What is free speech?
Of the many rights which are available to us, none is as important as free speech. However, a combination of factors including the high-profile activities of the alt-right in the US, resurgence of right-wing parties across Europe, emergence of various special interest and rights groups and the ease and speed at which news, ideas and, especially, outrage can spread over the internet have led some to question its necessity.
The most concerning statements that I've seen in the furry fandom have been those saying that certain people should not be allowed to speak and should be banned from websites and conventions for holding their views and the idea that it is okay to assault people who hold certain views. In the light of this, I feel it is necessary to explain what free speech is and isn't, why it is important and try to highlight some of the ways in which it directly impacts the furry fandom.
I will start with the Wikipedia article on free speech which describes it thus:
Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.
Further down in the article it breaks freedom of speech into three discrete aspects.
1. the right to seek information and ideas;
2. the right to receive information and ideas;
3. the right to impart information and ideas
In some cases these will be limited due to laws regarding privacy or similar rules but such cases will not be considered here as those limitations generally do not affect free speech in the way that it applies to the furry fandom vis-à-vis the expression of alt-right ideas.
The 1999 Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act was passed in response to outcry over the creation of so-called "crush" videos featuring the deaths of small animals.
While the prohibition of animal cruelty has a long history in American law, there is no evidence of a similar tradition prohibiting depictions of such cruelty.
See also: Cat Killing is OK as Art?