In a way, current debates over free speech are really debates over the natural limits on effectiveness of the institutions of government and society. This is because: If you want free speech you must have a culture that tolerates it (you personally must tolerate it; all your neighbors, too). The institutions of government and society can be imbued with that culture, but they cannot realistically create it.
The interviewee in the WSJ piece, Nadine Strossen, seems to be keenly aware of this puzzle, even if she doesn’t say so in exactly that way.
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This is an interesting conundrum for a democracy that embraces a capitalist economy.
The First Amendment is all about curtailing constraints on speech by Congress, i.e., the federal government. In the 18th century, the printing press, soapbox and meeting halls were pretty much the scope of the amendment. And since illiteracy was more common than not and speakers had limited audiences, my guess is that most Americans were ignorant of policies and issue until they affected them directly.
Today is different. A suggestion in the OpEd was to designate the private platforms as common carriers. Sounds good until one considers the vast variety of these private platforms. Though just a few are truly dominant.
Capitalism reveres private ownership. And this creates a problem for government regulation when addressing what sites and platforms can do to police their comments and posts.
Decades back, the closest we had to media dominance were the newspaper moguls like Hearst. And no question they were not only biased, but used their muscle to favor their own political agendas and punish opponents. Talk about control. Twitter and FB are pikers in comparison.
We may have to amend the Constitution to bring it up to date on speech rights.
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