I know Reporters Without Borders compiles a Press Freedom Index, but this is not the same thing as freedom of speech for non-journalists. Is there another ranking that specifically addresses the latter?

I think the Press Freedom Index is not a good indicator of non-journalists' freedom of speech. For example the UK ranks above the US on the index, but the UK has hate speech laws which are increasingly being used to arrest people for anti-migration tweets. Meanwhile in the US, hate speech is protected by the first amendment. Also, in UK libel law places the burden of proof on the defendant, while the US places the burden of proof on the prosecution. Several other countries ranking even higher than the UK also have hate speech laws and stricter libel laws than the US. The most important aspect of freedom of speech is not getting arrested for political speech, but several countries that routinely arrest non-journalists for political speech are ranked in the top 20 by that index, so I need a different index.

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    Interesting question, thanks for asking. In addition to the US/UK distinction you mention, there is also the difference called the "American Rule", holding each party responsible for their own legal expenses in a lawsuit, while in the UK loosing party pays. Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 6:13
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    Quick, effective test: when informed by a non-American of how terribly oppressive my government is, I like to propose that we each send a tweet of my choosing to our respective local or national (their choice) law enforcement agency. First one to get arrested for thoughtcrime loses. There's your freedom of speech test. Criminalization of speech is barbaric.
    – acpilot
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 6:28
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    @acpilot you can be arrested in the US for threatening to kill a government official or announcing that a bomb has been planted somewhere. Is there a country where this is not so? Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 6:40
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    It's not that simple. There must be "evidence of the person's intent to carry out the threat; disruption to the government function; [or] the possibility of inciting others to violence." Additionally, it's generally only considered a true threat if a reasonable person would consider it a valid threat under the specific circumstances. So, sure, threatening people with "fighting words" can lead to arrest but that's not what free speech protections are meant to protect.
    – acpilot
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 6:51
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    This question will run into the standard issues of diverging cultural sensitivities, as it always does when it comes to the idea of free speech. For a European, acpilot's litmus test is laughable, For Americans it is the embodiment of what free speech should be. Neither side is wrong when taking into account their idea of what free speech is. It's the reason why Google's recent internal memo on the idea was so appalling by US standards, yet completely logical by EU standards.
    – DonFusili
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 8:36

2 Answers 2


No, there isn't a clear ranking.

Just looking into comments, prior answers, and searching, you can find that this is extraordinarily subjective.

Wikipedia does show much of the information that might get that list, it isn't done.

Measuring freedom of journalists is actually much easier than measuring freedom for non-journalists. This is due to broadening the question.

You mention hate speech laws, which in your question suggests they inherently restrict free speech. To take this another step, are you looking at a list that defines any country by how potentially oppressive the laws can be?

I can think of no possible way to compile a list such as that.

Are you looking for a list defined by what speech is specifically protected? If that is the case, the US might list quite low as it only protects the citizenry from the government, not private entities (employers). In many US states, an employer may fire an employee just for saying "Good morning" too loudly and it would be perfectly legal.

To look at similar lists, the Cato Human Freedom index

While not specifically speech, it may help in conjunction with other freedom indices.

  • I want to focus on government actions that arrest/punish for speech. Even including campaign finance regulations that restrict "electioneering communications" by third parties. The government is a monopoly, by definition. No employer has more than 1% of the labor market. So if an individual employer decides to fire someone for politics, that's, inconsequential, UNLESS it's being driven by government-created incentives that affect all employers. For example NLRB admitted that google was obligated to fire Damore for speech to minimize its "hostile work envioronment" tort liability. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 20:57
  • So essentially, the scope i'm looking for includes all government actions to stifle speech, including government-created incentives for private parties to do so. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 20:59
  • Damore can't just go get another job (except at a startup) because every employer larger than a dozen people is being incentivised to fire thought-criminals to avoid lawsuits. I'm less sympathetic if the firing is merely based on the idiosyncrasies of one employer. Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 21:11
  • "Are you looking for a list defined by what speech is specifically protected? If that is the case, the US might list quite low as it only protects the citizenry from the government" No, the US ranks quite high. Forcing a company to put up with speech it doesn't like is an infringement on that company's freedom. Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 21:30

A quick search on the google machine found this PEW poll on Free Speech conducted in 38 countries... while there are some scores where the United States is scored lower than other regions, they rarely dip below second place. Page 2 of the report shows that the United States ranks no less than 10 points above median in support of all categories of Free Speech asked. Page three gets into specific things and one cool thing is that there is a 3% difference between the reported results of lower educated and higher educated in the U.S., which is the lowest country in the survey. Page 5 gives the overall score and the scoring method applied to get that number.

The over all conclusion is that the United States is more supportive of Free Speech on the whole than any other nation surveyed. Runners up would be Poland and Spain, who were within close results to the United States.


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    As Polish I think that in everyday life we have much more of freedom of speech than Americans, as we don't have rampant political correctness. By our standards stories about PC from the US are shocking. This outcome is not supported by PEW findings, as people in Poland tend for any pollster question answer "badly".
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Jul 7, 2019 at 19:08

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