However, what is to be said of the extents of free speech guaranteed Americans in the First Amendment To what point does the First Amendment guarantee that someone may speak freely about someone else, albeit in a negative light Here, it will be examined: what constitutes defamation; what constitutes free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment; and what happens in defamation cases.
In other words, defamation of a person can range from someone making a comment or critique in presence of a third party, or can include written communications that a third party sees. (This does not include personal letters to one person that are not seen by a third party.)5
Anything defamatory is considered "that which tends to injure reputationdiminish[es] the esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in which the plaintiff is held, orexcite[s] adverse, derogatory or unpleasant feelings or opinions against him."6
A communication is considered defamatory "if it tends to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him."7 In this instance, the "meaning of a communication is that which the recipient correctly, or mistakenly but reasonably, understands that it was intended to express."8
First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, along with the freedom of religion, the press, and peaceful assembly. Specifically, the First Amendment reads as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."9
Madison's original draft of the First Amendment read, 'The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.''10
If it had been approved, this would have probably been a much more liberal version of the amendment than we have now. To speak, write, and publish one's sentiments without being deprived or abrid