Editorial | A quick lesson on ‘freedom of speech’

We’ve all come into contact with someone at one point on social media – or perhaps you’re this person – who likes to say whatever comes to mind and broadly defends against any criticism with the ‘free speech’ line.

It would be a fine defence if it wasn’t so uninformed.

Australia doesn’t not have ‘freedom of speech’ laws.

What that means is we don’t have a bill of rights like the United States does that outlines the different rights afforded to its citizens.

In fact, Australian citizens are subject to a variety of laws restricting free speech, laws against threatening others, defamation laws, hate speech laws, and even sexual harassment laws.

‘Yeah but, I can still tell it like it is!’ You might say, well, you can – whatever that is. However the one very important difference is that in the same way you’re free to say what you like, others are just as welcome to call you out for it or even take away the platform you say it on.

If what you say isn’t true or even they don’t like it no one has to give you a platform to spread that. No one is ‘censoring’ you nor are they taking away your ‘freedom of speech’ because there isn’t any.

If you post something racist, homophobic or otherwise bigoted on a private website like Facebook and people call you out for it, that’s totally fine. You don’t get to tell people how they feel anyway but that’s for another editorial.

You must own up to and live with the consequences of the content you share on a private company’s website.

The prevalence of sites like Facebook might give the impression that you can set your account to private and go for it, but again, Facebook is a company and reserves the right to remove anything that violates those ‘terms and conditions’ you agree to when you sign up.

Which is all fair enough, often those crying about having their opinions challenged in the court of public opinion are upset they can’t say awful things about people they see as ‘different’ or ‘other’.

Instead, next time feel free to walk out into a large paddock and scream those opinions into the air, where only the cows can complain.

You can say whatever you like but people don’t have to listen to you or give you a platform to say it.