Freedom of speech is protected

A city of Franklin official recently threatened to sue me over some blogs I wrote. The lawsuit never happened and I’m not naming the official. However the threat raises some chilling issues.

First, an explanation of a blog is necessary. From Nick Barney, a technology writer for

A blog is a frequently updated web page used for personal commentary or business content. Most are written in a conversational style to reflect the voice and personal views of the blogger.

Today’s blogs are more likely to be a personal online journal or commentary related to a business that’s frequently updated and intended for general public consumption.

Blogs can be thought of as providing ongoing commentary on a theme. They’re intended to engage with a community interested in a topic.

Bloggers control their content and don’t have to rely on other outlets to publish their views and connect with an audience.

Blogs provide many writers with an outlet to share information and their views with a wide audience.

Blogs are an effective way to raise awareness about issues and causes, and to influence public and government opinion.

That’s an excellent description. More from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world:

We believe that all individuals should be able to create content and share it online without facing censorship or undue restrictions. This is a fundamental right and the digital space provides the opportunity to share creative material and connect with people across the world—whether that’s as a blogger or other content creator. Bloggers and creators can be journalists (and journalists can be bloggers). Bloggers and creators have freedom from liability for hosting speech the same way other web hosts do. Bloggers and creators are entitled to free speech. We’re tackling frivolous or abusive threats and lawsuits that are meant to harass you into silence or use other claims to chill your legitimate speech. You have rights and it’s more important than ever for individuals to be able to speak out and share material with their communities online.

George H. Pike is director of the Barco Law Library and assistant professor of law, University of Pittsburgh. He writes:

The threat of litigation alone can have a significant “chilling effect” on the person who criticizes, dissuading him or her from engaging in the criticism. In many cases, this may be the primary goal behind the threat of litigation, much more so than an expectation of damages. Oftentimes, the motivation behind the threat of liability is to stop the criticism, not necessarily because the criticism has caused actual, compensable damage to the reputation of the criticized person or business.

Human nature suggests that no one likes to be criticized. However, one of the founding principles underlying the First Amendment is the right to comment and criticize within the bounds of truth. And to the extent that bloggers remain within the bounds of truth or the expression of ideas, their right to criticize is protected.

And once again, from the EFF:

You might publish something that someone considers defamatory… But here’s the important part: None of this should stop you from blogging. Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Internet bullies shouldn’t use the law to stifle legitimate free expression.

One thought on “Freedom of speech is protected

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs – April 2023 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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