Date: August 26, 2017
“Too often companies like Google trample free expression out of fear of legal and civil backlash.
Most people think that the 1st Amendment guarantees free speech. But the philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that free speech requires more than just the absence of legal strictures. The “tyranny of opinion” of the majority has the same effect as censorship enforced by law. When everyone lives “under the eye of a hostile and dreaded censorship” by their fellow citizens, there will be no free inquiry. If Congress “make[s] no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” yet challenging popular opinion gets you fired from your job and made into a pariah, the legal freedom is largely symbolic. Some people may speak their mind and suffer the consequences, but there won’t be free speech.
Mill extolled freedom of speech as a necessary condition for discovering the truth, and he took it for granted that truth is a valuable thing to have. But what about people who don’t want to discover the truth? For them, free speech is the enemy. And since legal protections for free speech are so strong in America, they must resort to extralegal means of silencing those who challenge the lies that they want to protect.”