“Is there sound when a tree falls to the ground if no one is there to hear it?” Scientists have argued both sides of the issue. Some say that sound has to be heard or it doesn’t exist. Free speech is like that. If it isn’t heard it doesn’t exist. I would argue that having an audience is the constitutional right. Moving lips are seldom controversial if the sound they make can’t be heard.
If two people are speaking, and one is whispering while the other is shouting. Only the person who is shouting has an audience. While free whispers may be constitutional. They are of no consequence because nobody can hear them. Furthermore, the person who is shouting may be using speech that is abusive, unsafe, or uninformed. One person may denied the right to be heard, while the other is abusing the right to free speech.
Free speech is a personal right that can only exist in a particular environment. Giving people the right to speak has no value in the absence of an audience. People who speak have an obligation be truthful, proportional, and kind. Rights come with responsibilities. Any environment supports only reality. Free speech cannot exist in an unsupportive environment.
Free speech can only exist in an environment that supports it. Technology has the potential to change free whispers into real free speech. At the same time, it gives its abusers a gigantic audience. An environment that allows free speech has to control the noise that turns free speech into meaningless whispers.