In this age of internet hate, it’s time to revisit limits on free speech

Given the tone and tenor in society following the election of Donald Trump, I believe it is time to revisit limits on free speech.

The challenge is to determine what degree of extremist internet speech can be tolerated β€” in the context of freedom of speech β€” before determining that extremist speech poses a clear and present danger. Balancing is essential; the consequences of unjustified limitations of free speech are antithetical to a democracy. On the other hand, speech has the potential of harming. The adage “words kill” is neither amorphous nor abstract.

Speech must be handled with sensitivity, intelligence and honesty. When reasonable to assume speech will cause harm to others, we should prevent it. If unclear whether speech will result in harm, it must be protected; otherwise over-reach is the inevitable and problematic result.

Brandenburg must be understood to not only protect the speaker’s rights, but to also ensure protection of potential targets. As has been made dramatically clear in the past weeks, there is potential danger to minority groups. They are deserving of our protection. We are living in a time when reports of hate are surfacing at an alarming rate.