The problem, as Twitter so ably illustrates, is that treating free speech as a collection of free speeches can actually diminish the collective freedom of speech. There are conversations I can’t have on Twitter, because I’m afraid of the atomic acts of free speech that I will get in response. Some of them will be genuine tests of the value of my speech, but others may be rape threats, doxxing, a flood of vicious and pernicious abuse. And yet more will inhabit the shady borderland between the two: arguably legitimate things disproportionately aimed at particular targets.
But because absolutes are easy, atomic acts of free speech are easy to defend, and are defended widely on the internet. Actual adults who can deal with nuance elsewhere can be surprisingly simplistic on the topic.
Abi Sutherland on invisible costs.
What are you most afraid of? Being silenced… or being heard?