Could the government prevent Facebook from deleting an individual's Facebook account without first following government-prescribed procedures? Intervene to require Google to conduct its search engine rankings in a certain manner, or subject Google to legal liability for wrongful termination or exclusion? Require social networks and search engines to prominently reveal the criteria by which their algorithms sort, order, rank, and delete content? Demand that some user information or data be deleted, withheld, made inalienable, nontransferable, ungatherable, or uncollectable? Engage in detailed regulation of the intellectual property and privacy relationships that inhere between individual users and the platforms they engage?
Each of these questions implicates the First Amendment, and as each question reveals, the same stresses that strained the institution of property when Charles Reich wrote The New Property in 1964 confront digital speech in 2014. As more of the activities that were once exclusively the province of the physical world become the province of the digital, more of the issues that once confronted the distribution and allocation of rights in property will confront the distribution and allocation of rights in speech.
This Article is an effort to explore the ways in which speech platforms represent a new challenge to the First Amendment, one that will require it to bend if we are to prevent the Lochnerization of the Freedom of Speech. It ties together various strands-the power of automation, the centrality and power of Internet media platforms, the doctrines developing in the courts, the actual acts of censorship in which these platforms regularly engage, and the core purposes the First Amendment was designed to serve-to make a sustained argument that we must think seriously about restructuring the First Amendment if we are to avoid seeing the First Amendment transformed into a powerful shield for the very sorts of censorship it was written to prevent.
The New Speech,
41 Hastings Const. L.Q. 235
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_constitutional_law_quaterly/vol41/iss2/1