Welcome to DoSomething.org, a global movement of 5.5 million young people making positive change, online and off! The 11 facts you want are below, and the sources for the facts are at the very bottom of the page. After you learn something, do something! Find out how to take action here.

  1. Freedom of speech was established in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in 1791 along with freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble.
  2. In 1948, the UN recognized free speech as a human right in the International Declaration of Human Rights. Take a stand against censorship and even improve literacy rates(!) by reading banned books. Sign up for Unban Underpants!
  3. Protection of speech was first introduced when the Magna Carta was signed in 1215.
  4. Greek philosopher Socrates, in 399 BC, was persecuted for an early argument promoting free speech.
  5. In 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the court decided that speech can be restricted if the speaker strives to provoke an “imminent” and “likely” violation of law.

Read from “Captain Underpants” in class to protest censorship.

  1. In Schenck v. United States (1919), the Supreme Court invented the famous "clear and present danger" test to determine when a state could constitutionally limit an individual's free speech rights under the First Amendment.
  2. In 1633, Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for insisting that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. His punishment was a lifetime of house arrest — a crime that would have been protected by free speech a century later.
  3. “Hate speech” (speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits) is protected in the US by the First Amendment.
  4. 70% of Americans agreed that people should have the right to free speech, even if their words are highly offensive.
  5. Obscenity — most often pornography — has posed a problem for judges defining what exactly is “too obscene” to be protected by the First Amendment. In 1973, the Miller test was established after Miller v. California to define obscenity.
  6. Thanks to Tinker v. Des Moines in 1969, students retain their right to free speech during school hours.


  • 1

    National Archives and Records Administration. "The Bill of Rights: A Transcription." National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html (accessed July 26, 2014).

  • 2

    UN. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights." UN News Center. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ (accessed July 26, 2014).

  • 3

    "Introduction." Treasures in full: Magna Carta. http://www.bl.uk/treasures/magnacarta/basics/basics.html (accessed July 28, 2014).

  • 4

    Kraut, Richard. "The Athenian ideal of free speech." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/551948/Socrates/233637/The-Athenian-ideal-of-free-speech (accessed July 28, 2014).

  • 5

    "Brandenburg v. Ohio." LII / Legal Information Institute. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/395/444 (accessed July 28, 2014).

  • 6

    PBS. " Schenck v. U.S. (1919)." PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/capitalism/landmark_schenck.html (accessed July 27, 2014).

  • 7

    "Galileo Galilei." NASA. http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/whos_who_level2/galileo.html (accessed July 26, 2014).

  • 8

    "ABA Division for Public Education: Students: Debating the "Mighty Constitutional Opposites": Hate Speech Debate." American Bar Association http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/initiatives_awards/students_in_action/debate_hate.html (accessed July 25, 2014).

  • 9

    "The Westboro Baptist case: Testing the limits of free speech." Washington Post. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-the-numbers/2011/03/testing_the_limits_of_free_spe.html (accessed July 28, 2014).

  • 10

    "Miller v. California." LII / Legal Information Institute. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/413/15 (accessed July 28, 2014).

  • 11

    "Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist.." LII / Legal Information Institute. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/393/503 (accessed July 28, 2014).

Read from “Captain Underpants” in class to protest censorship.