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The Constitution guarantees many types of civil liberties, including freedom of speech and the press, freedom of religion, and the rights of the accused. Over time, Americans have expanded their civil liberties to include the right to privacy.
The First Amendment grants citizens freedom of speech, press, petition, and assembly, all essential for citizens to communicate freely in a democracy. Citizens must have the right to criticize the government for democracy to function properly. The courts have granted Americans wide-ranging freedoms of speech and expression.
Not all speech is protected, however. In some cases, the government has the legal right to regulate what Americans say and print. Free speech must first pass a number of tests:
In some trials, judges issue gag orders, which restrict what journalists can report about the trial. Prior restraint is a governmental act that stops the publication of materials thought to be damaging or slanderous; in recent years, the government has had a difficult time exercising prior restraint.
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