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RE: On Internet and social responsibility
From: David Schwartz <davids () webmaster com>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 12:54:37 -0700

On Mon, 17 Sep 2001 12:40:17 -0700 (PDT), Dan Hollis wrote:

On Mon, 17 Sep 2001, David Schwartz wrote:

How it's  >applicable to foreign terrorist organization that uses
American company to  >spread its ideas?

    Because if American companies want to spread the speech of foreign
terrorists, that's their right. The government of the United States should
not be prosecuting them for the content of their speech.

But you *can* be prosecuted on content, e.g. death threats.


        Yep. And the freedom to do what you want with what is yours does not include
the right to club me over the head with *your* bat. Freedom of speech is
pretty darn near absolute in the United States, with a small number of
(usually) carefully circumscribed exceptions. But it's one principle among
many, certainly.

        There is a difficult border between speech and action. If I tell you I'll
give you a thousand dollars if you kill a particular person, that's speech.
In fact, there are any number of criminal acts that can be committed purely
by the content one expresses.

        Some engage in legal hairsplitting and argue that it's not really the
content of your speech (the ideas you wish to express) that are being
suppressed. For example, when I hire a hitman, it's not the speech that's the
issue but the offer of contract. This argument is somewhat persuasive in the
'hire a hitman' case, but I don't find it so in the 'death threat' case.

        If I state, "I presently intent to kill Jack Smith if he doesn't mail me
$500 in cash", what is there in that other than the content of the idea I
wish to express? Freedom of speech is not some contextless absolute. It's a
very important principle among other primary principles.


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