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

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

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

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


Communications giants like Google, Comcast, and AT&T enjoy increasingly unchecked control over speech. As providers of broadband access and Internet search engines, they can control online expression. Their online content restrictions- from obstructing e-mail to censoring cablecasts- are considered legal because of recent changes in free speech law.

In this book, Dawn Nunziato criticizes recent changes in free speech law in which only the government need refrain from censoring speech, while companies are permitted to self-regulate. By enabling Internet providers to exercise control over content, the Supreme Court and the FCC have failed to protect the public's right to access a broad diversity of content. Nunziato argues that regulation is necessary to ensure the free flow of information and to render the First Amendment meaningful in the twenty-first century. This book offers an urgent call to action, recommending immediate steps to preserve our free speech rights online.


The internet provides the greatest forum for communication and expression that the world has ever seen. At the same time, however, it ultimately is subject to the control of a handful of dominant, private entities that are unregulated under the First Amendment in their duty to facilitate communication and expression. That paradox lies at the center of this book.

More than at any time in our history, a small number of private entities enjoy unfettered control over what speech to facilitate—and what speech to restrict or disfavor—within our most important medium for expression. Although the Internet is generally seen as a forum for free expression, in reality speech on the Internet is subject to censorship and discrimination at a variety of chokepoints. Internet speech conduits—such as broadband service providers—are now responsible for facilitating a vast amount of expression. Unlike telephone companies or the postal service—which have long been legally required not to discriminate against the content they are charged with carrying—these Internet speech conduits are not similarly regulated. While many individuals may be content to entrust to the market their ability to communicate, recent developments suggest that such trust is misplaced and may very well lead to the “end of the Internet as we know it.”

U.S.-based Internet speech conduits have recently invested extensive resources into developing methods to censor expression at the behest of speechrestrictive regimes such as China. With such methods in hand, Internet . . .

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