Chilling effect (term)

Chilling effect (term)

A chilling effect is a term in law and communication which describes a situation where speech or conduct is suppressed by fear of penalization at the interests of an individual or group. It may prompt self-censorship and therefore hamper free speech. Since many attacks rely on libel law, the term libel chill is also often used.Fact|date=June 2008


In United States and Canadian law, the term "chilling effects" refers to the stifling attribute that vague or overbroad laws may have on legitimate speech activity. Recognition of a law that may permit a loophole for such "chilling effect" as a vehicle for political libel or vexation litigation provides a prompt to allow changes to such defamation laws, and therefore prevent the suppression of free speech and censorship.Fact|date=June 2008


The term chilling effect had been in use in the United States since as early as 1950. [cite web
title= 4 Vanderbilt Law Review 533, at 539 (1950-1951): The Supreme Court and Civil Liberties
last= Freund
first= Paul A.
] It however became further used as a legal term when William J. Brennan, a justice of the United States Supreme court, used it in a judicial decision ("Lamont v. Postmaster General") which required a postal patron receiving "communist political propaganda" [cite web
title= Safire Urges Federal Journalist Shield Law
accessdate= 2008-06-18
last= Safire
first= William
date= 2005-07-20
publisher= Center For Individual Freedom
quote= Justice Brennan reported having written a 1965 decision striking down a state’s intrusion on civil liberty because of its “chilling effect upon the exercise of First Amendment rights…”
] to specifically authorize the delivery.cite web
title= LAMONT V. POSTMASTER GENERAL, 381 U. S. 301 (1965)
accessdate= 2008-06-18
publisher= Justia

The "Lamont" case however, did not center around a law that explicitly stifles free speech. A "chilling effect" referred to at the time a "deterrent effect" on freedom of expression — even when there is no law explicitly prohibiting it. However in general, "chilling effect" is now often used in reference to laws or actions that do not explicitly prohibit legitimate speech, but that impose undue burdens.

See also

*Chilling Effects
*Culture of fear
*Fear mongering
*Legal terrorism
*Media transparency
*Prior restraint
*Strategic lawsuit against public participation ("SLAPP")



External links

* [ Chilling Effects Clearinghouse] , containing many current examples of alleged chilling effects
* [ Terms associated with libel cases]
* [ Cato Policy Analysis No. 270] Chilling The Internet? Lessons from FCC Regulation of Radio Broadcasting

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