Which has primacy?

  1. Freedom of Speech


  1. Autonomy in Commmunication

How do these differ?

What do they comprise of?

What conflicting or intersecting rights exist?

No, I’ve not defined terms. I have definitions in mind, but am also trialing language. The 2nd term is novel and appears not to be in significant use. I’m interested in seeing what others presume the meaning to be.

Boosts appreciated.

"Freedom of Speech" seems to me somewhat ambiguous and/or limited. It does not directly seem to address a set of related issues, or puts lines, walls, and doors or other access points in uncomfortable places.

So I did what I try to remember to do when thinking through nutty philosophical concepts, and inverted the notion: what is unfreedom of speech?

That would ... have constraints. Limitations, prohibitions, compulsion, ...

Which suggests that freedom might be thought of as part a larger scope of self-determined information behaviours, or slightly less cumbersomely stated: autonomy in communication.

The phrase seems to have little extant use, outside a small niche in public relations, so confusion should be minimal.

Framed this way, a number of topics related to free speech, but not directly addressed by conventional discussion, seem more clearly in scope: expression, nondisclosure, privacy, association, solitude, access, blocking, translation or conversion, veracity, crytographic methods, repudiation. ...

More on thread here (toot is from a comment):

@hhardy01 @carcinopithecus , @cjd @CaseGage @cadadr @jaranta

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What's the frame?


Customary law?

Common law?

Napoleonic/Justinianic law?


I'll speak to US since I know that best.

The Zenger trail in 1734 was a landmark for freedom of the press. Zenger was accused of libel for criticizing allegedly corrupt Royal Governor Crosby. Zenger was defended by Hamilton and won a jury trial.

Pamphleteers and publishers such as Paul Revere and Thomas Payne were a key asset of the Revolution.

There was a strong swing toward increased speech and press freedom in 1960 starting with the Free Speech Movement. Cohen v California.

@hhardy01 @dredmorbius i like this framing... it's autonomy in the sense of having that ability to control and limit (or assert) one's position, but in a context that clearly presupposes collaboration with other actors and requires communications with people on different levels of whatever hierarchy one has to put up with at the moment.

@hhardy01 That's a use, yes, though not a notably prevalent one IMO.

Probably not the answer you're looking for but in terms of the US Constitution, I think it's pretty clear that the key objective is to ensure that a sitting government will not meddle with the process by which people decide whether or not to vote them out.

@dredmorbius Well in the first amendment they use the words "freedom of speech" so I suppose this.
The reason I bring this up is because I find that rules are made in order to prevent certain bad things, and then as time passes the rule itself becomes enshrined as a fundamental value. People start thinking Free Speech means anyone who doesn't want to listen to them is wrong, etc.
Hence why I like to try to understand why the words were written to begin with...

@cjd I'm testing what a cold-take interpretation is here.

So with regard to definitions, my feeling is that "communication" is all about talking to someone who wants to listen while "speech" is about freedom to publish but as a non-press entity. Encrypted messengers facilitate communication while fediverse facilitates speech.


I believe it relates to ownership of the equipment equals the ability to set the rules for commentary. In short, "my house, my rules."

@CaseGage What about the streets, sewers, gas, power, phones, cable, Internet?

Or dispersed services: police, fire, ambulence, environment, etc?


You would have to partner with end users. And intermediate property owners. I know it isn't a utility, but I think Rothbart's idea of why it's still not an infringement of free speech to deny someone the ability to yell fire in a theater is something like the legal theoretical basis for where you draw the engineering boundaries for who owns and is responsible for what. Savy?


More to say for sure but that's how I would come at it

@CaseGage Communications inherently occurs across domain boundaries, at interfaces.

Postal mail has a sender, carrier, and recipient. Broadcast has transmitter, channel (spectrum), and receiver. Incable and telephony, the channel is physical infrastructure with an owner. Internet adds computation, search, discovery, algorithm, etc.

Autonomy is incomplete in defining this scope.

@dredmorbius i'm trying to put a meaning to "autonomy of communication" and can imagine:

1 control over who gets or doesn't get my message

2 the right to dictate the form & content of any message i want to send out

it seems to me 2 is basically the lowest-common-denominator subset of free speech, which i guess is for me:

1 the right to dictate the form & content of any message i want to send out

2 the ability & right to broadcast such a message without fear of state or community violence

@dredmorbius given those definitions i'll take autonomy

some things said to certain people at certain times are best stopped with violence, and where it's not but there's violence anyway then autonomy point 1 gives those affected a chance to renegotiate the terms in the long run

@dredmorbius yeah, though i find that anything beyond this minimally-recognizable profile gets controversial fast

(though for both of these i'm not making any real distinction between law and fact where a purely de jure freedom would satisfy anything if people on the ground aren't actually able to exercise it)

@dredmorbius A very common example teaching the "pragmatics" subdiscipline of linguistics is "I'm cold". At face value it's a declaration of a situation and not an attempt to communicate a request. But if uttered in a room where there's +1 other person(s) and an open window, the same phrase communicates "please close the window". So strongly that if it didn't result in the window getting closed, it'd be perceived as confrontation or rudeness.


@dredmorbius In similar fashion all we say is a function of the context we speak in. We like to talk of dictionaries and definitions but words are but a bunch of suggestions, which become a stronger suggestion when they're put together. Without factoring in the World and the interlocutor's interpretation, little meaning is present, if any.

In general, free speech absolutists tend to act as if meaning was only a product of construction, and construal had no value. 2/

@dredmorbius But the fact is that we construct messages strategically with construal in mind. We do that when we're sarcastic, ironic, or with many other rhetorical devices we use all day every day, even when talking to ourselves.

In that light I'd argue "speech" is not really a concrete, useful thing or concept to build laws and principles around.

Don't all lives matter? They do. But is that what "All Lives Matter" communicates? Does "speech" apply to the string of the words, or does it 3/

@dredmorbius ... extend to its power to affect the state of the world (illocutionary force) and it's semantic baggage unless one interprets everything based on sense 1 of words in a dictionary?

In any case I find it more opportune to focus on more concrete forms of speech and communication. Freedom to criticise, incitement of violence, fair use, libel, harrassment. These do not suffer from the same level of vagueness the term "speech" does. 4/

@dredmorbius A good yard stick when dicussing something like Trump's saying he'll skip inauguration is Gricean maxims. These are assumptions Paul Grice postulated interlocutors share, and we tend to not violate them unless strategically. In Trump's case, is the violation of maxims of quality and relation when he says he'll skip intentional? How does such a violation interact with the context? Is the declaration called for so early and in that climate of violence? 5/

@dredmorbius Autonomy in communication is a term I've never encountered before and frankly I can't really assign a relevant meaning to it in this context. But I'd say no singular concept would help with all issues of speech, censorship, and all the things in that realm.

No kitchen is complete with only a chef's knife, nameen. Whether Japanese or Western :)


@dredmorbius "Freedom of speech" as understood in US is a weird anomaly in how humans understand the relation between communication, freedom and consequence. The US-centric interpretation is gaining ground (mostly online) because of US cultural imperialism, but in practice no other country has laws that see a specific form of speech somehow central to freedoms. As such, I don't find that concept very useful or important.

@dredmorbius Excatly: those articles are very far from the US interpretation of freedom of speech.

@dredmorbius You didn't; I did. Framing things through freedom of speech makes it US-centric.

@jaranta Disagreed and absolutely not my intent, though as a perception, useful.



I have some partial ideas about this. I'll have to swing back around to it later today after I have the time to read through your diaspora post. This discussion is of great interest to me. @carcinopithecus @cjd @jaranta

@dredmorbius Your framing highlights one aspect of autonomy, communication. Another way to view this is to see autonomy as the fundamental value and communication just one way of expressing that autonomy. For example, freedom of association is seen as a human right, and there is no need to ground it in communication.

@jaranta Mental models are arbitrary, though one hopes useful, orderings of reality. There virtually always multiple, often conflicting, such orderings. I'm tring to come up witha more useful framing for communications than the existing free speech construction seems to afford. Broader in scope and more internally consistent.

I'm hesitant to rely on arguments founded on universal rights, not because I (necessarily) disagree with the rights proposed, but because the reasoning (in the correct use of the phrase) begs the question:

Q: Why should a person have ability X?
A: Because X is a fundamental human right.
Q: What is a fundamental human right?
A: A right that applies to all people.
Q: But doesn't that just restate the question?
A: ...
Q: Who determines what are and aren't fundamental rights? What if two fundamental rights, or sets of rights, conflict?
A: ...

(My strawmen are most obliging.)

I prefer to try workng from a combination of pragmatism, empirical evidence, and first principles (or causal foundations), in roughly that order.

Pragmatism, because extends what is into what may be (so you don't get stuck in the local pessima of "that's just the way it is", empirical evidence because desire divorced of reality is fantasy, and first principles / causality, because these establish dependencies and fundamental mechanisms.

Association and comunication are exceptionally tightly interrelated. Each feeds on the other, though association may be the more fundamental: it is the necessary precursor of a communications channel. Association without communication affords very little: communication is what makes association work.

@dredmorbius I don't disagree with any of that. I was trying to highlight that working from just one value (freedom) and one type of activity (speech) might not be the best option and e.g. human rights assume multiple types and sources of values.

BTW, it seems you might be heading towards Habermasian type ideal of communicative action.

@dredmorbius @hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta
Reading the diaspora post, that's clear and interesting. IMHO "The right to receive, or deny receipt of documents and, signals" is the key difference from freedom of speech, and should be closer to the centre of the argument, because concrete action based on that is more practicable, especially when third parties mentioned but not directly addressed are nevertheless taken as interlocutors.

E.g. even if I'm talking to my 1/

@dredmorbius @hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta ... disgusting bigoted friends on our disgusting bigoted medium, if we're talking about some person or group even without their presence or them being aware, so long as the communication is in public, that person or group is counted as an interlocutor in such a conversation, because there's inevitably an outcome for them.

Could be a fragile concept in legal practicality tho. 2/2


so long as the communication is in public, that person or group is counted as an interlocutor in such a conversation

That suggests some term to describe a discussion which has the appearance of beingclosed and private, but is in fact public or observed.

"Parasocial" is the term used to descrbe the relationship between a public figure, often an entertainer or informer, and their audience. See especially fandoms.

"Paraprivacy" might be the term for a false sense of a close and intimate discussion, though the participants themselves are together on a public stage.

As are we here.

Is there an existing term?

@hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta

@dredmorbius @hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta
None that I'm aware of.

I like me some creative but transparent terminology and am trying to come up with something, but it's a tough task.

Fun one: reality show privacy.

Googleable, nerdpleaser: nontimacy.

I feel a regrettable fondness about the latter 🧐

"Kayaalp, I. G. (2050). Face-saving patterns in nontimate conversations on Discourse & Intercephalic Media, 20th issue, Vol. XXI, pp. 11954--11969."

@cadadr @dredmorbius I've seen this simply being framed as different expectations of privacy (e.g. from whom), since there is no clear cut difference between public and private. Great example are teenagers on public platforms on accounts their parents don't know about.

@cadadr @dredmorbius Oh, and credit where it is due: my example comes from danah boyd.

Boyd, Danah. 2014. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale University Press.

@dredmorbius Nah, my most productive hour is the one just before the deadline, so can't make any promises about that 😜
@hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta

@cadadr @dredmorbius @hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @jaranta
Can we please define #nontimacy? I've never made a hashtag. I gotta admit I'm a little giddy about this

@CaseGage @hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @jaranta it was an attempt to come up with a term for so @dredmorbius's prompt is probably the best definition: a discussion [and/or a sitation?] which has the appearance of being closed and private, but is in fact public or observed.

@cadadr The third-party topic-of-discussion has an interest regardless of whether the discussion itself is public, I'd argue. Say, a grand jury, selection (or rejection) committee, star chamber, regulator, HOA, management review committee, etc.

What specific disclosures might be made could vary greatly with circumstances. This is generally ground decided case-by-case by courts. At great cost.

@hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta

@dredmorbius @hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta It's a thought I love to entertain and say out loud sometimes: "Exact" sciences have it way easier: Atom the Dum Dum just does what it's supposed to do, just a matter of time to find out what that is.

Social sciences tho are screwed bc while a brain is useful to the bearer, it's harder than subatomic particles to observe and reason about. We're trapped in this weird universe of some vague patterns and no rules.

@cadadr In physics, the entities observed and described don't change behaviour due to their own understanding of the model describing their behaviour, or even the less confining capability of observing and responding to their environment. They simply react to physical forces or influences.

Even this can provide unpredictable behaviour: the three-body problem, or double pendulum, macroscopically, quantum effects at atomic scales.

Even at the viral and cellular levels, biological systems are interacting with their environment. Social sciences themselves in part comprise that which they attempt to explain: they are endogenous to the system.

@hhardy01 @carcinopithecus @cjd @CaseGage @jaranta

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