Sony Pictures’ Lesson on Free Speech

Freedom of speech and expression is one of the highest U.S. values, constitutionally protected from interference by our government. Indeed, it is the very first provision of our Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court today, under Chief Justice Roberts, stands firm on free speech, at least most of the time.

Just a couple of years ago the Court struck down a federal law making it illegal to claim war medals not actually earned. And federal law limiting corporate spending on elections was struck down in the highly controversial Citizens United case. There the Court chose the right of free speech over the statutory goal of protecting against the corrosive power of money in elections. In his new book, Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution, Harvard professor Laurence Tribe credits the Roberts Court with a strong bias toward free speech.

But even the Roberts Court can be frightened into suppressing rights of free expression: Since 9-11, our government has implemented bans against the provision of “material support or resources” to any terrorist group. An American human rights group sued to confirm its right to assist humanitarian activities in Kurdistan and Tamil. The groups through which it funneled aid had bloody histories and were designated foreign terrorist organizations by the State Department. The government argued, and Justice Roberts agreed, that humanitarian aid could unintentionally free up funds to be used for terrorism. The Court upheld the law.

In November, Sony employs found this threatening message on their computer screens.

In November, Sony employs found this threatening message on their computer screens.

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