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


SpeakFreelyAdvocate_FBHeader (2)

Students For Liberty is pleased to announce the launch of the Speak Freely Advocate (SFA) Program.


The SFA program is a premier activist program designed for students looking to defend and promote free speech on their college campuses, and in their communities. SFL will be accepting 20 students from across North America to participate in this exclusive program. SFAs will take on Free Speech initiatives on campus from January through May of 2017 and will receive hands-on training and support from staff at SFL.

If free speech matters to you, and you are looking to make a difference, then we strongly encourage you to apply to the SFA program! Below are the qualifications, compensation, and obligations for students who are accepted into the SFA program:

Compensation: SFAs will be compensated with a $500 stipend upon completing the Speak Freely program.


To participate in the SFA program, you must… 

  • Be a current student with an exceptional record of pro-liberty activism
  • Have prior experience in a leadership role with a pro-liberty organization

Expectations and Benefits:

  • SFAs will have their travel and accommodation paid for by SFL to attend our International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington DC from February 17th-19th.
    • SFAs will be required to participate in SFL’s Free Speech training at ISFLC.
  • SFAs will have their travel and accommodation paid for by SFL to attend our exclusive spring Free Speech Summit (April 28th-30th, 2017).
    • Attendance is required for participation in the program.
  • SFAs will be required to complete SFL’s online free speech training course.
  • SFAs will be required to host a minimum of two free speech on campus events with a total attendance of 100 students.
    • SFAs will have up to $1000 to help promote and carry out those on campus events.
  • SFAs will be expected to get four media hits during their completion of the Speak Freely program. (Media hits include published articles or media coverage of events. SFAs will work directly with SFL’s Media Associate to generate media attention.)

The deadline to apply is December 20th, so get your application in soon!

Apply to be an Advocate today!

The world’s largest libertarian student organization with over 1,500 volunteers across the globe, Students For Liberty (SFL) today expressed concern at the recent actions of protesters at University of California-Berkeley.

On Friday, October 21st, over 100 students blocked Sather Gate (a publicly accessible bridge on UC-Berkeley’s campus) for several hours to demand that the university relocate a safe space for LGBTQ students and students of color.

Video footage appears to show the protesters blocking white students from crossing the bridge, forcing them to seek alternative routes. Students of color, meanwhile, were allowed to pass through.

Daniel Pryor, Communications Associate at Students For Liberty, said:

“Students For Liberty condemns the protesters’ decision to physically block a publicly-accessible space based on race. Regardless of what one thinks about safe spaces, this tactic is unjustifiably discriminatory and an attack on academic freedom; students can’t freely pursue education if they can’t get to class!

Such aggressive tactics create a chilling effect on free speech, and have also been condemned by UC-Berkeley students from marginalized communities.”

The actions of the UC-Berkeley protesters are the latest in a long-running trend of attacks on academic freedom on North American campuses. SFL activists are working across the world to fight for academic freedom and free speech on campus. Students For Liberty opposes all attempts to infringe upon this vital aspect of a free and open society.

On October 15, 2016 102 students from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, and the United States attended the third annual Ruta De Libertad: Retomando Las Raices, hosted by Estudiente Por La Libertad Guatemala. The conference was located bout 220 miles north west of the nation’s capital in Xela, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. This was the first conference located outside the capital, representing he burgeoning effort to spread ideas in a decentralized way. What drew students hundreds of miles away, from all across Latin America? Liberty.

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ESFL Promotion on Television.

The conference was organized by Mariana Cordon, an International Relations student at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Local Coordiantor Rey Rodriguez, an architecture student at Universidad de Occidente, and other members of the EsLibertad team . Their efforts prove libertarianism is as popular in Central and South America as it is in North America. Eager students got the opportunity to listen to ten speakers on topics ranging from a poetry and freedom of expression to the knowledge and planning problems of socialism to successful student activism. No stone was left unturned.

The day before the conference, Rey appeared on local TV and radio, and went from classroom to classroom at his university to promote the event. When asked why this event warranted so much effort, Rey Rodriguez said, “going to the roots was the event that all liberals in the country needed to understand the current lack of freedom, take on new challenges, set new goals and grow as individuals.” EsLibertad members Keila Yuwono, Byron Hernández, Geovanny Cannel, Oscar MuñozNo further advertised the conference through radio.


Student activism panel.

Guatemala’s economic freedom has suffered and the country is going through turbulent times. Like many Latin American countries, Guatemala struggles with narcotics trafficking, poorly defined property rights, political corruption, and lagging private investment. All of the country’s problems stem from an overall lack of rule of law.

In August 2016 protesters were out in Constitution Square with signs that read “NO MORE TAXES!” in response to tax hikes on cement and gasoline. All this amid heightened tensions after Former President Otto Pérez Molina, an ex-Army general, and his Vice President Roxana Baldetti were arrested on charges of corruption in 2015.

Estudiente Por La Libertad recognizes the rent seeking behavior in their government and want to move toward an economically freer future. They want more foreign investment, more global trade, and more prosperity for everyone. Status quo politics will not bring about a free, prosperous Guatemala, however. That requires libertarian public policy.


Pep Barcacel

But liberty is about more than just economic freedom. “Liberty is the most natural quality for human beings and it should not be taken away from anyone. More important than political freedom, we must have social freedom,” says director for Estudiantes por la Libertad in El Salvador, Sarah Arevalo Rodriguez.

Pep Barcacel, a Universidad Francisco Marroquin graduate, poet, and author, spoke about freedom of speech, Hunter S. Thompson’s influence, and his work for Nomada. In keeping with the theme of art’s effect on social change, which Sarah Arevalo Rodriguez knows all too well, ESFL is trying to break the old world mentality that keeps sex and marijuana taboo, with efforts to End The Drug War and promote sexual freedom. Nude photographs could be seen hanging all over the hotel which hosted the conferences after-party, courtesy of Ricardo Arroyo, a Guatemalan photographer and student.


Chris Lingle accepting the Jamale’l.

EsLibertad Guatemala also presented, for the first time, the “Jamale’l” award, (which means “Freedom” in Kaqchikel). With this annual award, ESFL seeks to give recognition to the work of those who have dedicated their lives to spreading the ideas of liberty. This year, Christopher Lingle, a Visiting Professor of Economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, received the honor.

In the words of Regional Director Mariana Cordón, “this award represents exactly what we focused on doing for the Conference. Remember the importance of the roots of liberty, in order to understand our present, and thus, understand the path we shall take to work for that freedom every person needs to prosper and go in the pursuit of their personal sense of happiness”.

Some of the other experiences offered by the conference was a historic walking tour of Quetzaltenango, Belly Dancers, poetry readings, and live music. The event only cost 35q and the fee covered lunch, a room at the hostel, and a round trip bus ride from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango.

The Regional Conference in Quetzaltenango exceeded everyone’s expectations, and for good reason. The liberty movement in Guatemala and Latin America is growing stronger with every passing semester because the students are making the future of their countries a personal matter.

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

Why is it that in the United States, the “land of the free,” are you only free to express yourself as long as it doesn’t ruffle the feathers of millions of perpetually offended Americans? People across every spectrum, whether it be political or otherwise, proudly proclaim that they stand for liberty, freedom and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. If this is the case, then why do these same people demand action be taken against those who choose to exercise their liberties and rights in ways that would differ from their own? There is no better example of this national hypocrisy than the reaction to NFL players protesting the Star Spangled Banner.

All of the controversy surrounding the NFL over this issue started on August 26th, 2016, when Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers remained seated during the national anthem before their game against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick defended his choice, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He is referring to the many police related deaths in this country, most recently the killing of Alton Sterling. After going public with his decision, many other players, included Brandon Marshall and Arian Foster, decided to join Kaepernick in protest. These players’ protests have sparked a polarizing debate and garnered criticism from all areas of the country.

Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.

Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.

Many Americans feel these protests show blatant disrespect, not to the flag, but to the country itself. They feel the flag symbolizes love of country, respect to both active military and veterans, and, most of all, pride in the country in which you live. To an extent, these people are correct. Of course, military sacrifice, nationalism, and pride are all deeply intertwined within the fabric of  “Old Glory,” but the flag can mean a variety of things to a variety of people. For Kaepernick and company, the flag represents the injustice shown towards those who have died in police related killings, and they are acting accordingly with their beliefs. (more…)