When Freedom of Speech becomes a Problem

Hebah Pervaiz - Freedom of Speech

Before getting angry with me, allow me to clarify that I firmly believe in the concept of freedom of speech. I enjoy hearing other people’s views because they help me see things from different perspectives and allow me to challenge my own. And most of the time, I’m up for that! I love opening my mind up to new ideas and learning new things, even if I may not always agree with them. Freedom of speech is obviously also a crucial tool when it comes to political activism and has been key in fighting against corrupt regimes.

There are just some times though when I think that the principle of freedom of speech can be used in a way that is detrimental to society. Albeit a powerful tool, it is a double-edged sword. It has the potential to do huge amounts of good… but on the flip side, can cause plenty of harm.

My main issue with it is that many people use Freedom of Speech as an excuse for hatred and intolerance. These may just be opinions to begin with but when voiced, they have the potential to influence others. And so hatred can spread and provoke more severe forms of hatred such as violence. Particularly when the opinions are coming from authority/ influential figures and being put forward as ‘facts’ to those who know no better. And though I love how social media has the power to bring people together, it can also provide a platform for people to spread hatred that has the potential to reach – and worse, influence – hundreds of thousands of people across the world.

I am not specifying the victims of the hatred, for there are vast numbers of people targeted by this, maybe for their ethnicity, their gender, their beliefs… the list goes on. Surely no one can argue that discrimination or fear-mongering is ever okay?


But isn’t there a law against that?

Technically, yes. The Freedom of Expression Act does not permit speech that could be considered offensive. But as it often is with laws, this is incredibly difficult to pick up on as it is entirely relative to each person. What one person considers correct may be considered by another to be harmful. And as I mentioned earlier, hatred often triggers morke hatred. And I don’t just means insults and name-calling either, I mean physical assault and violence. Because in many cases, these kind of crimes are an indirect result of hatred, spread by influential individuals.

Having said all this though, it doesn’t remain free speech if it’s regulated. As satisfying as it would be to hold people to account for their actions, I do not think it would work. It may be difficult to identify who/ what exactly hate crimes are influenced by. In most cases there is not just one sole individual to blame, but rather a collective group of people with the same, hateful opinions. Which still doesn’t make it acceptable but when do we cross the line between regulated free speech and censorship? I also think that if we impose restrictions on free speech, it defies the whole purpose of it!

Ultimately,  I accept that freedom of speech should be a fundamental right for every human being. It is simply unfortunate that it is used by some groups of people to get away with spreading their toxic views. I definitely think that we as a society should call out these people, even if the law doesn’t always.

What are your opinions on speech that has the potential to incite hatred? Should it ever be tolerated? I would love to hear your views on this topic.


34 Replies to “When Freedom of Speech becomes a Problem

  1. This is so well written! I love the fact that people are able to share views and opinions, and I love hearing others views and opinions, but I agree that it can definitely go too far, and when people are saying things that could cause upset or hatred, then I think something needs to be done! Thank you for this post, it was so eye-opening and interesting x

  2. I’ve met many people who have such a strange (and at times warped) mentality and use Freedom of Speech as a means to justify why they think that’s it’s okay to say the most hurtful things.

    Then again Freedom of Speech is such a vital concept to make sure that all are heard. It’s one of those things that becomes paradoxical if it’s ever censored & regulated, and using what causes offensive is equally vague and open ended.

    1. I find it sickening that people abuse their rights like that.
      And I agree with you – regulating it is unreasonable and makes it kind of useless. There are some things though that are obviously offensive though which I do think we can call out. Other, open-ended things that you refer to – I don’t think there’s much we can really do about them other than tolerate and ignore them, sadly.

  3. I totally agree with you, Freedom of Speech exists but it won’t protect those with the intent to offend and harm. Last year, there was a local English Teacher who was fired from her job for racial insensitive social media posts. But that’s the consequences of such thoughts and words. It can’t be tolerated.

  4. Great piece Hebah. You’re right in saying that many people use freedom of speech to incite hatred. Unfortunately that’s the society that we live in today- lots of discrimination & scare- mongering.

  5. I definitely believe in freedom of speech, like so many others. There’s no real way of regulating it and honestly I’m not sure it should be – It’s about accepting the sour if you want the sweet.

    The only way I can get past the hate speech is by ignoring it. It’s only when we give it attention that it becomes part of our reality…..

    Great topic – thank you for sharing!


  6. Well written and I totally agree. It’s not the opportunity for Free speech it is the way it is used.
    “My main issue with it is that many people use Freedom of Speech as an excuse for hatred and intolerance. These may just be opinions to begin with but when voiced, they have the potential to influence others. And so hatred can spread and provoke more severe forms of hatred such as violence.”
    – 100% agree!!!

  7. This is a very well written post! It’s absolutely true that the concept of freedom of speech is heavily exploited and abused by people that just wish to cause hate and drama! Will be following he blog more. Love the writing style (memoirsofamuslim)

  8. Freedom of speech should be a fundamental right for every human being….I totally agree on this….but lot more times people use it in a bad way….good post….

  9. I love that you opened up a discussion regarding this issue, Hebah 🙂 especially at this time when expressing your opinions and beliefs to the world is as easy as a click of a button.
    I agree that Freedom of Speech should be a fundamental right given to every human being but yes, when it potentially incites hatred, you’ve crossed the line drawn between Freedom of Speech and insensitivity.
    Despite this right, I believe it is also our individual responsibility to be mindful of what we say in public and how others would interpret it and how it may affect them. And sure we’re humans so we’re bound to (hopefully, unintentionally) say something offensive to someone else. But if we do, I find it more gracious to simply apologize to the one offended and learn from what happened rather than have a defensive spiel on “I have the right to my opinions, don’t I?”

    1. Don’t apologise!! I love it when people really engage with subjects like this one and hearing everyone’s opinions! I completely agree with you – it boils down to responsibility because enforcing those kind of restrictions is unreasonable and not really feasible either.
      Yes – it’s so important to learn from our mistakes when corrected rather than get offended about it. Thank you for reading Kate! x

  10. I’m all up for freedom of speech as well, however, it should never be used to ignite hatred and violence. JazakAllah khayr for speaking up for this common issue these days and this much needed reminder.

  11. This is such a lovely post. I agree that anything with a good premise, such as free speech, can be used to cloak something sinister such as hate speech. I think my mindset has been changed a bit because I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for the last six years…where there hasn’t really been any sort of ‘freedom of speech’ but there is still hate speech. Lots of it. So I would say that despite these people justifying their hate speech with ‘freedom of speech’ it doesn’t actually mean it is the cause. Thanks for your thought provoking post!

    1. Thank you! That is a very good point, actually and a very interesting one too. Because of the nature of hate speech, it is likely that restricting speech would make little difference to it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  12. You’re right people do misuse freedom of speech and go way too far. I think our society needs more tolerance. People use freedom of speech only to convey and put forward their message instead of listening to other person as well. They consider it their right only. Whereas we need to learn to listen to understand not to reply. Every body just wants to give the best witty answer and that’s all. So in this case it isn’t freedom of speech at all. Respecting others opinions, got lost somewhere.

  13. Very well written post. There are definitely people that I would say take advantage of the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not supposed to support hatred of any kind that’s for sure

  14. I agree with you here. It definitely should not be tolerated. I’ve heard people give ‘freedom of speech’ as an excuse for their words.

    This is a really interesting topic, and I also enjoyed reading the comments on here too.

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