First Principles on Human Rights: Freedom of Speech

The U.N. has a confusing approach to the meaning of the freedom of speech. Some documents and decisions provide robust free speech protections. However, due to the complex history of the U.N., there has always been a pro-censorship strand running through the U.N. system. If the pro–free speech “side” is to take precedence, U.S. action is needed. Free speech must be modelled and embraced at the national level and championed at the international level—starting with the Secretary General’s ill-advised Plan of Action on Hate Speech. The remedy for any form of speech to be wayward is the right of others to demonstrate the error of the first speaker through logic, facts, and reason. The answer is always more speech.

The U.N. has a confusing approach to freedom of speech. If free speech is expected to flourish, international laws should be reformed—and the U.S. must take action.

The U.S. and other nations should urge U.N. Secretary-General Guterres to rescind the U.N. Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech to protect free speech.

Restrictions on speech should only be valid when that speech incites imminent violence or other criminal acts.

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