Freedom of Speech, Hate and the Internet. Just What is Legal in the U.S.?

Freedom of Speech in America

Freedom of Speech in America

Freedom of Speech in America

Freedom of Speech in America – Just what is legal?

Much has been written and discussed recently about freedom of speech in the United States. For those who missed a few days in the fifth grade and for others who may be distracted by misinformation on social media, here is a primer on freedom of speech, how it relates to “hate speech”, the internet, and what is and isn’t criminally punishable in the United States.

The Constitution and The Bill of Rights

The original U.S. Constitution was written to outline the powers of the United States government following the revolutionary war. Keep in mind, this document was written in a time when a young United States was emerging from a war against the tyranny from a foreign government. There were those that had concerns that while the Constitution provided an outline for the government, it had no protections for the rights of its citizens. Before the Constitution was ratified, therefore, there were twelve amendments to the Constitution proposed to go along with it. Ten of those twelve received the necessary three-quarters approval of Congress and were passed as the “Bill of Rights”.

Many people think that freedom of speech is its own amendment. In reality, it is part of the first amendment that also protects freedom of religion, the right of assembly, freedom of the press, and the right to petition the government during a grievance. Freedom of speech is, of course, a key point in protecting these other freedoms.

The first amendment specifically states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Bill of Rights only defines one crime, the crime of treason in Article 3. It doesn’t define hate speech as a crime.

First Amendment Court Cases

Throughout the years, the Supreme Court has ruled on many cases involving the first amendment which has provided more insight into how the courts view its protections. It is clear there are limitations to the freedom of speech, including:

  • Obscenities
  • Libel and Slander
  • Fighting Words
  • Child Pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to Create Immediate Lawless Action.
  • True Threats

The court has repeatedly ruled that speech that makes people feel uncomfortable, is offensive or that is contrary to popular opinion IS protected. In other words, with the exception of when hate speech would involve a threat or become an incitement to lawless action, it is protected under the Constitution. In Europe, many countries have what is called” group libel laws” which can protect groups of people from hateful speech.

Freedom of Speech in America

Free Speech in Europe

Many Americans have a point of view that freedom of speech in Europe is similar to that in the United States but that is not the case. Germany, for example, has multiple laws regulating freedoms, including freedom of expression, that have their roots based in the post World War II era. Hate speech in Europe is generally not viewed as a critical freedom. Hate speech is often regulated in the interest of “harmony”. As terrorism becomes more common on the continent, more policies are being enacted throughout the Europe to limit freedom of speech and expression.

Free Speech and the Internet

Many believe that free speech rights extend to the internet but that is not necessarily true. Companies like Google have their own right to set guidelines for posting content on their websites. This is interesting in that today, major websites like Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have more control over your speech through their policies than the U.S. Government. These large corporations generally attempt to operate under the rules and guidelines in the countries they serve but that isn’t always the case. Many have at least have some form of “hate speech” which restrict what may be posted by users. Many of these companies use more of a European model when it comes to freedom of speech, which is more restrictive than the laws we have in the United States.

The power that some tech companies wield over free speech came into focus following the violence in Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2017. Some tech companies shut down the websites of white-supremacist groups following the incident, raising the eyebrows of freedom of speech advocates. The companies ultimately stated that these websites “violated their terms of service”, allowing them to shut down the websites.

It is interesting to note that freedom of speech is not the only right we voluntarily give up when using the websites of some major companies. Each day we give up more and more of our rights to privacy, freely providing our personal information and even allowing internet-based auto and video recording devices into our homes. While these policies are spelled out, they are often buried in page upon page in the extensive user policies of these websites and devices. The reality is that very few of us thoroughly read these terms of service.

While some groups are aggressively pursuing the protection of our rights and liberties, many of us are simply signing them away in pursuit of convenience, better communication, and the desire for advanced technology.

Whats your opinion on Freedom of Speech in America? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and if you know someone who might be interested in this article, feel free to share it. Click here for more Articles about Freedom of Speech

What’s The Difference Between Whistleblower & Leaker?

Whistleblower
Whistleblower

Americans who get labeled a “whistleblower” become a hero. Get labeled a “leaker” and you could get branded a traitor and end up in jail. What’s the difference? It all depends on the status of information shared and the channels that the information travels through to become public.

Whistleblower Protections: In essence, a whistleblower is a leaker of information that certain parties would have preferred to remain secret. To encourage people to come forward with information out of concern for public safety, there are U.S. statutes that protect whistleblowers. However, there is a fine line between being a protected whistleblower or a criminal leaker.

Status Of Information: Any American citizen can disclose corporate or government information so long as it is not federally classified information or disclosures prohibited by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

  • Trade Secrets: A patented product or process is one tangible example of a trade secret. Patent information is protected for 17 years. But companies and individuals enjoy protection of certain trade related information other than what is covered by a patent. However a trade secret is specifically defined, it enjoys legal protection.
  • Federal Information: There are generally three categories of federally classified material: sensitive, secret and confidential. Category is determined by who might be harmed if the information went public. However, material must be de-classified after it ages past the 25-year mark unless it meets a narrow exemption, such as designs for nuclear weapons.
Whistleblower

Lifting The Veil: But what if it is in the best interest of the public that legally protected secrets be revealed? The difference between a whistleblower and a leaker is defined in the key decision on how to go about lifting the veil. To enjoy legal protection, a whistleblower must go through proper channels to bring the information to light. A leaker goes straight to the public. A whistleblower is legally protected from prosecution via the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. A leaker doesn’t have the same protection. That is why leakers often exercise their freedom of speech in ways that protect their anonymity.

Information might be leaked anonymously to a news agency or journalist. Leaking directly to the public through the Internet is also popular. Platforms like OrangeWebsite are committed to supporting freedom of speech and make it easy to go public in a global forum.

Why Go Rogue? If there are legal protections in place that allow a concerned citizen to bring important information to the public’s attention, why risk legal trouble by becoming a leaker? There are usually three different circumstances that inspire a person to go rogue with classified information or trade secrets.

Whistleblower

1. Frustration: A person trying to serve public interest by first going through the proper channels may become frustrated if they experience stonewalling. The wheels of bureaucracy oftentimes churn quite slowly. A concerned citizen may have had every intention of being a protected whistleblower. They had a reasonable expectation of believing in “the system”. They wanted to put an end to improper corporate practices, abuse of authority or other circumstances they felt endangered the public or violated public trust. However, should they become anxious, awaiting results from their appropriate action of bringing attention to the matter within the proper channels, they might decide to go rogue. Especially if they believe that lives are at stake.

2. Money: Where trade secrets or military intelligence is concerned, the pay-out of a lifetime could become an irresistible temptation even for the most scrupulous concerned citizen. Enemies of the state and eagerly competitive entrepreneurs understand the value of such information. They are willing to pay to get their hands on what will surely be the information that will make their careers. The average citizen is no match for highly skilled negotiators tasked with securing sensitive information.

3. Political Motives: Although it is easy to ascribe political motives to many leaks that reveal embarrassing or compromising information about politicians, political motives can run much deeper. Sometimes there is real villainy attached to political motives behind a leak of classified information and trade secrets. Traditional politics can inspire a person to leak information that can endanger military and intelligence personnel. For countries engaged in wars, within the populace of their own country are those willing to do anything to resist and interfere in military action. But the definition of politics is more nuanced. Even a corporate environment has its own politics. A leaker of a trade secret could simply be a disgruntled employee seeking to sabotage an employer as a form of retribution.

Whistleblower

Where The Government Stands: Although it may seem that the U.S. government is always up to something nefarious, the truth is that agencies strenuously encourage blowing the whistle on misconduct or wrongful acts. There are hotlines provided, such as the Office of Inspector Generals (OIG). Presidential directives prohibit employer retaliation toward a whistleblower. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a whistleblower website. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is tasked with investigating and prosecuting allegations received from whistleblowers. By making it easy to communicate to federal officials about concerns, the government is signalling to concerned citizens that the State does, indeed, care about doing the right thing. But a whistleblower must be patient, understanding that the investigative process is tedious, lengthy and, by its very nature, quiet. It may seem like nothing is happening when the exact opposite is true.

The Risk Of Going Rogue: Should a whistleblower throw their hands up in the air, grow impatient and cross the line to become a leaker, they put themselves at risk for prosecution. Should a case be made against them, their motive will be the hinge upon which their case will turn. Even if a motive is concern for the public, but a whistleblower became impatient with the process, the mood of the country could still result in the full weight of the law coming down. In a national climate that is strained by war, hostile politics, and a number of public actors who became notorious leakers escaping justice, it could be that the federal government seeks to make an example of a leaker and any leaker will do. Even a leaker with noble intentions.

For more information on issues related to freedom of speech, security and online privacy, please contact us. That is our mission, to provide the world with a platform for the words they wish to share with the world.

Freedom of Speech Amendment

Freedom of Speech Amendment
Freedom of Speech Amendment

Freedom of Speech Amendment

How Orange Website Policies Promote Your Right to Publish Anything.

You may not be located in the U.S., but you know that nation has a freedom of speech amendment that protects individuals from being able to talk or publish on any topic — even controversial religious, political or sexual subjects. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets an ideal for the world in protecting your right to say what you think.

At the same time, under certain circumstances, even courts in the U.S. can require internet service providers or web hosting service providers to release data about their customers. One example is in cases where copyright may have been violated. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), companies who claim copyright violations can ask an internet service provider to remove websites that may contain copyrighted materials and can sue for information on the person who posted it. The problem with a DMCA Takedown request is that the requesting party may not even need to prove the copyright violation and it can be used to silence or remove controversial material. In some cases, the material in question was covered under fair use guidelines or was not even owned by the requester.

Outside the U.S., other nations may place tight restrictions on what you can say, even online. In March, an city civil court in India ruled that a news website had to remove two articles that criticized a local politician. Last year, news websites in Ecuador were told by the government to remove stories and images, and some sites suffered suspicious Denial-of-Service attacks that shut down their sites after publishing stories about potential corruption.

No matter where you’re located in the world, you want a truly free web hosting company that will completely protect your right to publish without harassment, censorship or legal threats. That’s where OrangeWebsite hosting comes in. We’re based in Iceland, where freedom of expression is protected by the constitution. In the global community, Iceland’s legislature is known for strongly advocating freedom of speech and a free press. Bloggers and journalists have the freedom to publish virtually anything without fear of being uncovered or legally prosecuted.

Freedom of Speech Amendment
Freedom of Speech Amendment - DMCA Take Down Notice

Freedom of Speech Amendment

OrangeWebsite can’t protect you from legal prosecution in your country, but we can ensure that your website that reports on the government won’t be taken down on the whim of an angry politician. We also do not respond to DMCA Takedown requests; any legal action to censor your website must be filed in Icelandic court and approved by an Icelandic judge. Because of our very lenient laws, this is rare.

Security and privacy matters. We don’t release your information to others and we don’t allow you to be censored, even if your published material is controversial. We do require that you follow our terms of service and the very liberal Icelandic laws to be our customer, but we think you’ll find there’s no better home for your site, no matter what you’re saying.

Want to know more about why we’re the best fit for you? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • We’re located in a convenient geographical location. Because we’re halfway between North America and the European continent, we can offer blazing fast connection speeds to customers in either location. (At last measure, you could connect from Europe in 29 ms and the U.S. in 39 ms — pretty speedy.) That means your site will load quickly and perform well for visitors from either location, and for that matter, around the world.
  • You don’t have to provide personal data. Well, we do need an email address so we can contact you, but we don’t ask for any other details. We’ve found we can provide excellent service to our customers without needing to know names, addresses or other contact information. While we take every possible step to protect our servers, we also know you’ll be happy that hackers can’t ever access your personal data — because it’s not there to take.
  • We don’t reveal any of your information. We don’t have to legally make any customer details available to the Icelandic government — or any other government or organization in the world. Even though we don’t store your details, we don’t have to give up even the little we do have to anyone who asks. Your identity is protected with us.
  • We accept BitCoin. BitCoin is the world’s most popular cryptocurrency. You can use BitCoin to pay your invoices without sharing any personal details. Plus, there are no transaction fees for using BitCoin. We use the current exchange rate between euros and BitCoin.
  • We’ll keep your website safe from attack. Attackers have increased as their methods have become more sophisticated and widely shared. If you’re running a controversial website, it may be more likely to be targeted by folks who don’t like you or consider themselves your competition. We’re one of the few companies in the world to offer high-end DDoS protection methods, including against Layer 7 (application layer) attacks. You pay for the level of protection you need.
  • We require two-factor authentication. Another way to protect against your information being stolen or used, or your website being taken down, is to require two-factor authentication. Each time you log in, your phone gets an automatic text message with a code that you use for access. Use any number capable of receiving SMS data — it doesn’t have to be connected to your name in any way. Two-factor authentication virtually guarantees that even if your password gets cracked, an intruder can’t get into your website files.
  • We’re proactive against all types of security threats. Our team includes server security specialists and “ethical hackers” who are constantly checking our systems for issues. We also keep our software updated with the latest security patches and perform regular audits to ensure there are no easy ways to access our servers. Every connection to our servers goes through a 256-bit SSL layer just to make absolutely certain your information isn’t getting viewed or captured by an outside source.
Freedom of Speech Amendment

Freedom of Speech Amendment:

Picture of the Bill of Rights First Amendment.

What’s more, we are there for you, no matter where you’re located. Our 24-hour response team is available to help if you run across any issues with your service, and an authorized staff member is always keeping an eye on our security. Our professional support staff can customize solutions for you if you need specialized assistance.

You may also be pleased to know that we do all this with a focus on sustainability. While it doesn’t impact your ability to remain private, you should know our servers run on 100 percent green energy. Iceland is home to many options for renewable resources and we take full advantage of these to power our servers and reduce pollution from traditional energy sources.

Do you have more questions about Freedom of Speech Amendment and how we can maintain your privacy and security as a publisher, blogger or journalist, no matter where in the world you’re physically located? We’d be happy to talk to you and set up a custom plan that meets your needs. Contact us for information about our security or our server plans.