#FreeSpeechMatters: Organization incentivizes students to document the state of free speech on campus

Free Speech organization Speech First has launched a unique social media campaign to encourage students to share instances of free speech both being protected and disregarded on their campuses.

Speech First has helped lead the charge on campus free speech issues, many of which Campus Reform has reported.

As the 2019-2020 school year begins, a free speech organization is providing college students a unique opportunity to draw attention to campus policies in a chance to win some extra cash.

Speech First, a membership organization dedicated to protecting students’ free speech rights on campus, is hosting an Instagram contest and asking college students to post photos of the best and worst example of free speech on campus.

The organization is encouraging students who see attempts to censor viewpoints on campus to snap a picture of the situation or policy, post it to Instagram with the hashtag #FreeSpeechMatters, and tag the organization in the photo.

[RELATED: Disturbing number of students say hate speech is not free speech, report says]

Four times throughout the school year, Speech First will select one participant to receive up to a $100 Amazon gift card. The first round will include submissions posted through the end of September. Participants must be current college students, but Speech First encourages non-students who want to help to spread the word to also participate.

The organization is in search of both “positive and negative examples” of free speech on campus and notes that possible negative examples include campus “free speech zones,” literature suggesting what types of language students should use, or public displays and posters that have been destroyed or removed.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Students say offensive speech is not free speech]

Positive examples listed include images of rallies and protests where everybody’s free speech rights are being honored and images of civil debates.

In describing the motivation behind the contest, the group writes that “throughout American history, disenfranchised groups – from women to African Americans, the LGBT community to religious minorities – have fought to gain equal rights,” adding that “often, the views they espoused were unwelcome and often considered ‘offensive.’”

“Fortunately, First Amendment protections ensured that their viewpoints could be communicated… and in the marketplace of ideas, they were able to triumph,” Speech First says. “Yet sadly, not all colleges and universities believe in the First Amendment or protecting our Constitution – and arbitrarily decide whose speech should be valued and whose should not.”

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