Limitation of Freedom of Speech

Liberty is a term that has many definitions depending on the philosophers involved with no collective agreement on what it means. One of the well-known definitions is Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty,” whereby he distinguishes between what he referred to as positive and negative liberty (Berlin, 1959). According to Berlin, the negative freedom that he defends is the more straightforward idea. It reflects the absence of constraint. It supports the notion of people being free and to be subject to the obligations, which are their creation. Indeed, to live in the midst of others is to recognize that freedom must have limits. However, the ideal society is the one that a person can achieve the highest level of individual autonomy, which is consistent with other’s autonomy. Thus, the job of politics is to ensure that a person’s freedom does not interfere with others and vice versa. Values must be generated by every person and not imposed by the collective. In positive freedom, Berlin expressed it as a complex idea whereby to be free is not just to be without external constraint. For people to achieve a higher degree of freedom they must be embedded by a community, which has a particular story about what life means. Nonetheless, Berlin and liberals suggested that positive freedom carries a danger of authoritarianism. However, Karl Marx differs with Berlin’s definition of liberty whereby he explains how interfering with an individual’s rights is not equalized to freedom (, 2018). For Marx, people are genuinely free especially when they are engaged entirely with whatever they are doing. In other words, he explains that freedom can only be made possible when people set up a society in a particular manner. It is not about personal separation but collective organization. Similarly, to Christianity, what limits our freedom is a sin. For instance, fornicating is unfreedom to Christians (Shipley, 2018). However, when it is placed concerning negative liberty, sin makes people wholly free. Fornicating is a sin that does not sound like freedom and thus to be entirely free one has to get rid of the addiction. When people have unlimited right to speak their mind concerning negative liberty, hate speech will be the norm, the sensitivity of some topics will be abused, offenses directed to a particular group rising, and influential people using the chance to promote their opinions while drowning the view of the powerless. The brawl brought about by freedom of speech made me opt for positive liberty. In this paper, the reasons why freedom of speech should be limited will be broadly discussed.

Some speech may be offensive especially to a specific group, which is favored by the state or dominant culture (Barendt, 2005). The offensive speech at times may be spoken in the desire to reach the truth; however, to the minority, it may not be the case. Either way, offending a group based on one’s assumption or belief is wrong that limiting freedom of speech. For instance, a guileless comparison of Prophet Mohammed’s intimacy with a nine-year-old girl to the sexual relation of pedophiles in the United Kingdom is offensive to Muslims and the religion of Islam.

Some speeches are also hateful even though the intention of the person speaking may be to reach the truth (Sunstein 1995, p. 60). Nonetheless, statements, which insult, degrade, demoralize, or defame other people, are at times thought of as inexcusable. Since they harm the specific people or make them feel insecure, that calls for a reason to limit it. This is different from offensive speech since offensive speech is not in any way hateful. For instance, expressions that are full of hate are claims that black individuals have low intelligence quotient as compared to the whites.

Freedom of speech also encourages cyberbullying, which leads to self-harm of those bullied or reducing their self-esteem. It is usually said that a pen is more lethal than a sword.  With the age of technology whereby the majority of the youths spend their time in the social media, they may end up being cyberbullied, which can make them develop low-self esteem or even commit suicide. In the United Kingdom, 20 percent of young people have indicated fear of cyber bullies as the reason for their reluctance to go to school, 5 percent have reported causing harm to their bodies after being bullied online, while 3 percent have attempted suicide (, 2018).

Some speeches are also sensitive. They are speeches, which are neither hateful nor offensive, but may bring painful memories that some people are struggling to repress or forget due to their emotional torture past. For instance, discussing the emotional trauma that couples who are already divorced with a divorced person is always insensitive.

Speech restriction for practicality reasons includes a student requiring everyone in the class to be silent while the professor is teaching is impolite or a student shouting that there is a fire in a crowded school building causing panic while in the real sense there is no fire. Encouraging such free speeches in practice usually harms everyone involved thus, they should be forbidden.

Freedom of speeches should also be restricted when it comes to power. The reason being is that leaders who are influential in the government may use their power and influence to promote their opinions, which drowns the voices of the powerless in the society. A member of parliament may think that his position is more powerful to influence the decisions of his people thus making decisions for them without their participation. When that type of speech is allowed, democracy will be threatened with the voice of the majority of those in power ruling the voiceless individuals. For instance, in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslim population located in the Rakhine state have been victims of ethnic cleansing with their leaders President Win Myint and his confidante Aung San Suu Kyi using their powers to declare that they are not involved while the army is the one carrying out the attacks. The leaders also use their freedom of speech in the claim that the Rohingya population is the ones attacking the military while according to UN, the army is the one attacking them instead thus they are trying to defend themselves (Smith and Krol, 2018).

Nonetheless, despite the benefits of restricting freedom of speech, offering people sometimes the opportunity to speak out can also be good. When people hold opinions that are seen as offensive by the society, silencing them will never be a good solution. When they offered the chance to express themselves by making them work through the particulars regarding the convictions that they hold, it will be easy to expose their weaknesses in their beliefs thus may be changing their opinions. However, when an institution advise them that they are forbidden from expressing their views, they can retreat away from the discussions then gravitates to the internet by using synonymous names in posting in the newspapers or on the social media (Lawler, 2017).

However, Berlin disliked the notion of being directed and treated as if he was a child by other people who may think that they know things better than him thus supporting the negative liberty. It is fascinating how many of the metaphors that are currently utilized in denigrating the application of positive freedom to the realm of politics reach for childrearing as the point of reference. A particular type of politics is left out as paternalism. Berlin would have approved positive liberty but for his complaint that it was coercive and not supporting freedom at all. Thus, when Marxist refer to society as a social organization or Christians impose of service as ideal freedom, or when I recommend limiting of speech, Berlin attributes that to the enemies of freedom.

References (2018). Effects of cyberbullying - Family Lives. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Lawler, A. (2017). Head-To-Head: Should there be limits on freedom of speech?. [online] University Observer. Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Berlin, I., 1959. Two concepts of liberty: an inaugural lecture delivered before the University of Oxford on 31 October 1958. Clarendon. (2018). Introduction to Political Theory: Liberty (Marxist view on Liberty). [online] Available at:"chapterid=28117 [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Shipley, C. (2018). What is True Freedom?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Sunstein, C., 1995. Democracy and the problem of free speech. Publishing Research Quarterly, 11(4), pp.60.

Smith, N. and Krol, C. (2018). Who are the Rohingya Muslims? The stateless minority fleeing violence in Burma. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Barendt, E., 2005. Freedom of speech. Oxford University Press.

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