Is Freedom of Speech Harmful ?

For all the wonders freedom of speech provides it is a double edged sword. Two examples of freedom of speech being used in a harmful fashion are “trolling” and “flooding.” Tim Wu defines trolling as, “the speech-control techniques, which seek to humiliate, harass, discourage, and even destroy targeted speakers using personal threats, embarrassment, and ruining of their reputations.” (Wu, 560). In a world where it takes a lifetime to build a reputation trolling poses a serious threat, as it can undo someone’s life work. There are constantly new examples of trolling in the United States occurring, a recent one is President Trump retweeting an image, with the purpose of harming his rival in the upcoming election, Demcratic nominee Joe Bidden.  

Flooding is another negative example of freedom of speech. Wu defines flooding as reverse censorship, “techniques targeted at winning the war for attention. these techniques depend on the idea of generating a sufficient volume of information to drown out disfavored speech.” (Wu, 565). Wu includes an excerpt from  King, Pan, and Roberts stating, “the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject.” (Wu, 566). In the United States we are constantly being flooded with information. The perfect example of this is social media, “Researchers have estimated that Twitter has as many as 48 million bot users.” (Wu, 567). These bots can easily influence viewers’ opinions especially when you take into consideration that many individuals are extremely busy and take what they see at face value. 

After gaining a greater understanding of the situation, I believe there should be a legal framework in place, to deal with communication techniques. I believe this because misinformation can cause great harm to not only individuals but the society as a whole. 


Tim Wu, Is the First Amendment Obsolete ?

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