Explore the First Amendment: Freedom of Speech

Where America Stands on Free Speech


Support for free speech — the best-known of the five First Amendment freedoms — is increasingly tested, especially by hostile or hateful expression online. More than a third (36%) of Americans say preventing hate speech is more important than preserving free speech. Almost as many are OK with “cancel culture,” but nearly half have self-censored out of fear.

Find more of where America stands on the First Amendment at WhereAmericaStands.org.

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Free speech may be Americans’ most cherished First Amendment freedom.

A hallmark of democracy, free speech allows people to criticize the government without fear of being punished. Free speech sets the stage for fiery presidential debates and allows campaign ads that are sentimental or searing.

Free speech unleashes comedians to poke fun at our leaders and musicians to express themselves in song. It lets activists, athletes and actors speak out and protest injustice.

But there are limits to free speech. Congress can’t restrict your right to express yourself, but your employer can.

And while social media can be a freewheeling forum for free speech, Facebook and Twitter are cracking down on content that spreads falsehoods or hate speech.

Free speech is everywhere, but not all speech is protected by the First Amendment.

Find out where our rights to free speech start — and stop — with this primer and the Freedom Forum resources below.

Expert Columns

Freedom Forum fellows offer their insights on the right to free speech and the First Amendment.


Perspective: Restricting Speech in the Name of Safety, from Panic to Pandemic
By Kevin Goldberg, Freedom Forum First Amendment Specialist
How national crises like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted our freedoms.

More columns:

A Closer Look: Is Your Speech Protected?

Free Speech Essentials

Free Speech Essentials
This collection of lesson plans for teachers explores past and contemporary challenges surrounding free speech and the First Amendment. Sixteen critical debates reveal the foundations, flare-ups and frontiers of this First Amendment freedom.

A Road Map to Free Speech

A Road Map to Free Speech
As you explore your First Amendment freedom of speech, know that it isn’t limitless. Using our free speech road map, consider six specific limits on speech to determine whether you are on the right track or need to hit the brakes.

Is your speech protected by the First Amendment?

Is your speech protected by the First Amendment?
A primer to help you figure out when you have a constitutional right to speak freely.

Free Expression on Social Media

Free Expression on Social Media
An interactive guide to the censorship policies of each major social media platform, and how they compare to each other and to the protections of the First Amendment.



First Five Express: What is Cancel Culture?
Get a quick look at what cancel culture is, what the First Amendment says about it and its impact on free expression.

Jack Weinberg (Steve Marcus, via University of California, Berkeley/The Bancroft Library)

First Five Now: The Free Speech Movement: How It All Began
In celebration of Free Speech Week, First Five Now presents an interview with Jack Weinberg, whose act of civil disobedience 56 years ago helped launch the highly influential and revolutionary Free Speech Movement.

‘Raise Your Voice’

First Five Now: ‘Raise Your Voice’
First Five Now presents a panel discussion, featuring activist Mary Beth Tinker, centered on the new documentary, “Raise Your Voice,” which follows the student journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School navigating their school’s mass shooting as both survivors and journalists.

For more upcoming programs, visit our events calendar here.

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It’s Your First Amendment

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