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Courageous Conversations

Free Speech, Hate Speech & Censorship

Consider the scope of rights granted to Americans by the First Amendment and examine both the benefits of free speech and the drawbacks of hate speech. Learn more about how digital technologies are reshaping people's ideas about the scope and limitations of freedom of expression by discussing the phenomenon of de-platforming, content moderation, and cancel culture. 

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How are digital technologies influencing people's understanding of free speech, hate speech and censorship? 

Learn about the difference between free speech and hate speech and the philosophy of why protecting unpopular speech is important for the democratic process. Reflect on the rise of cancel culture and learn why content moderation is not a form of censorship. Then discuss: 

  • How have you experienced the benefits of the First Amendment freedoms?

  • How have you experienced the drawbacks, limitations, or even harms of the First Amendment freedoms?

  • How should harmful forms of digital expression be regulated?

Listen In

Discussion Support Tools 
Bring this discussion program to your school or community

🍎 Free Speech, Hate Speech & Censorship Lesson Plan. Introduce the different ways that digital technologies are reshaping people's ideas about the scope and limitations of freedom of expression. 


💙 Make a copy of the Google Slide Deck for this topic.  You can then edit your copy as needed.

❤️ Video Summary. Learn about how de-platforming, content moderation, and cancel culture represent different strategies to establish norms of accountability for online expression and communication. 


Reading and Discussion. Learn about the pros and cons of cancelling culture as it affects individuals and society.

Planning Guide. Everything you need to offer a Courageous Conversation in your community. 

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For Educators  
Address RI state standards with curated curriculum resources 

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CG.P.1: Identify what political power is and who has political power in a society.

CG.RR.1: Identify what rights and responsibilities individuals and communities have in a society and who can take advantage of them.


CG.RR.2: Explain different ways communities and individuals inform themselves, exercise their rights and responsibilities, and engage formally and/or informally in political processes. 

😎 Curated List of Resources.  A collection of resources for supporting educators looking to teach about cancel culture, free speech, hate speech and media regulation, including the First Amendment. 

📌 Creative Expression Ideas. Engaging ideas for project-based learning and simple media production. 

What You Can Do

Keep  Learning

The Law of De-Platforming

What rights do people have to access social media platforms? Watch this video to learn more about the law of de-platforming with Professor Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. 

Censorship and Hate Speech

Should social media platforms censor hate speech? In this short video, Nadine Strossen explores why censorship is counterproductive to address the problem of hate speech. 

Section 230 - The Law that Created the Internet

Learn about why Section 230 is called the "law that created the Internet" by watching this terrific video from Hank Green on Section 230. 


15 Minutes of Shame

View and discuss the documentary “15 Minutes of Shame,” from executive producers Monica Lewinsky and Max Joseph. This film takes an in-depth look at the public shaming epidemic in our culture and explores our collective need to destroy one another.

Cancel Culture is Free Speech

Freedom Forum Fellow Lata Nott defines cancel culture and explores what it means for the First Amendment in this short video from the Freedom Forum about cancel culture as a form of free speech.  

A Congressman's Perspective on Media & Democracy 

Check out our latest podcast episode where Pam Steager talks with Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, who offers an important perspective on media and democracy. 

What's Needed: More Speech

Do you feel that digital platforms have done enough to combat hate speech, misinformation, and other potentially harmful material? Do you believe that freedom of expression extends beyond social justice to protect the rights of individuals?

You Are Incomplete

It is certainly true that the physical reality we share is the same for all the people, no matter what their convictions are. But it is also true that no individual can possibly know all the characteristics of this universe, see all the connections, and understand every moving part.

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