Virtual Freedom: Net Neutrality and Free Speech in the Internet Age

By Dawn C. Nunziato | Go to book overview

4 A Place to Speak Your Mind1

PUBLIC FORUMS ARE THE PLACES IN REAL SPACE—SUCH AS THE National Mall or Lafayette Square—where you are guaranteed the right under the First Amendment to express yourself and speak your mind. The Supreme Court adopted and strengthened the public forum doctrine in the mid-twentieth century, but has substantially weakened it in recent years. And this (now anemic) doctrine applies only within public places. So what happens to this guaranteed right to express yourself when virtually no places are publicly owned? Practically all forums and conduits for speech on the Internet are in private hands, and all speech occurring within those places is subject to private regulation, unchecked by the First Amendment and the public forum doctrine. Virtually no places exist on the Internet to serve as “public forums.” As a result, the free speech values historically embodied within the public forum doctrine, and the state's affirmative role of providing speakers with meaningful forums from which to express themselves, have been essentially nonexistent on the Internet.

Along with the loss of public forums in cyberspace comes the loss of meaningful protection for free speech under the First Amendment. In particular, the government's abdication of control over Internet speech regulation results in the loss of protection for speech that is insufficiently protected within an unregulated market for speech—that is, unpopular and poorly subsidized speech. In real space, such speech is protected by the existence of public forums, access to which is open to all and within which restrictions on speech are subject to exacting scrutiny. The existence of government-owned property as a forum for speech available to all comers provides an important

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Virtual Freedom: Net Neutrality and Free Speech in the Internet Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1: Speech and Censorship on the Internet 1
  • 2: The First Amendment's Free Speech Guarantee 24
  • 3: Embracing the Affirmative First Amendment 41
  • 4: A Place to Speak Your Mind1 70
  • 5: When Private Becomes Public 88
  • 6: Speech Conduits and Carriers 115
  • 7: Protecting Free Speech in the Internet Age 134
  • Conclusion 152
  • Reference Matter 157
  • Notes 159
  • Index 191
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