Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea for Understanding--Beyond False Dilemmas on the Net, by Charles Ess

Overcoming the False Dilemma between Free Speech and Censorship

An initial problem with the way the free speech/pornography/censorship is often phrased is that it categorizes any restriction on speech as "censorship." This is both (1) false and (2) a form of begging the question.

  1. It is false because -- not all forms of restriction on speech are censorship: rather, many forms of restriction are understood and accepted as necessary if we are to successfully communicate with one another.

  2. Given that censorship is but one form of restriction on speech among many others, our debate begs the question if we begin by accepting that all forms of restriction count as "censorship."

So let's rephrase the question: since some forms of speech may be argued to harm others in some way--are restrictions on some forms of speech justifiable, where "restrictions" may range from externally imposed censorship to self-chosen restrictions?

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