Introduction
in The free speech wars
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This introduction sets out some of the key critical questions that will be explored in this book, and offers a framing for the broader debate, which focuses on the balancing of free speech rights and the ways in which free speech rights are increasingly invoked to try to defend speech or behaviour that should be critiqued or challenged. The introduction first examines the legal and constitutional right to ‘free speech’, as defended in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the defence of which is critical to democracy and free political expression around the world. It then explores the ways in which ‘freedom of speech’ has often taken on a blurrier, more nebulous meaning, which is as much to do with asserting freedom from criticism as it is with defending the right to freedom from censorship by governments. It then introduces some of the key spaces and concepts around which freedom of speech arguments have coalesced – notably ‘safe spaces’ and ‘no-platforming’ vs. ideas about ‘hate speech’ and ‘political correctness’. The introduction finishes with a more personal reflection on the questions around free speech: who gets to make these claims, whose rights are defended by institutions, and what sort of speech is tolerated within the bounds of free speech and what is seen as off limits.

The free speech wars

How did we get here and why does it matter?

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