censorship, it also spells out the limitations to which free speech is expected to fall within. One of these restrictions includes harassment. For this reason, speech codes are critical to broadening the functionality of freedom of speech in terms of its limits of application for which the law guarantees.

Initially, courts have always dismissed speech codes as unconstitutional. Public universities that have sought to regulate speech content within these universities by using speech codes have been subjected to judicial scrutiny (Kermit, 2002). Typically, courts have always found speech codes to violate the First Amendment and this is because they have been considered not only ambiguous but also overboard and in contravention to the constitution. Because most of similar cases on speech codes have always been dismissed as vague and unconstitutional, the ruling on the same may not be any different. This is because the courts have high proclivity to the constitution and speech codes being a policy that is not legally supported, the courts would still rule against application of speech codes (Perry, 2006).

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