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The democractic right to freely express oneself, to communicate thoughts, ideas and opinions to others in an unrestricted manner without fear of retribution. This basic human right is widely accepted but many cultural, religious and political forces restrict freedom of speech for self-interested motives.
There are common legal restraints to free speech such as obscenity, defamation, libel, anti-discrimination, threatening and harrassing speech. Other known impediments include censorship and there is a related theory called the Spiral of Silence.
Some exceptions to even openly pro-Free Speech nations may include:
- Speech that may cause clear and present harm such as the "yelling fire in a movie theatre" example used by the US Supreme Court in 1989.
- Destruction of an icon such as a effigy or flag. Note that in Canada, burning the Canadian flag isn't an offense as such, but you'd probably be charged with a fire in an innapropriate place.
- Threatening another person with murder. "I'll kill you"
- Defamation or libel which entail making blatantly untrue comments with the intention of destroying one's character. To escape retaliation or legal action, defamation online should be done anonymously.
- Free Speech in a number of cases allows one to state one's opinion regarding a person without being considered defamatory. The phrase (and please excuse the cursing) "I think you're an asshole." would then hold different weight than "You're an asshole."