Freedom of Speech and its limits

Recently some internet sites have been pumping out news and opinions reporting the reaction to Goodreads cracking down on those few who victimized authors with the goal of destroying reputations and careers in publishing. Some of the comments in this debate are angry; some are celebrating, and some are waiting to see if these changes are real.

I’m not going to go into detail about this issue. Instead, I want to look closely at freedom of speech and its limitations.

Do sites such as Goodreads and Amazon have a right to define limits to freedom of expression on their private sector internet sites? The answer is yes as you will discover.

The Limitations of Free Speech

If you read the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution carefully [it is short and to the point], you will discover that it was clearly meant to protect the opinions of American citizens from government harassment and persecution and in no way does freedom of speech mean you can say or write anything you want anywhere at any time without fear of censorship.

For example, Censorship in says, “For much of the nation’s history, the First Amendment was not held to apply to states and municipalities.  Entities without any prohibition in their own charters [in the private sector these charters are known as terms of use] were free to censor newspaper, magazines books, plays, movies, comedy shows and so on. Many did, as exemplified by the phrase banned in Boston.”

It wasn’t until the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren [he served as Chief Justice 1953 – 1969] that the 1st Amendment was extended to local government—with no mention that freedom of expression in the private sector was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Shaw says, “Federal free speech protections apply only to the government. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for example, does not regulate private employers.”

North Iowa says, “A private-sector employer has a lot of latitude as to what’s permitted or not with respect to political speech, or pushing any view for that matter.”

The Consensus of the Public

In conclusion, “The [U.S. Supreme] Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television, and public employees’ speech. … Furthermore, even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be restricted on the basis of its content if the restriction passes strict scrutiny.”

Even international law says, “Freedomofexpression is not absolute and every system of law provides for some limitations on it: For respect of the rights or reputations of others; for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals. This means that it is permissible to think the most evil and depraved thoughts, although giving expression to them may legitimately warrant a sanction.” Source: Centre for Law and Democracy

For sites such as Goodreads and Amazon, those restrictions are spelled out in their Terms of Use Agreements and these private sector businesses reserve the right to change the Terms of Use at any time.

Goodreads concludes its Terms of Use with “IMPORTANT: These Terms & Conditions of Service for Goodreads Services (“Agreement”) is a legal agreement between you and Goodreads Inc. By using or accepting the Services, you agree to be bound by the terms of this Agreement. If you do not agree to the Terms of this Agreement, do not use these Services. You agree that your use of the services acknowledges that you have read this Agreement, understand it, and agree to be bound by its Terms and Conditions.” For more details about the Goodreads Terms of Use, I suggest you click on the link and read them.

And if you go to Amazon’s Terms of Use, and you will discover, “Visitors may post reviews, comments and other content; and submit suggestions, ideas, comments, questions, or other information, so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing of intellectual property rights, or otherwise injurious to third parties or objectionable and does not consist of or contain software viruses, political campaigning, commercial solicitation, chain letters, mass mailings, or any form of ‘spam.’ You may not use a false e-mail address, impersonate any person or entity, or otherwise mislead as to the origin of a card or other content. AWS reserves the right (but not the obligation) to remove or edit such content, but does not regularly review posted content.”


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

33 responses to “Freedom of Speech and its limits”

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse, here is a video I would like to get your perspective on: I get the fact that money and speech are 2 separate things in entirety. What is interesting to me is the double-standard when some people try to argue that money is speech in one regard and not another. To put it simply, here are my thoughts: Either spending money should legally be seen as an expression of speech, regardless of the transaction or not.

    1. It has never occurred to me that money and freedom of speech is the same.

      I watched the video and I don’t think money is the same as freedom of speech as defined in the U.S. Constitution, but money, legally or illegally, is used as a weapon to buy influence.

      Since freedom of speech as defined in the U.S. Constitution and by the courts that have defined what “it” means in the U.S., the only thing lots of money does is allow wealthier people to trample the limitations of freedom of speech that most of us in the working class would never get away with.

      When Trump incited the January 6 attack on our Congress and Vice President at a “hate my enemies (anyone that doesn’t do what I want) and worship Trump” rally earlier that same day, Trump broke the law that limits freedom of speech in this country, but no matter how much Trump inflates his wealth, he still has more money than most of us have ever had. I think that’s why Trump isn’t in jail right now like hundreds of the working class MAGA freaks that stormed OUR capital on January 6th.

      “Freedom of speech does not include the right:

      “To incite actions that would harm others (e.g., “[S]hout[ing] ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”).
      Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).

      To make or distribute obscene materials.
      Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).

      To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
      United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

      To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration.
      Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

      Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
      Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).

      Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
      Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).”

      1. Lloyd Lofthouse, the sources that talk about the alleged lies among those on the Right are the true liars. They spin things to fit their delusions and grandeur.

      2. I disagree. While there are people on the left, in the middle, and on the right that lie, the biggest liars of them all at this time in OUR country’s history are those that keep repeating and supporting Trump’s big lie that he won the 2020 election and the other side lost. That is not an alleged lie. Trump’s big lie has been proven to be a lie repeatedly in the courts, even from conservative judges Trump appointed. Jim Jones is a repeat offender when it comes to spreading lies. Limbaugh is dead but he spread lies for most of his life. Hannity is another repeated liar.

        Alleging that the “true liars” are those that point out the lies on the right is flawed logic and anyone that beliefs that have burnt scrambled cheese and eggs for brains.

        At the same time, I think labeling Trump’s and his delusional, autocratic-loving supporters as members of the “right” is misleading. They aren’t conservatives in the traditional sense. They are fringe extremists that have been brainwashed by Fox News and other fake media that spreads conspiracy theories based on not a shred of reputable evidence.

      3. Lloyd Lofthouse, we must live in different realities. The Left-wing media are the biggest liars.

      4. I must agree with you that we live in different realities. My reality started in poverty. I barely graduated from high school and ended up in the U.S. Marines fighting in Vietnam, et al. After the Marines I went to college on the GI Bill. and worked part-time jobs nights, weekends, and summers. From college, I went to work in middle management for a large trucking company. Several years later, I became a teacher in a school where the child poverty rate was higher than 70% and the streets around those schools were dominated by violent multi-generational street gangs. Where I ended up teaching was so similar to where I grew up, I felt at home.

        Where did your reality start?

        And, what left-wing media are you talking about? Media bias fact check breaks the media down into 10 columns based on bias and accuracy. There is no left or right-wing on that list The farthest to the left is labeled LEFT BIAS, and the farthest to the right is labeled RIGHT BIAS. Then there is LEAST BIASED vs the worst labeled CONSPIRACY-PSEUDOSCINCE.

        Where are the traditional or social media sources you follow listed? You can search. One source I listen to is PBS. Here’s that listing and there is no mention of PBS lying.

        “Overall, we rate PBS NewsHour slightly Left-Center Biased based on story selection that slightly favors the left and High for factual reporting due to in-depth, well-sourced information and a Reasonable fact check record.”

        How about FOX News?

        “We rate Fox News strongly Right-Biased due to editorial positions and story selection that favors the right. We also rate them Mixed factually and borderline Questionable based on poor sourcing and the spreading of conspiracy theories.”

        I think spreading conspiracy theories is the same as lying.

        Please check the sources you depend on for the information you base your thinking on.

      5. Lloyd Lofthouse, I listen to David Pakman from time to time. Thom Hartmann is also interesting to me.

      6. I’ve heard of Pakman and Hartmann but beyond that, I do not know much about them. Maybe I’ve listened to a couple of short clips on YouTube from one or both of these guys. If I did, I wasn’t impressed enough to return or remember.

        So, I checked.

        For Pakman:

        “Overall, we rate The Ring of Fire Network strongly Left biased based on story selection that always favors the left and the use of loaded sensational language that portrays the right negatively. We also rate them Mixed for factual reporting due to the use of sources that have failed fact checks, as well as a Pants on Fire claim by one of their radio hosts.”


        Founded in 2004 by Mike Papantonio, The Ring of Fire Network is a nationally syndicated American talk radio program that is currently carried on 43 radio stations across the United States. Ring of Fire also has a website that publishes news and opinion stories. According to their about page, the mission of ROF is to expose Wall Street thugs, environmental criminality, corporate media failure, and political backstories rarely found in the mainstream media.” Additionally, they state “The Ring of Fire has expanded into a multi-media network for the latest Progressive news, commentary, and analysis. Mike Papantonio, Farron Cousins, Thom Hartmann, Abby Martin, Laura Flanders, Sam Seder, David Pakman, Lee Camp, Mike Malloy, Benjamin Dixon & Richard Eskow host weekly radio and television broadcasts, and posts daily news stories and original video commentaries on the website.”

        Got about the same rating for Thom Hartmann.

        “Overall, we rate Free Speech TV (FStv) Left Biased based on story selection that always favors the left and Mixed for factual reporting due to a lack of sourcing and hosts who have failed fact checks.”

        Are those two the only allegedly lying left-wing media sources you listen to? If so, no wonder you think that any media alleged left-wing media lies a lot. What I find interesting is you seem to be taking what you hear from these two hosts who have failed fact checks and smeared all of the media sources that are allegedly left-wing, whatever that means.

        What about your media sources that are allegedly right-wing?

      7. Why do you find a “CONSPIRACY-PSEUDOSCIENCE” social media source so interesting? I hope sites like this one is not your primary source for conservative information.

        “Sources in the Conspiracy-Pseudoscience category may publish unverifiable information that is not always supported by evidence. These sources may be untrustworthy for credible/verifiable information, therefore fact checking and further investigation is recommended on a per article basis when obtaining information from these sources. See all Conspiracy-Pseudoscience sources.

        “Overall, we rate From the Trenches World Report a far-right tin foil hat conspiracy website. We also rate them low for factual reporting due to most content consisting of unproven conspiracies.”

        Let’s see, so here’s my opinion so far based on where you allegedly get your information sources. You watch a couple of leftist sites that are proven liars to get your info about the left and then judge all sites on left as liars, and then you turn to a far-right conspiracy-pseudoscience site to hear what conservatives are allegedly saying. I don’t think that’s fair. You should find some far-left conspiracy-pseudoscience site (if any exist) to balance out your sources of extremist information.

        My current conclusion: I understand why Diane Ravitch censures you on her site.

      8. Lloyd Lofthouse, before things deteriorated on her one post, I did not issue any attacks against you in my initial response to you regarding your point on inheritable wealth. You brought it up and I responded accordingly.

      9. My opinion regarding inheritable wealth will not change. History is filled with extremely wealthy individuals meddling in the affairs of nations and usually making life worse for most of the people in those civilizations or leading to the collapse of those civilizations.

        I agree with Lord Acton. Between 1837 and 1869 he was known as Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Baronet. … He is perhaps best known for the remark, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”

        Great wealth buys great power and those individuals are almost always bad.

        The world would be a better place if wealth was limited and inheriting wealth had even more extreme limits.

        The Bible is another ancient source about the evil of wealth and the power it buys.

        Timothy 6:9-10
        But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

        Matthew 19:24
        Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

        Mark 10:25
        It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

        Luke 18:25
        For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

      10. Lloyd Lofthouse, we will just have to disagree.

      11. There can be no debate when one side uses nothing but faulty logic based on sources that offer mostly lies and/or conspiracy theories. Without a proper debate based on reputable sources, there is no way to disagree or agree. If one side uses logic and reputable sources and the other side relies on lies and conspiracy theories that person is like a concrete wall without any reasoning ability.

        In a formal debating contest, there are rules for participants to discuss and decide on differences within a framework defining how they will do it.

        What is the purpose of a debate?
        They will use examples and evidence to support their ideas while working towards a conclusion. The aim of a debate is to convince the opposition that you are right. When the two sides agree on the subject or when one side’s arguments are more convincing than the other side that is when the debate comes to a close.

        Basic Debating Rules

      12. Lloyd Lofthouse, think whatever you want about them, however, I thought that Hannity&Colmes had an interesting dynamic. 2 people on polar opposites of the political spectrum and yet they were civil in their disagreements.

      13. I think the only reason to watch/or read the extremist left vs right crap that you provided as an example of the sources you turn to for information is if you are following Sun Tzu’s advice.

        “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu (6th century BC)

        Lunatic extremists on the left and right such as the sources you shared are the enemies of the people.

      14. Lloyd Lofthouse, what are your thoughts on political writer/commentator George Will?

      15. Who is George Will? I may have heard that name before but do not know who he is.

        So, I looked him up and learned this:

        “George Frederick Will is an American libertarian-conservative political commentator and author. He writes regular columns for The Washington Post and provides commentary for NBC News and MSNBC.”

        Then I went to Fact Check Bias to learn more and couldn’t find anything under his name. I kept getting stuff about George Soros.

        Next, I searched Google and this link came up on the first page of that search.

        I liked the opening quote: “It would help if people would put their electronic devices away from the center of their existences and pick up a book.”
        —George F. Will, The Conservative Sensibility

        Beyond that brief interlude in my busy daily schedule to learn a bit about George Will, I’m not interested in wasting any more time on him, M. R. Sbhut.

      16. I prefer not to waste my time watching/reading opinion-makers like George Will. When I want to know something, I dong’ turn to someone else to be told what to think. Instead, I turn to primary sources and/or reputable news sources that do not have a track record of spreading lies when reporting the news. My opinions are my own based on what I learn from n left or right. I am more concerned with the news reporting the truth regardless of the bias of a news source. Being biased doesn’t mean a media source is a liar. It is possible to be biased and still report news based on facts and truth. Bias is created by using loaded words in the same news piece that is reporting the truth based on facts.

        If you don’t stop wasting my time, I will stop approving your comments. I am not interested in where you want to lead me.

      17. Lloyd Lofthouse, I am not trying to “lead” you anywhere. I was only sharing a source where George Will contributed to. Look it up or don’t look it up. Here is your stated comment policy in your own words: “Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.” Insofar as I know, which should be obvious to you, I have not been overly rude to you or issued ad hominem attacks. On my blog, I have the same standard that you do, that being insistence on civility.

      18. “comments must focus on the topic of the post”

        The title of this post is “Freedom of Speech and its limits”

        Please point out where you talked about freedom of speech in its limits in your comments.

      19. Lloyd Lofthouse, expressing one’s opinion, which is what news commentators do, as well as report the news, is an example of freedom of speech. Here is another example: If I wore a pro-2nd Amendment shirt as an act of protest against some gun control measures as an expression of free speech.

      20. No comment, and the next time you attempt to waste my time, I will delete that comment and not approve it.

        UPDATE AT 16:03.

        Ragnarsbhut, I have deleted your last two comments. I do not want to continue this conversation I would never attempt to force someone to reply to my comments who is clearly not interested in wasting their time. For that reason, I want you to go away!

        If you attempt to engage me in meaningless conversation again, I will block you from leaving comments.

      21. Lloyd Lofthouse, I might as well have a discussion with a tree stump. At least a tree stump would not be belligerent.

      22. Then go find a tree stump and tell that tree stump all about the opinionated left-to-right extremist talking heads you follow on social media.


        If you want to express yourself, use your blog, not mine.

      23. Whatever you say, old man!

      24. How to Spot an Internet Troll

        Internet trolls are easy to spot once you are aware of certain online behavior patterns.

        They don’t show their own face in their profile image. Instead, they typically use a seemingly “funny” photo of a cartoon character, a celebrity photo, or a random image.

        Their username is a nickname rather than their real name.

        Their education is listed “The School of Hard Knocks” or some other cliché.

        They are typically following several accounts but have few to no followers themselves.

        They usually have a lot of memes on their profile.

        There often have several offensive and controversial posts or interactions with controversial comments.

        They usually take extreme political or opinion positions on certain issues and repeatedly focus on them.

        They are likely attacking more than one account

        Troll Tactics

        Trolls get creative when it comes to targeting their victim. They have come up with several tactics to use when trolling their victims such as refusing to back down on known fallacies, troll telephone, aggressively poor reading comprehension, threats and doxxing, and it wasn’t me. All these tactics have their own ways in which trolling takes place. iv

  2. […] Freedom of Speech and its limits ( […]

  3. I’ve been so harrassed after posting a review on Amazon that I took it down. Eventually Amazon banned the guys, but by then then damage was done.

  4. Excellent, detailed post, Lloyd. Most people (or trolls) who were born just yesterday are not aware of any of this. Might be why they think they have the right to spread “whatever…” Uninformed is… another word for ignorant. I’ve posted a link back and tweeted this out.

    1. Thank you. As you said, born yesterday. I ran into this same attitude in the classroom when I was still teaching. Every year there were kids who felt they could say anything they wanted because of their misconceptions about freedom of speech. The word freedom has been misused in the United States.

      Freedom doesn’t mean you can say or do anything you want but some people believe it does mean that. Maybe that’s why the United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world. Because there are too many people born yesterday who just don’t get it.

      There’s an old saying that ignorance is bliss but I think that’s wrong. I think acting or speaking out of ignorance leads to embarrassment and an emotional roller coaster when someone wakes up and realizes they have been acting like a fool.

      But then some of those same people will refuse to wake up and accept the facts as they are, and they will live in denial and sometimes end up on street corners ranting about the end of the world.

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