Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment [September 8, 2014] [open pdf - 408KB]
"The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that 'Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.' This language restricts government's ability to constrain the speech of citizens. The prohibition on abridgment of the freedom of speech is not absolute. Certain types of speech may be prohibited outright. Some types of speech may be more easily constrained than others. Furthermore, speech may be more easily regulated depending upon the location at which it takes place. This report provides an overview of the major exceptions to the First Amendment--of the ways that the Supreme Court has interpreted the guarantee of freedom of speech and press to provide no protection or only limited protection for some types of speech. For example, the Court has decided that the First Amendment provides no protection for obscenity, child pornography, or speech that constitutes what has become widely known as 'fighting words.' The Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television (as opposed to speech transmitted via cable or the Internet), and public employees' speech. […] This report will outline many of the standards the government must meet when attempting to regulate speech in a constitutional manner. The report will be updated periodically to reflect new developments in the case law."
CRS Report for Congress, 95-815