Freedom of Speech? Absolutely – But First Do No Harm!

Recently I became the subject of highly fictional and defamatory comments relating mostly to my profession, published by an anonymous online blogger.

The reason I became the subject of such an attack was because I had publicly defended and declared my support for Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and my fellow students – themselves the subject of unwarranted attacks by the media, including numerous false accusations that Universal Medicine is a cult

As noted on our government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship website, all Australians are entitled to five fundamental freedoms: of speech, association, assembly, religion, and movement. The first of these supports the notion that all individuals have the right to speak freely on any issue. There are, however, clear parameters for doing so. The following passage on freedom of speech, from the five freedoms web page, clarifies this distinction. Here is the first part:

‘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.’

So far, so good. The rights of all bloggers to say or write what they think are clearly upheld in this definition; it’s what’s enabling me to comment here. But note the second part of the passage (bolding is mine):

‘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.

The blogger/s who saw fit to attack me in an entirely false and defamatory fashion have clearly done harm. However, by hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, the person or persons responsible are free to evade prosecution.

We need to lobby our leaders and law-makers to take a stand against such activity by outlawing cyber-bullying immediately. If we can’t identify and pursue the abusers, we should at least be able to have harmful and defamatory material rapidly removed from the offending sites.

Meanwhile, I can only wonder at the nature of the individuals who express in such a way. By remaining nameless, they either demonstrate they lack the courage of their convictions or have a seasoned understanding of the law – or both.

By Victoria Lister, Brisbane, Australia

See also: David Millikan: Ignores Fundamental Rights of Religious Freedom in Australia

118 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech? Absolutely – But First Do No Harm!

  1. Hiding behind the cloak of anonymity for the sake of being able to spread defamatory and harmful words demonstrates the anonymous writers true intention to mislead the public and is an obvious abuse of what freedom of speech stands for. I agree it is time the law stepped in and took a stand to prevent such activity by outlawing cyber-bullying.

  2. Really interesting to read what you have shared Victoria as I can see not only does this level of abuse and bullying occur online but frequently in workplaces all under the guise of freedom of speech. I feel many do not truly consider the impact of what they say, print or publish online about others but what you share as is written on the five freedoms web page is powerful ‘Free speech comes from facts, not rumours, and the intention must be constructive, not to do harm. ‘ This statement may well have more impact on actions if, as you share, it were more greatly supported by government in the form of laws that could be enacted to remove such untruths. I feel the more we each speak out against such occurrences of bullying wherever we see them the more likely the chance there will be of such acts being created. I for one am ready to stand up for truth.

  3. It’s interesting that whilst there are laws in place to curb online behaviour, since the onset of cyber bullying there have only been 2 convictions, showing that the laws need to be made more specific and their enforcement seriously needs to be addressed…. not doing so is allowing much harm to be spread without recourse and worse, it is so prolific that it is considered somewhat normal or expected.

  4. Using freedom of speech in a way that is contrary to what is so clearly written in the five freedoms web page is utter abuse. Hiding behind anonymity to do so is a clear reflection of the dishonesty and cowardice of who did it. Adding all up, it is clear that the value of each and every word written in that spirit is null.

  5. When fundamental freedoms are not treasured and protected as they deserve to be, you invite fundamentalism to step in. This enormous irresponsibility lies mainly on state authorities.

  6. ‘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.’ It’s well and good to have words like this in our laws but are these laws been truly enforced in this modern day age or are they just as empty as some of the defamatory comments too many are presently getting away with making on the worldwide web.

  7. Until we get to the heart of the matter and realise that underneath the abusive words are deeply hurt people, we will inevitably still encounter abuse. What we express and how we express is very revealing of the relationship we have with ourselves. Rules and laws are very necessary – but healing our hurts is what will truly change how we relate to each other.

  8. I feel that there are so many laws that are needing to be updated in light of the era of technology that we are in today, where there are so many instances of faceless and nameless individuals taking advantage of their anonymity to abuse others, as you have personally experienced Victoria. And as you say so wisely “Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.”, so there must be consequences for the despicable actions that this small section of humanity are choosing to take.

  9. Well said Victoria. I have seen recently really decent people say the most awful things about someone they essentially don’t know because of their religious beliefs. This is not freedom of speech at all. It is clear and utter abuse and supremacy as well. This highlights to me how important it is that we express out truth, without abusing anyone in any way and without reacting to the often very unkind comments that can get hurled. We are heading down a slippery slope that we have seen in our most recent pasts and knowing who we are and standing true in that is our greatest ally.

  10. Freedom of speech is not just about us speaking but about the consideration of what we say and how it impacts the all, in other words, we must do no harm. And we have this well taken care of offline but not so online, as it appears that people who would not dare say anything to someone to their face will often do so online anonymously, without consideration or maybe even deliberately. We really need to understand there is no difference between offline and online and act accordingly.

  11. I very much love that we have such a clear statement of integrity underpinning our expression on the internet. What I find abominable is that it is not honoured and upheld.

  12. I agree Victoria this needs to be reminded to all concerned and backed with the correct enforcement. Many people are being extremely harmed and some committing suicide. It is harsh world we have created. It’s best we all are a part of change and not leave it to another.

  13. If there are ‘laws to protect a person’s good name and integrity against false information’ and ‘there are laws against saying or writing things to incite hatred against others because of their culture, ethnicity or background’ are they being enforced by our governing bodies with the necessary integrity and respect for those they were developed to honour by reprimanding or punishing those that breach these laws? Or, are they just lip service?

  14. I only can absolutely agree Victoria and love your clear words against cyberbullying. Each of us has to say NO to it otherwise this abuse will have more victims including people who will commit suicide.

  15. Well said Victoria. We live in a day and age where defamatory comments can spread like viruses to all reaches of the globe. It has never been more important to have enforceable laws in place to identify anonymous bullies and hold them to account for their actions.

  16. There is no hiding in the world of energy and as such anonymity is simply a beacon that alerts others to the fact that such a person is refusing to take responsibility for the quality of that which they express and so they seek to hide where they cannot be hidden and thus become not only a menace to society but also incredibly imprisoned in a mind-set that has them thinking that their actions cannot be seen and deep in the illusion that they can somehow be ‘getting away with it all’. Our laws may not yet have caught up with dealing with such tyrants but we are all bound by Universal Law that ensures we can never escape the very much needed corrections that are put in place to bring us back to the love that we are.

  17. It is with a great level of humility that I have stopped behaviors that were causing harm to others. It is not easy to own my mistakes, but when I do coming out the other side I always feel lighter and more loving and aware of how I choose to behave in life, which allows me to make some very big changes. So the question I ask is does our government have the ability to look closely at what has been allowed on our internet, and humbly accept that they have dropped the ball in relation to protecting the natural, lawful rights of the citizens that elect it.

  18. Too often it is a lone voice saying no that stirs the comfort and slumber of others, and that means there is a push back and abuse hurled in their direction, but it still needs to be said.

  19. Until we all learn to speak to others with Love, care, wisdom and support, always, there will be bullying in all it’s forms, as the most fundamental basic of human interaction, to do no harm, is not honoured until this is the only focus.

  20. Solid article, I am all for the laws on cyber abuse changing, as they currently do not reflect the modern age we live in. Peoples shop fronts are no longer only on the street. Shoppers and the general public are now informed by what they read on the internet and they rely on this before making decisions. If they like what they see online, then maybe they will visit the place or shop in person. As a society if we allow abuse online to take place without cause or effect, what kind on environment will our kids grow up in? We need to lay the ground work now, so hopefully we can make the internet is a safer place for our children. Universal Medicine aside, we are talking about peoples lives, people’s businesses and they are at stake.

  21. “Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others” Universal Medicine presents that the energy of malicious thoughts is harmful to the harmony of the world we all live in, so defamatory lies and abuse on the Internet or anywhere and the emotion of reactions are harmful to us all.

  22. The abuse of people by on line bloggers is rampant and it seems no change to these unlawful acts has as yet happened as the Government, the laws of the land, need updating to address this situation. Free speech is to do no harm first and foremost not to lie about and degrade another person.

  23. When we consider the idea of freedom of speech it is always related to the people as members of a wider community. Hence, we associate with the public sphere. Yet, the problem is that when people speak they bring to the public sphere what they are living in their private one. People speak from their bodies and how they speak and what they say is a mere reflection of how settled or not they feel in their own bodies. It is pretty clear that trolls are people who suffer from a profound unsettlement. When you are settled and feel comfortable in your own body, there are things you would not say. They will not come to you. Yet, if you feel unsettled your body will be able to say things that a settled-in body would not. It is exactly the same as what happens in schools. When people are connected to themselves and settled in their bodies, there are things they would not do (e.g., bullying others, disturbing the classmates, etc)… Yet, if this is not the case, we know as a fact that we can expect whatever from them. They cannot contain the malaise they feel into their own bodies. So, they ‘generously’ share it with the class. Same same.

  24. This has all got to change . . . you are so right about this Victoria and it will be us who instigate the change for we are speaking up in numbers saying how it really is . . . and we will not be silenced by some gutless nameless bullies.

  25. What we do online as apposed to what goes on offline can be poles apart. It’s not that the behaviours are necessarily different it’s just the way we police them and the way the law sees them are different. There is a part for us all to play in how we conduct and view the online landscape. This will support to bring forward laws that have us responsible for what we do on what is a very very public space. We all need to play a part and some of us that can see our part will need to keep actioning it to support us all. It’s very much a watch this space because this is a problem that is only just being seen partly for what it is.

  26. “Freedom of speech is not an excuse to harm others.” – why would we even need an excuse to harm others. What is wrong with us that we would even consider harming ourselves or any others?

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