I dunno what it's like in the USA, but in Australian terms I'll take all this pious concern for free speech rights seriously when their proponents are just as loud in defence of someone like Scott McIntyre as they are in defence of people's right to be racist.
Who was Scott McIntyre? He was the sbs reporter who a while back went on a huge twitter rant about how much he hated Anzac Day, and that it glorified war and imperialism, and that many Australian soldiers serving in war were thieves or rapists. The silence from the 'free speech über alles' brigade was deafening, and everyone clamoured for sbs to sack him, which they promptly did.
'Free speech' in modern politics is very very very often just a code word for 'I want to be a racist or bigot and not get criticised for it'. I'll start taking it seriously when 'free speech' advocates start getting serious about demanding defamation law reform, or increased whistleblower protection, or opposing the runaway use of judicial suppression orders in legal cases of public interest, or promoting anti-SLAPP measures. But they never do. In the Australian context, it's always all about 18c and the right to be racist. In the US it seems to be more about the right to abuse gays, but it's really the same phenomenon.
As a brief aside about 18c, something that gets lost in the cloud of bullshit is that not only is is truth a 100% valid defence against 18c charges, but so is good faith - the reasonable belief that what you are saying is true, even if it turns out you were mistaken. 18c targets very narrowly, and it targets deliberate or blatantly negligent lies. I know one of the people who brought suit against Bolt under 18c. What he said was racist lies, plain and simple, and a quick google could have proved it, but Bolt either didn't bother doing this or else he didn't want to let the truth get in the way of his determination to write racist lies. The complainants against Bolt had the option to sue him for defamation (and they would have won, easily) but chose to sue under 18c instead because they wanted to make it clear they weren't acting out of self interest. In a fantasy world where journalistic integrity is a real thing, immefiately after the verdict bolt would have been sacked and have his carrer killed inmediately and permanently FOR MAKING UP LIES IN HIS COLUMN and his editor would have been sacked for letting him get away with it. He and the paper utterly discredited themselves.
Free speech is powerful, and is a powerful weapon. Without stuff like 18c, how do you fight back against people in the media, or in politics, willing to make up deliberate racist lies to attack enemies and invoke prejudice against people they don't like?
Firstly you have fallen into the same trap as many others. "I want to be a racist and a bigot" No I want to be able to speak without fear of being charged because someone takes "offence". Nothing about being a bigot.
But But.... there are all those defences. Of course there are. The problem is that it can take three years and hundreds of thousands of $ for those defences to work. Not because someone suffered a damage or a loss, but because someone took "offence". You don't have to be racist ---- for instance booing at Adam Goodes because he is a Prima Donna, someone just has to be offended because they perceive you to be racist.
And how can you "cause" offence? You cant. I can insult someone as much as I like, hit them with every politically incorrect and racist slagging I can think of, but if they don't "take offence" I cant make them.
Its a rubbish law, stifling debate on all number of issues, with massive unintended consequences with a very very poor administrative process.