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Freedom of Speech

Speech And Expression

The desire to exchange thoughts with others is considered a natural inclination of human nature. Common use of the term speech infers pure, or verbal, speech, a complex ability to communicate that distinguishes humans from other species. However, use of the term in U.S. law includes a much wider range of individual expression including speaking, writing, and even through behavior called symbolic speech. Therefore, free speech includes all forms of expression, including books, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, computer transmittals, motion pictures, and certain physical actions. Though the phrase freedom of expression is commonly used in courts, the term expression actually does not appear in the First Amendment. Its use, however, includes freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition and association.

Throughout history many governments restricted speech for fear that the spread of ideas by the citizens could interfere with the government's conduct of business and create social disorder. Two kinds of interests are included in free speech, individual interests in expression and social interest in regard to protection from certain kinds of false or hurtful statements. Speech is a personal right that receives preferred treatment over property rights issues by the Supreme Court, with speech cases receiving closer scrutiny. This preferred status is often called the "firstness" doctrine of the First Amendment.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesFreedom of Speech - Speech And Expression, The Origins Of Free Speech Concerns, Speech And The Law, Speech And National Security