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Abuse and Harassment Diminish Free Speech

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Anita Bernstein


Abuse and Harassment Diminish Free Speech


A familiar dichotomy in the legal academy juxtaposes freedom against a contrasting value like security or equality. Applied to speech, the “freedom” half gets assigned to abusers and harassers while those who speak up against harm are perceived as censors or silencers. The dichotomy is unfair to the latter camp: Abuse and harassment threaten not only security and equality but freedom. As phenomena that have grown with the rise of social media, abuse and harassment drive individual speakers from the Internet; cause points of view to be lost to discourse; force attacked persons to spend scarce time and money in pursuit of physical safety; reinforce unjust and oppressive hierarchies; and generate emotional distress, which in turn impedes the production of new speech.



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