Self-expression, even through blogging, is not absolute.

While freedom of speech does sound so liberating, it’s not absolutely free. Much like any right, there are limits to it, which somehow mark the space for your responsibility to be at work. You see, you can’t have just rights; as a citizen, you also need to do your share, you also need to exercise a level of responsibility over the rights you practice.

Think of it as when you build a website that will feature your ideas. Of course, you can’t just dow whatever you want with that website. If you turn it into a tech blog then that means exercising responsibility over it precisely as a tech blog. Thus, there are limits, even to free speech.

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Some Limits to Freedom of Speech

The first limit is on obscenity. A work is legally considered obscene if the material in question meets this three-part definition: first: if an average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material appeals to prurient (appealing to sexual desire) interest. Second: it’s obscene if the work depicts or describes, in an offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions, specifically defined by applicable state law. And third, it’s obscene taken as a whole, the material lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

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Second limit to free speech is lies. You can be prosecuted for lying under oath in court (on a sidenote: it’s called perjury). You can also be charged with misleading authorized investigators. It is also illegal to run dishonest advertisements. And if you deliberately tell lies about people, you can be hit with a lawsuit in civil court for either libel (if published) or slander (if spoken). Politicians, on the other hand, have broad protections against being prosecuted for lying, and citizens largely have free rein to criticize their governments, even if the comments are false.

The third limit to free speech is when you resort to violence. You can’t make offensive remarks or personal insults that would immediately lead to a fight. You also can’t threaten violence to a specific person unless you’re making an obvious exaggeration, such as when you say things like ‘I’m gonna kill you,’ or anything to that effect. Also, you can’t say things that will cause severe emotional distress on others, so much so that they will be led to committing a violence on their own.