A Conversation for Ask h2g2

Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 1

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

As I'm studying comparative criminal procedure this semester, I've been pretty surprised by how different counties approach issues. Even countries with close legal ties like the US and the UK have very different approaches.

Right now, I'm writing about the case of Peck v. UK. Peck was caught on a publically owned camera system carrying a knife. The operator directed the police to Mr. Peck. The police found that he was trying to kill himself and took him for treatment. Later the video was broadcast and printed in the media as an example of what CCTV cameras could do. Peck appealed to several bodies inside the UK without obtaining satisfaction. He then broad a case before the European Court of Human Rights and won 11,800 Euros.

http://merlin.obs.coe.int/iris/2003/6/article2.en.html

In the US, I don't think he'd get anything because of First Amendment.

I'm under the impression that the privacy laws in the UK are far stronger than the US where famous people really don't have a hope in hell of winning a defamation or an invasion of privacy suit. It would be especially difficult to obtain an injunction to prevent someone from publishing something private or defamatory.

What do you think? Is the British media too constrained or the American media to reckless?

smiley - handcuffs


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 2

Whisky

I'm actually quite shocked by that last statement...

If you think the British Media is too constrained then all I can say is that the US Media must be a bunch of drunken cowboys!


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 3

Pastey

I could go on for a long time on this one, but I'm on my phone on the tram so will give initial thoughts.

The press over here isn't restrained, more restricted. There are certain lines they know they can't cross, not because of taste, decency or the fines they'll receive (sales more than make up for that) but because if they do it too often they'll lose their self-regulation and be state regulated through law instead.

It's also a very, very lazy press. Pretty much everything printed is either from the internet the previous day (usually seen on Fark or Twitter) or is just gossip. As long as they use the words Aledgedly or Rumoured they can get away with it.

There's very few real news stories, and hardly any investigative journalism, even less that doesn't rely on people accepting bribes to give out private information that shouldn't be in the press due to influencing legal proceedings.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 4

U14993989

I don't think twobit is promoting a particular "answer" - just suggesting a range of possible responses from too constrained to recklessness.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 5

U14993989

" ... hardly any investigative journalism ... "

Too expensive - this sort of thing is rationalised out of the system to reduce costs and maximise profits. smiley - cheerup


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 6

Otto Fisch ("Everything is awesome!")


My non-expert view would be that the US places a much greater emphasis on freedom of speech than the UK does, or to put it another way, interprets the right to freedom of speech rather differently.

My perception is that the US version of freedom of speech is basically the right to say exactly what you want, when you want, in the way you want, with the exception of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre etc. It also appears to trump lots of other rights - to privacy, to freedom from harassment, and so on - in situations where in the UK it just wouldn't. I think also the category of "speech" is much wider in the US (vague recollections of pornography counting as "speech", or someone trying to argue that) and that the US seems not to distinguish between rights of individuals to free speech and the rights to corporations to broadcast whatever they like. In the UK we'd talk about "freedom of the press" rather than "freedom of speech", because the two aren't quite the same thing.

I think the case that best illustrates the difference are those lunatics who picket funerals claiming that God Hates Pretty Much Everyone Except Us. I think I'm right in saying that that just wouldn't be allowed in the UK (and probably in most other countries) because we don't think freedom of speech (saying what you like, where you like, when you like) trumps the right to privacy and freedom for harassment at a difficult time.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 7

U14993989

Do americans have the right to burn an american flag on american soil?


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 8

Pastey

Not so sure Otto, we've got the EDL nutters (in my personal opinion) here who happily march about saying that everybody who can't trace their family back for countless generations should "go home".


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 9

Otto Fisch ("Everything is awesome!")


I'm not saying that we don't have our share of nutters - and I'm only really posting about differences.

My point is about where and when they're allowed to display their nutterdom - what form their freedom of speech can take. While we don't really have the same level of religious lunatics, if we did I can't imagine they'd be permitted to picket funerals.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 10

Baron Grim

Stone Aart - "Do americans have the right to burn an american flag on american soil?"

Yes we do. There have been several calls over the last few decades, mostly from conservatives, to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban this specifically. However, it has been ruled as protected speech several times by the SCotUS, and I agree. I'm of the ilk that believe that even if I don't like what you have to say, I'll defend your right to say it.

However, that only goes as far as the State is concerned. I have no problem when there are real world repercussions for objectionable speech.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 11

Tavaron da Quirm - Arts Editor

I think what would happen here (or in Germany) is that they *would* show the video but blurr the man's face and call him 'Mr John P. (38)' (or whatever his first name and age is). This seems to be the general approach to everything. Tell the story but never call names or show faces.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 12

~ jwf ~ a word to the wise is a fish hunt

smiley - bigeyes
>> Is the British media too constrained
or the American media to reckless? <<

Yes.
You're right on both counts.
Trust me I'm Canadian.

~jwf~


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 13

Baron Grim

In Canadian, wouldn't that be ? smiley - nahnah


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 14

paulh. Come visit Blemnox at A87815181

"Do Americans have the right to burn an American flag on American soil?" [Stone Aart]

They have the right *if* they can afford to pay for the aftermath. If they can't afford the aftermath, they need to seriously consider what they *can* afford, and act accordingly.

It's not "free" speech if you go broke as a result of exercising it. Case in point: The Southern clergyman who set off violence in Islamic countries by burning a copy of the Koran. There was a lot of commotion in his town, such as police details holding back protesters. The town then charged the guy's church for the cost of the extra policemen that were needed. I don't know whether the church went bankrupt or not, but the affair pointed out the limits of free speech. Very often, it's expensive speech.



Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 15

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

Our liberties constrain government actions. Generally, the reactions of people not related to the government aren't what the Bill of Rights are there for. It's like when Dixie Chicks sales went down after they were bad nothing the president. That was just a bad business move for country performers. Country music fans tend to be republicans.

smiley - handcuffs


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 16

TRiG (Ireland) Not all those who wander are lost

There was some guy who posted a video on YouTube. A neighbour of his was flying the Mexican flag on his property. This guy was so incensed by that that he trespassed on his neighbour's land and caused criminal damage by cutting down the flag.

He was ex-army. What a pity that he'd thrown his life away fighting for something he didn't understand and didn't believe in.

TRiG.smiley - whistle


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 17

Gosho knows claret is imminent

One of the things that most surprises me about the difference between the UK and the US with regard to free speech is the extent to which someone involved in a court case can talk about it outside the court. I'm not an expert in matters of sub judice but I've seen people giving interviews on American television before proceedings began to virtually put their case before the judge or the jury have heard any evidence. That would be contempt of court in the UK, I think.

I believe that in the UK court proceedings are deemed to have begun the moment an arrest is made and rights are read, and from that point on (until either the case begins, the charges are dropped, the person is let go for lack of evidence or they've reached the allotted time that police can hold them) they have to keep quiet about the case.

I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who knows about the difference in contempt of court between the two countries because it seems that, with the US right to free speech, contempt of court has a lot less teeth in the US.

I'm pretty sure that most right wing shock jocks wouldn't be allowed on the air in the UK. So much of what they have to say would probably be classed as... again, not being an expert I'm not entirely sure about this... language or behaviour likely to incite... well, pretty much anything in the case of some of them from what I can tell.

In the same vein as the people who protest at funerals (I can never remember their name but I know BG will remind me) I've heard stories of kids being sent home from school because they were wearing a shirt with a message which, in the UK would be deemed offensive, but won their case because it's protected speech to say what they want. Yes, I think that's too much.

Just because you can say something doesn't mean you should, and since too many people can't make that judgement it's my opinion that there should be laws to dissuade and punish anyone who steps over a line. Where you draw the line in such cases is never going to be an easy decision but I think there are certain rules that most people would agree on, and it'd be difficult for me to outline most of them here because of the profanity filter. I guess that if you said certain things in the US which, in the UK you'd be prosecuted for, you're more likely to just lose your job, or be sued in a civil court.

And then there are the stories that just make you go smiley - huh where an action is deemed to be protected speech, often an action that in other countries would be deemed offensive, and naturally I can't think of any right now but I'm sure someone has an example they can cite. Walking around naked comes to mind.


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 18

Rudest Elf


"Free Speech - How much is too much?"

I think I just found out. smiley - rofl

smiley - reindeer


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 19

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

In America, you can't be cited for contempt unless you violate an order of the court or you disrupt the court. The power of the court to cite is limited outside the court room unless you've been specifically ordered to do something or refrain from doing something.

For instance, if you're served with process that directs you to do something, you can be found in contempt. Alternatively, if show your ass in court, the judge can have you serve some time in jail. We base a probate court judge who was late found himself in contempt and wrote a check to the court for $25.

smiley - handcuffs


Free Speech - How much is too much?

Post 20

Baron Grim

Gosho was thinking of the Westboro Baptist Church.


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