Freedom of Speech Violation… I think Mill would agree

October 27, 2011

Political Theory


When writing our first paper, I began to think about my views. I realized that I had very strong views on the topic as I take free speech very seriously. I have always been one of those individuals who sees speech as a right and that it should never been censored. I may not have as strong views as some other people (aka Mill) but I usually think that people should be able to speak their minds no matter what the reason.

So after writing this paper, I decided to do some research and look for other violations of free speech. After looking for a while I stumbled upon a very interesting case. Apparently, The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware (or ACLU-DE for short) sent a letter to the Dover City Council advising them that their new social media policy might be considered a violation of free speech. Kathleen MacRae, the ACLU-DE director, recently said, “If a City of Dover employee engages in distasteful or disrespectful speech online or through a social media site such as FaceBook or Twitter after work hours, that is their choice. The government cannot dictate what is acceptable speech.”

When reading this article, I happen to be one of the many people who agreed with the ACLU-DE. I thought it was reprehensible and morally corrupt of the city to try to censor people’s speech. No matter if it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media outlet, speech should be protected and free of censorship. What’s funny to me is that if the people of the city really wanted to say what they wanted to say, they could just talk to other people in person about their co-workers, or government officials.       When thinking about this, I wondered what would Mill think about this. Looking back to his reading I found a couple of examples that would prove this argument right. In one instance, Mill was quoted to saying,”The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” In this case, the “livelier impression of truth” is unknown. The dissenters (the Dover county government, in this case) were afraid of the reactions of the citizens for some reason. It makes me wonder for what reason the city wanted to implement these new laws. Even though we never may never find out the reasons why this might have occurred, the reasons don’t matter; the fact that freedom of speech could be violated in a matter such as this is completely and utterly wrong. Do you all agree with this and also do you think Mill would agree with mine and the ACLU-DE’s view that this was a violation of free speech.

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2 Comments on “Freedom of Speech Violation… I think Mill would agree”

  1. Steve Dougherty Says:

    While I agree that speech is important, once the boundary to action has been crossed things become very different, and for good reason. It’s interesting to consider the difference between someone in a government position being limited in speech and someone in the private sector – in the private sector all is well. (Legally, not necessarily ethically.) Why is that? In both cases it’s an employer restricting the speech of employees. While I think that laws restricting speech are definitely not okay, what’s to stop managers from objecting to inappropriate things people may be saying? How far does the “on one’s own time” protection apply? As with Andrew Shirvell, it seems it could be taken to the extent that the protection could apply even as the image of the employing governmental agency is impacted by the employee’s words spoken on their own time.

  2. jgurwitch Says:

    I think that Mill would potentially agree with what is going on since he is an extreme advocate for freedom of speech, but at the same time you have to take a step back and look at the situation as a whole. Although it is freedom of speech and the “government cannot dictate what is acceptable speech,” there are certain lines that should not be crossed if there is someone representing a company. I understand that Kathleen MacRae was backing up her employees, but they should keep a level of integrity and respect in order to uphold the company and how people view the company from an outside point of view. They are still a part of the company, so although it is after hours of work they still are a piece of the company. This might be stretching the idea a little bit, but just like when Congressman Weiner exposed himself to the public, he was misrepresenting himself and therefore quit. It is the same idea that you cannot just go and do what you want or say what you want just because it is on your own private time. It is not plausible or logical to keep an employee around if they are to hate on Jews or African Americans through twitter late at night after hours. So although freedom of speech evidently seems to be important, there is still a line given by society that people should respect and recognize, especially if it is someone trying to not misrepresent their entire company. A lot of people would be dismissed from an entire company just from one idiotic act from someone, and it is not fair to the rest of the people who are working there. Free speech should be allowed but just as there are rules and laws people try to follow, there should be educated guidelines for this type of situation as well.

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