Free Speech

What We Defend

Freedom of speech is a human right and a fundamental American freedom. It’s essential for democracy, scientific progress, artistic expression, social justice, peace, and each individual’s ability to live authentically. 

At FIRE, we believe free speech is a force for good and have been defending free speech since 1999.

We also know free speech is under threat. 

FIRE’s vision is an America in which people overwhelmingly believe in the right of others to freely express views different from their own, and expect their laws and educational institutions to reflect and teach this belief.

Arguments for freedom: The many reasons why free speech is essential

Peaceful protest with young woman speaking into a megaphone.
FIRE plaintiff Jeff Gray holds a sign reading "God bless homeless vets"
I have been harassed, trespassed, handcuffed and arrested countless times for peacefully exercising my First Amendment rights. My intention is to ensure that all Americans from the wealthiest millionaire to the poorest homeless person can exercise these rights without fear of consequence from our government.

Army vet arrested for holding ‘God Bless the Homeless Vets’ sign

Our Impact

Jeff Gray, a U.S. Army veteran and retired truck driver, has been repeatedly stopped, detained, searched, and arrested by the police. His alleged crime? Holding signs — in front of city halls across the United States. 

READ Jeff's Story

Kevin Gaughen
"The county’s actions are an outrageous infringement of Pennsylvanians’ First Amendment rights," said plaintiff Kevin Gaughen, a board member for Pennsylvania’s new Keystone Party. "We are filing this lawsuit to protect the First Amendment rights of everyone in Dauphin County."

Local Government Prohibits Political Activity in Public Park

Our Impact

The Dauphin County Parks and Recreation Department prohibited a candidate and a board member of his political party from collecting signatures in a public park. The department’s actions are a clear violation of the duo’s First Amendment right to political expression.

Read Kevin's Story

2024 College Free Speech Rankings

FIRE's 2024 College Free Speech Rankings are based on the voices of more than 55,000 students at 248 colleges and universities, and are designed to help parents and prospective students choose the right school.

See the Rankings

Read the Report

Rank School Overall Speech Code
1 Michigan Technological University Public 78/100 Green
2 Auburn University Public 72/100 Green
3 University of New Hampshire Public 72/100 Green
4 Oregon State University Public 71/100 Green
5 Florida State University Public 69/100 Green
6 University of Virginia Public 68/100 Green
7 Texas A&M University - College Station Public 67/100 Green
8 George Mason University Public 67/100 Green
9 University of North Carolina - Greensboro Public 67/100 Green
10 University of Colorado Boulder Public 66/100 Green
android phone with icons for Parler and Twitter

FIRE Statement on Free Speech and Social Media

Social media companies have ascended to wielding immense power to shape and inform important national debates, and some have gone too far in regulating the speech of their users. 

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Defending Free Speech

FIRE defends and sustains the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the essential qualities of liberty — and carries out this mission through several core services.

FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus


Too many college campuses silence students who dare exercise their right to free expression. For a more thorough analysis of your expressive rights at colleges and universities, consult FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. 

Read Free Speech Guide

Stanford Law School student Nicholas Wallace stands before the school entrance
No student should ever face the threat of a degree hold for exercising their free speech rights.

Satire is not a crime

When Stanford University launched an investigation into Nicholas Wallace over a satirical email, FIRE sprang into action so he wouldn’t miss graduation.

Ira Glasser looking over NYC skyline.

Watch Trailer

FIRE’s Feature Documentary: ‘Mighty Ira’

Amid high-profile controversies surrounding free speech and racial equality, former ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser reflects on his life at the forefront of defending the rights of all Americans.

Watch the Movie


Since 1999, FIRE has amassed more than 650 victories defending student and faculty rights on more than 300 campuses nationwide.


In 2023, FIRE actively litigated 23 cases.


In 2023, FIRE vetted nearly 2,400 case submissions involving individuals and groups who said their rights were threatened.


FIRE regularly reaches an audience of more than 800,000 email subscribers and social media followers.

Free Speech Resources

A word cloud illustration created with words from this year's essay contest entries.

The Case for Radically Free Speech


In this course, you’ll learn about how the right to freedom of speech has evolved over human history, how it promotes peace in society and uplifts minority voices, and why censorship is never the answer to dissident speech. 

Take This Course

mobile banking transactions concept

FIRE Statement on Free Speech and Online Payment Processors


Online payment processors like Venmo and PayPal often deny Americans access to these vital services based on their speech or viewpoints. When these companies appoint themselves the arbiters of what speech and views are acceptable, shutting people and organizations out of the online financial ecosystem for wrongthink, they seriously undermine our culture of free expression.

Learn More

Drag performer putting on makeup

Drag, free speech, and the First Amendment

Drag is an artform protected by the First Amendment in which performers embody a character through the exaggeration of femininity or masculinity using clothing and makeup and typically involves entertainment or performance such as stand up comedy, lip syncing, singing, or dancing. 

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