The Internet helped bring to light all the nasty, disagreeable, twisted, and downright insane ways of thinking humans are capable of. Every nation’s legal system has its own toleration levels, of course, and the debate may never end on just how much should be allowed. The conversation changes when you bring in the matter of national security, though. Offending people is one thing. Helping to bring down your country is another.

The way we think about freedom of speech and expression in the age of globalization is indeed a matter of national security because terrorists, just like everyone else, have long been leveraging the Internet for their purposes. Regions all across the globe are grappling with the dilemma of adhering to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights while ensuring national security in the era of cyber terrorism and world wide interconnectedness.

The unpleasant side of free speech knows no international boundaries. Every place in the world offers a different take on where the line between mere unpleasant speech and hate mongering, security threats lies. Each corner of the globe has its problems with hateful speech, and each government places limits on freedom of expression to a different degree.

No matter how controversial or distasteful opinions may be, they’re allowed under the First Amendment in the United States. Right now we’re grappling with free speech on college campuses. How hateful can campus speech become before someone says, “enough!”? Our First Amendment culture is so strong that we often tolerate white fraternities who boast they’ll lynch a black person before allowing them entry into their clubs.download

You only have to look at American history to understand why. Every major social change in our country has started with a small group of people exercising their First Amendment rights. Therefore, we protect those rights fiercely. Many argue that in this regard, we go far beyond any other country on earth. However, even the land of the free imposes limitations on the freedom of speech.

Those limits may fall under the guise of protecting our children (anti-bullying laws, or campus hatred speech limits), but they are limits, nevertheless. Or look at the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project , where a restriction on political speech was deemed constitutional since it was a threat to national security.

In Europe, such hate speech enjoys far less toleration under the law. You only have to go back 80 years to understand why. It was Nazi propaganda, a form of hate speech, that turned their region inside out and started World War II, after all. Hitler used mass communications to spread his hatred and incite much of an entire generation to fight for his cause. So in the eyes of Europeans, yes hatred can (and did) turn into a matter of national security.

In France and Israel, they’ve outlawed the word “Nazi.” Without historical context, this sounds extreme, but that brings to light the complex nature of freedom of expression and globalization. The dark musings of individuals may know no international boundaries because of the Internet, but each country has its own speech culture. History plays an important role in how tolerant a nation and its people are.

Take China, for another example. History plays a huge role, but the policies that stem from history clash deeply with what today’s Chinese citizens find when they travel. The government tries to temper the disconnect by putting it all in relative terms. In a country where there’s a history of limiting social freedoms in general (one child policy, etc), the citizens are told they can thank their lucky stars that at least it’s not North Korea.

That’s actually what they were told by the state-run China Central Television (CCTV):

“Things that we consider trivial and normal like going online, sending emails, and downloading software on an iPad are considered ‘privileges’ in North Korea. ”

~CCTV, via Sina Weibo

The problem is people travel outside of China. Yes, China has come a long way in regards to freedom of expression, but compared to many other countries, they have a long way to go.

In South Korea, Cold War era legislation is still used today to limit expression against the state. Their National Security Law has increasingly been used to prosecute and punish citizens who merely involve themselves in discussions of relations with North Korea. While done in the name of protecting the state, these rules amount to is severe restrictions on freedom of speech.

A 2012 briefing by Amnesty International cites several cases where South Korea’s National Security Law is now being used to harass individuals and organizations who are well within the law in exercising their rights to free speech. For example, the government targeted people who criticized their investigation of people held in connection with the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship.

So we have a spectrum where national security butts heads with freedom of expression and valuing one can often involves tradeoffs for the other. In France and Israel, there are precisely legislated speech limits banning the word “Nazi.” In China and South Korea, there are more generalized restrictions that question the limits of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. So what’s the answer?

Freedom and security are values that will need to work together in a balanced partnership that benefits everyone. In the end, however, it’s security that provides the basis for freedom of speech, not the other way around.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page


The following post by Jan Škapa is from SFL’s 2015-2016 Annual Report.

In March, the 5th Annual European Students For Liberty Conference (ESFLC) welcomed a total of 908 participants passionate about the ideas of liberty at the Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. It was the biggest gathering of young minds to date in Europe who will shape the future of our society in pursuit of a freer future.ESFLC_AR_Photo

The conference was organized by about 100 students who prepared three days of lectures, interactive sessions, workshops, outings, and much more. The event touched on topics like economic freedom, civil liberties, and entrepreneurship, with over 60 speakers. The theme of the conference was “Students We Should Remember.” On Friday, the conference keynote was delivered by Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education, who told the crowd many stories of past heroes of liberty and why we need more in the future.


How would you react if you went to the ATM to withdraw money, only to find out that you reached the government mandated $50 limit for the day? Making matters worse, the government closed your bank and has made it illegal for you to move your life savings until future notice. Imagine, if you will, that your government is severely in debt and you could possibly lose your life savings if it fails to change its spending habits. Your money is frozen, your government is crazy, and there is practically nothing you can do. This is Greece, and the current debt crisis it faces shows why Bitcoin is a vital tool for people to protect their money.

greece-downgrade.gi.topThis crisis has been terrifying for the people of Greece. Not only does their government continue to butt heads with its creditors, but a recent referendum declared by Prime Minister Tsipras risks the possibility of a ‘Grexit,’ a scenario wherein Greece would leave the European Union. Regardless of the results, however, the possibility of Greeks losing a substantial portion of their savings remains. Already rumors are spreading of a 30% ‘haircut’ of any savings account over 8,000 euros, something previously seen during Cyprus’ bailout. In the case of leaving the Euro, Greeks would see a huge devaluation of their savings, and any currency switch would exasperate Euro denominated debts any Greek may owe. From both the Left and Right, Greeks are in a serious pinch with their money. (more…)

unnamed“Légalisez la Consommation de Cannabis en France!” These words, among many others, were painted and posted in big block letters on several signs during a protest I happened to witness the other week on one of the main streets in Lyon. Seeing these protestors made me question whether weed was as illegal as it is in Canada. Was it one of those “chill” European counties, commonly associated with the Netherlands? Or were its rules concerning cannabis consumption just as painfully strict as my home country? Turns out, hefty fines and needless imprisonment are only a couple of the consequences associated with producing, possessing, selling, and of course, consuming marijuana. Let’s take a closer look.

Despite the overall usage of marijuana remaining illegal in both Canada and France, there are some key differences that I find very interesting. First, is that medical marijuana is legal in Canada, with the wonderful government regulations we all love and cherish of course, while in France it is not, although recent efforts are underway to make it so. This is such a shame considering the ongoing struggle to fight the restrictions and regulations related to obtaining possible treatments such as cannabis oil, or the dried herb. Knowing that French citizens don’t have access to “alternative treatments” that Canadians do makes me really appreciate that, despite its ever-present legalization qualms, my home country has at least this much available to its citizens.

Second, is the difference in the number of “voices” Canada and France have in support of the decriminalization and/or legalisation of marijuana. In the former, there are several major, more or less, political parties who have advocated for decriminalizing and/or full on legalisation of marijuana, including the Liberals, the Libertarians, and the New Democratic Party, among others. Whereas in the latter country, there really aren’t too many organizations that advocate for the decriminalization or the legalisation of cannabis use, let alone political parties. One of the only noticeable organized pro-marijuana groups within France is “Cannabis Sans Frontières,” or “Cannabis Without Borders.” Its Facebook cover photo lists “public health,” “jobs,” “risk prevention,” and “justice” as some of its reasons promoting the legalization of cannabis. Without a noticeable presence, a controversial idea such as cannabis consumption will never really garner much notice. (more…)

It’s hard to imagine that already almost two months have passed since the 2015 International Students For Liberty Conference. As previously described by blog-writers and media outlets, the conference was nothing short of an phenomenal experience. But, the gathering of Liberty-minded youth doesn’t just stop at the ISFLC. In fact, in ten days’ time, liberty-minded students from all over Europe and beyond will be gathering together in Berlin, Germany to attend the 2015 European Students For Liberty Conference — and I am lucky enough to join them this year! To honour the approaching date of the 2015 ESFLC, here is what I think about the conference schedule, and also a note on how incredibly excited I am to attend and to experience Liberty from a European mindset.
unnamedDespite registering for the conference about a month ago, basically right after ISFLC, I have only just now taken the opportunity to look at the schedule of events to see what I can expect for the weekend of April 10th-12th. The introductory speakers start off with a touch of familiarity, as I see Clark Ruper’s name among the list of people set to speak on Friday evening. From then on, however, I recognize no one. Which is absolutely fantastic. The fact that there are still so many liberty-leaning intellectuals and/or scholars outside of North America dedicated to the cause of spreading awareness of classical liberal values makes me very happy, especially as a foreigner. Yet, even though the names are unfamiliar, the descriptions and topics to be discussed by these speakers are still the same — “free markets,” “open borders,” “fighting poverty,” to name a few. We all share more or less the same beliefs, whether we are from France, Germany, Canada, America, England, Spain, Belgium, and so forth, and knowing that I will be a part of this togetherness in liberty makes me so very happy.

Furthermore, one difference between the 2015 ISFLC 2015 and the 2015 ESFLC that will definitely stand out for me is the size difference. In 2014, the ESFLC “attracted more than 560 students from 45 countries.” The 2014 ISFLC, on the other hand, “registered 1,200 attendees from 26 countries.” Interestingly enough, even though the size of the North American conference is double that of the European conference, the number of countries represented in the European conference is double that of the American conference. The reason for that is obvious, but it’s still a cool statistic to look at. Point being, it will be very interesting to experience a smaller, but no less impressive, gathering of liberty-minded youth. Personally, I feel it will also be a bit relieving. Looking at the schedule, there will only ever be two breakout sessions at one time, as opposed to five or six at the ISFLC, making the choice between which to attend much easier. (more…)