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Free speech revisited at Harvard University

Melvin B. Miller | 6/15/2017, 6 a.m.

There seems to be confusion among some Americans about what constitutes freedom of speech in the nation. The issue arose because at least 10 students who had been admitted to Harvard University have had their acceptance revoked. They had apparently authored racially or sexually offensive memes on a social media site. The Harvard administration decided that such conduct disqualified them for admission.

Critics assert that Harvard’s action constitutes a violation of the right of free speech. Hardly. While revocation of acceptance is a severe consequence, it is never too early for the young to learn that every individual must assume responsibility for their statements. In the past, comments attracting censure were usually made on the radio, in print or in the public square. Now social media, which are generally accessible, have led to a loss of privacy, and created another hazard because of the public’s fascination with technology.

The Russian invasion of the country’s election process demonstrates that privacy is readily invaded. Citizens and institutions have the right to react adversely to publicized comments. Publishers must properly identify the authors of comments, and those wishing to remain anonymous must evade the long reach of technology.