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Journal of Law and Policy

Authors

Nadine Strossen

Abstract

As a lifelong activist on behalf of both equality and free speech, I am convinced, based on actual experience, that these core values are mutually reinforcing, and not, as some have argued, in tension with each other. Moreover, I am convinced that this is true even for offensive or hateful speech that affronts our most cherished beliefs. However, defining hateful or offensive speech is inherently arbitrary and subjective, which raises concerns about what speech should be restricted, and how. Empowering government to punish hateful or offensive expresson necessarily vests officials with enormous discretionary power, which will inevitably lead to arbitrary or subjective determinations based on what these officials deem to be offensive or hate speech. There is also a fear that this type of censorship would negatively and disproportionately affect minority groups. To combat these ills, more speech, not less, should be the solution.