#CatoDigital — Free Speech in the Age of Trump

December 8, 2016

The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are at the core of a free society, yet we’re increasingly discovering that, while in theory, almost everyone believes in freedom of speech, in practice, few are committed to the policies that truly safeguard it.

On the campaign trail, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump called for “closing down” parts of the Internet as an anti-ISIS measure. Trump further claimed that freedom of the press was detrimental to the fight against terrorism, and demanded that libel laws be expanded to allow individuals to sue media organizations that publish unflattering stories about them. Following the 2016 election results, pundits blamed social media for creating an increasingly polarized voting public; Facebook and Google announced an initiative to go after so-called “fake news sites,” despite controversy over which sites, exactly, should qualify as fake; and more and more platforms have adopted increasingly restrictive policies regarding acceptable speech.

Nick Gillespie and Flemming Rose are among the many classical liberals who worry about the trajectory freedom of speech and freedom of the press seems to be taking. As editor in chief of Reason Magazine and Reason TV, Gillespie has faced Department of Justice subpoenas and a gag order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. When Rose, then-culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, became the target of death threats and more after commissioning 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad to be published around an op-ed on Islam, free speech, and multiculturalism in 2006, he refused to retract his opinions, instead becoming a global activist for free speech-detailed in his book The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech, published by the Cato Institute.

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