Limited Freedom of Speech

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Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

-----------The First Amendment

It is probably no doubt that freedom of speech is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment and it is believed that freedom of speech is the hallmarks of the United States. But this freedom is no longer free due to the development of the society.

Originally under the First Amendment, all United States citizens have the right to speak their minds and publish their thoughts. But the First Amendment grew under great pressure from the governments. When governments interfere with speech, they usually do so by either censoring it beforehand or by punishing it afterward. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment is nearly absolute in protecting against a prior restraint. In general, it is against constitution to punish someone for the content of a speech or publication.

Since the adoption of the Constitution in 1789, however, courts have excluded certain types of speech from First Amendment protection such as political dissent¡ªspeech that criticizes the government. In 1798 Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which prohibited speeches and publications criticizing the government. In 1919, following World War 1, the Court was confronted with a number of cases that tested such First Amendment rights.

One typical case is Schenck v. United States, court case of 1919 in which the Supreme Court of the United States first determined the meaning of the freedom of speech protection of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Court also ruled that there are certain limits to the First Amendment¡¯s guarantees of this freedom. Freedom of speech became unfree.

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