Volume 20

When to Suppress Speech

by Michael Huemer

Private agents have good reason to suppress speech that transmits lies about matters of objective fact or that personally attacks non-public figures. Still, they should not suppress expressions of offensive or wrongheaded opinions about matters of public interest. The latter kind of speech-suppression risks entrenching erroneous beliefs, sowing distrust and polarization in society, corrupting intellectual discourse, unintentionally chilling discussion of related matters, and undermining the foundation of liberal social order. The best approach to bad ideas is to engage them in reasoned debate. While engaging with bad ideas provides no guarantee that the truth will win out, it is better than the alternative of ideological censorship.

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