Activities For The Civic Geek: Free Speech

Free Speech isn’t just talk – it’s a real life issue, and one that’s often misunderstood.  Do something real about free speech issues in an intelligent way.

There’s two problems with Free Speech – there isn’t enough of it, and most people don’t know what the hell it’s about.

For the latter, we need more education, better understanding, and occasionally informing people they’re full of crap for thinking someone defriending them on social media is censorship.  However, I’d like to focus on the former – actively helping people get over it and understand it.

Internet drama aside, there are a lot of threats to free speech – often subtle.  A banned book list at a school library, lawsuits designed to squelch opinion, and countries outright controlling what people think and see.  Issues of internet access, net neutrality, and freedom.  Maybe we geeks can do something about it.

Something like:

  • Invite authors who’s books and works have been banned to your events.
  • Do reading groups of controversial literature.
  • Get involved with organizations that support freedom of speech, from donations to getting speakers to events.
  • Provide access to banned literature or promote it at events.
  • If it’s relevant to your geeky media (books, comics, video games) do panels or studies of free speech in various countries.

Beyond doing good and helping overcome the at-times subtle censorship people face, being involved in free speech efforts also teaches you what it’s really about.  It’s one thing when people complain someone deleted their message board comment – quite something else to realize a beloved book was widely banned in a state.  Sometimes understanding free speech is best done by seeing it’s lack.

Here’s a few groups to get you started:

  • Banned Book Week – Celebrate the freedom to read – and take a stand against censorship – with Banned Books week.
  • Free Press – A savvy organization focused on a free press.
  • Public Knowledge – An organization focusing on intersecting issues of technology and free speech – access, copyright, net neutrality, innovation, and more.
  • The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – A non-profit organization focused on protecting the First Amendment rights of everyone in the comics/publishing/reading chain. Provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance and education.