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Freedom of speech? Where?

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Allow me, please, to step onto a soapbox and tell you all something about this thing you all call "Freedom of Speech". And you will allow me, such is the power of"Freedom of Speech". Right?

Then let me start by quoting text from the Parliamentary Library, Research Note no. 42 2001-02
(Free speech and the Constitution) to be precise - and this may surprise you ...
The Australian Constitution does not have any express provision relating to freedom of speech. In theory, therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament may restrict or censor speech through censorship legislation or other laws, as long as they are otherwise within constitutional power. The Constitution consists mainly of provisions relating to the structure of the Commonwealth Parliament, executive government and the federal judicial system.(6) There is no list of personal rights or freedoms which may be enforced in the courts. There are however some provisions relating to personal rights such as the right to trial by jury (section 80), and the right to freedom of religion (section 116).

Want to hear that again? Just a little different? From the same research note ...
It is interesting to note that not only is there no legislation providing for freedom of speech either in the Constitution or in other legislation, but Governments have passed legislation to prevent free speech in certain circumstances. Examples include the various State and Territory defamation laws,(16) and racial vilification laws. Censorship laws may also be used to prevent freedom of speech by restricting distribution of certain films and publications, although these laws now serve mainly to classify publications according to the age groups which can see them, rather than preventing their publication.

So I looked in Wikipedia, not my favourite of sources, but it returned the following description
Freedom of speech refers to the ability of a person to express their opinion as a human right. The term "freedom of expression"is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on libel, slander, obscenity, incitement to commit a crime, etc. Restrictions on the freedom to speak is sometimes called censorship.

The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as "the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression." In addition, national laws of many countries, in various forms, recognize a basic freedom of speech.
And then, there are the five fundamental rights on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship page of the Australian Government (here) - I just quote the right to Freedom of Speech.
Australians are free, within the bounds of the law, to say or write what we think privately or publicly, about the government, or about any topic. We do not censor the media and may criticise the government without fear of arrest. Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm. There are laws to protect a person's good name and integrity against false information. There are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background. Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.

So, how does all of this apply to RWO ...

Literally, you can say what you like. I am not going to deny you your right to say anything you like. However, if you want to do it on RWO, you have the RWO rules to contend with. If you still want to say what you like, I would like to offer the following: Send me your full name and address, copy of birth certificate to verify, a current photo, all phone numbers and email addresses you can be contacted on. Send me 3 forms of ID to get to 100 points. That includes passport, driver's license, Credit card etc. We want to be able to verify who you are. We will use any and all avenues available to us to do so. Once I know who you are, and where you live, and how I can contact you, I will give you your full right to free speech on our boards. Just remember that from that point forward, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. I will pass your details to the relevant authorities if we are requested to do so. I will provide those authorities with a transcript of every one of your posts ever made on our forums. I will not hesitate to give them your photo, passport and driver's license details. I wish you luck defending your right to free speech.

For the rest of you, all 2100 plus members of RWO, your life in anonymity on these boards will continue. Since I do not know who you are, where you live or what you look like,when the authorities come looking for people on our boards that have transgressed against the freedom of speech rules as set out above, the only names and addresses they will find are those of Scott and Rick (Frog, that's me). I'll let you guess what will happen, given the option to go to court for a faceless, nameless member that thought he or she had freedom of speech and used our boards to defame and / or incite hatred of someone. I'll let you guess what will happen to the boards given the option to shut it down (cease and desist) or fight for you in court to defend your right to freedom of speech using our time and money whilst you go forth and spruik your rights elsewhere ...

We would much rather you'd accept our rules are within OUR right to a bit of protection for us - from more than 2000 anonymous posters. If not, guess what, there is something in the 5 fundamental rights to cover just that - Freedom of association. You don't have to join if you don't want to. In the meantime, RWO rules are not there to stifle your right to free speech. They are there to protect YOU from yourself and us from you. They are there to ensure one or two members do not ruin the entire site for the other 2100 members. Moderators are there to make sure the rules are upheld, much as umpires are there to uphold the rules in a game of football (sic).

This blog piece was written by, authorised by and published by Frog, co-owner and administrator of the fan site. It is a personal, not an RWO sanctioned, piece.

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Updated 19th July 2011 at 10:00 AM by ScottH (fix typo only)

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  1. ScottH's Avatar
    Well said, Rick!!
  2. Doctor J.'s Avatar
    Well written Frog
    Like Milton Friedman said, "there's no such thing as a free lunch" , there's also no such thing as free speech

    Doctor J (Mark)
  3. SimonH's Avatar
    Academic Stanley Fish wrote a provocative book entitled, "There is No Such Thing as Free Speech (And It's a Good Thing, Too)" a few years back.
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