"Dueling Platform Policies and Free Speech Online"

A National Constitution Center podcast with Prof. Ellen Goodman (Rutgers) and me.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Here's the summary:

Twitter recently announced that it will stop paid political advertising, with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asserting that interest in political messaging should be earned, not bought. Meanwhile, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would not stop hosting political ads, saying that the platform should not be responsible for policing speech online.

Will Twitter's efforts to regulate political ads work? Might Facebook's more "hands-off" approach lead to unintended consequences for our democracy? Which approach to regulating speech might foster free expression the most? And how do policies of private institutions shape our free speech landscape, given that the First Amendment doesn't bind Twitter or Facebook? This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Abrams v. United States, so we also consider: Are the landmark First Amendment cases, many of which were decided decades before social media existed, still relevant in a world of ever-changing digital platforms, bots, and disinformation campaigns?

Digital speech experts Ellen Goodman of Rutgers University Law School and Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law join host Jeffrey Rosen.

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  1. “Are the landmark First Amendment cases, many of which were decided decades before social media existed, still relevant in a world of ever-changing digital platforms, bots, and disinformation campaigns?”

    Time to “update” the language of the First Amendment so it can apply to contemporary problems. Somehow it’s the one amendment that just keeps evolving, regardless of the ideologies on the Court.

  2. The companies are all running scared from politicians in both parties who are threatening to hurt them for censoring, or not censoring, in ways the politicians want.

    These are the threats:

    1. Broken up as too big
    2. Have that section 230 or whatever altered or dropped, exposing them to liability.
    3. Unspecified legal harm for not censoring rude statements from Trump that scare people.

    No need to update anything, just follow why the First Amendment (and others) exist in the first place — to stop people in power from censoring for their benefit, especially to harm an opponent.

  3. Can’t really avoid that one side is mad about censorship, and the other mad about it not being comprehensive enough. That’s not a symetrical situation from my perspective.

    Yeah, I know, some people will claim that it isn’t really “censorship” if it’s not the government doing it. I think that’s not really true if you’re doing it with the government’s protection.

    1. “…you’re doing it with the government’s protection.”

      Thus destroying the difference between “public” and “private” activity, apparently.

    2. That argument always annoys me.

      It is most certainly censorship – it just isn’t government censorship, and thus doesn’t (generally) fall under the First Amendment. It does fall under the concept of free speech, though.

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