The Basics of the First Amendment

Robert Corn-Revere,

Release Date
November 18, 2021


Censorship Free Press Free Speech Human Rights

There’s a reason the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of speech (and there’s a reason it’s the first right authoritarian governments try to restrict). In many ways, free speech enables all other aspects and rights of a free society.

In Session 8 of our Law 201 series, Robert Corn-Revere, Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Washington, D.C., walks us through the basics of first amendment law in the U.S. and similar free speech protection in Europe.

For example, he points out that freedom of speech protects more than just words; It also protections symbolic expressions like music and art. He also shows us that the first amendment generally protects freedom of speech unless it falls into one of the following categories:

Incitement to crime,
Disclosure of national security secrets,
True threats,
Child pornography.

Further, although the text of the first amendment specifically mentions that Congress cannot restrict speech, thankfully, it has been interpreted to apply to government at all levels. AND, fortunately for Americans, prior restraint — or silencing speech in advance — is strictly prohibited on the government’s part.

Meanwhile, in Europe, things are murkier.

Let Robert Corn-Revere, one of the world’s foremost free speech lawyers, describe how and why Articles 10 and 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights are contradictory — and let us know in the comments whether you think Europe’s freedom of speech protections are sufficient.

For more insightful videos from experts on law, legislation, and liberty, visit SFL Academy.

#1stAmendment #FreeSpeech #Expression #Free