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

By Dawn C. Nunziato | Go to book overview

1 Speech and Censorship on the Internet

ACCORDINC TO THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, THE INTERNET is a forum for free expression of unprecedented scope and importance. And much about the conventional wisdom is accurate. Since the limitations on the permissible uses of the Internet were lifted and the Internet was opened up as a forum for expression of all kinds,1 members of the public from every corner of the world have flocked to it to express themselves and to access the expression of others.2 The Internet enables individuals to use all manner and forms of expression—text, images, voice, audio, and video—to communicate with one another on a global scale. As one federal district court explained in reviewing an early Internet First Amendment challenge, “It is no exaggeration to conclude that the Internet has achieved, and continues to achieve, the most participatory marketplace of mass speech that this country—and indeed the world—has yet seen.”3

The conventional wisdom accurately maintains that the Internet serves as an important forum for expression in large part because of the unprecedented ease of entry into this forum for expression. Yet such expression is ultimately controlled by—and may be facilitated or frustrated by—a small handful of powerful conduits, that is, the broadband providers, Internet backbone providers, email providers, and search engines that make it all happen. Within the United States market for Internet expression, a small number of broadband providers have the power ultimately to control which expression is facilitated and which is not. In recent years, the regulation of the Internet has evolved so as to grant these private entities unfettered control over individuals' expression, to the point at which the potential for private conduits to censor speech in this medium is unprecedented. Although initially conceived—

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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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