The Moscow Times reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a controversial set of bills making it a crime to “disrespect” the state and spread “fake news” online. Throughout the world there is a growing tendencing toward limiting free speech.

When people argue we should limit “hate” speech I always ask them to define hate speech and them tell me who or what will be the arbiter of whether something soneone says or writes is “hate” speech. While I might say something that offends someone else, I am not the one making the choice to be offended. Whoever hears what I say or sees what I write is the person who chooses to be offended.

If we spend all of our time fearful of what we say or write for fear that it might offend someone we’re not even aware is listening or reading, we won’t express ourselves freely and openly. The Founding Fathers decided that freedom of speech (and freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition the government) would be the first among the ten Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is just that important.

But back to Putin and the Russian Federation outlawing speech disrespectful of the government. If you cannot speak openly, critically, supportive, or in opposition to your government, that is a solid first step toward tyranny.

The report in The Moscow Times states:

The legislation will establish punishments for spreading information that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Online news outlets and users that spread “fake news” will face fines of up to 1.5 million rubles ($22,900) for repeat offenses.

Insulting state symbols and the authorities, including Putin, will carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles and 15 days in jail for repeat offenses.

Beware those who claim that hate speech, or offensive speech, must be regulated or outlawed. We just might end up like Russia, facing fines for criticizing our government.