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Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age: A Historian’s Perspective

John, Richard R.

This essay surveys the history of freedom of expression from classical antiquity to the present. It contends that a principled defense of free expression dates to the seventeenth century, when it was championed by the political theorist John Locke. Free expression for Locke was closely linked with religious toleration, a relationship that has led in our own day to a principled defense of pluralism as a civic ideal. For the past several hundred years, the domain within which free expression has flourished has been subject not only to spatial boundaries and temporal limits, but also to political regulation and social control. The essay concludes by underscoring the challenge to traditional conceptions of free expression that are posed today by social media platforms.


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Church, Communication and Culture

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May 20, 2019
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