What does "Free Speech" mean exactly?

as reply to We need to talk about free speech

Free speech -  it means that the government may not jail, fine, or impose civil liability on people or organizations based on what they say or write, except in exceptional circumstances.

This is not available in a lot of countries in the world and I remember experiencing the cultural shock when I heard political jokes when I came to the US. Lately, the debate is about how far someone can take free speech. Particularly around hate speech. I personally have had this debate with a lot of people over time and I agree that this is a difficult topic.

The few instances when this topic is brought up:

1. The current situation with Trump and how companies are banning him. (Can big tech/social media have the right to censor people?)
2. The use of certain historically derogatory words by certain groups.

I believe the question is a debate about - is it morally ok versus is it legally allowed?

In both #1 and #2 - someone could make a legally correct argument that freedom of speech should be respected regardless and people should be allowed to speak their mind. But words have consequences and social media is reacting to situations where there are instances of a hate speech or socially unacceptable language. What many comedians are calling the cancel culture. I remember watching the Dave Chappelle show where he talks about the me too movement. As much as I find Chappelle talented - that one to me was not his best work. He may have been exercising his right to free speech but it came off as insensitive and ignorant by someone who didn't understand or experience the issue.

In a country like the US where there are laws explicitly stated to protect free speech, it is getting easy to get carried away into hate speech. If we can all agree that human beings are social animals and words can sometimes sting more than physical assault, how do we balance the freedom of speech with basic decency?

I can't articulate it better than Trevor Noah in the first 4 minutes of this video.