Techdirt Podcast Episode 7: Terms Of Service Are The New Constitution: Do They Need A First Amendment?
from the thinking-through-the-issues dept
We all know that the First Amendment of the Constitution is there to protect us from government interference with free speech. It has no impact on private companies and how they treat your expression. However, with so much speech now happening on the internet these days, private companies almost always have some ability to get in the way of your expression. Sometimes, we think this is good — as it can be used to prevent harassment. But, it also means that there are always points of attack, where anyone (including the government) can put tremendous pressure on private actors to stifle free expression. For many of us, when it comes to free expression, the First Amendment of the Constitution isn’t so much in play as private companies’ terms of service are. Yes, those terms of service that no one reads and are often written up by bored lawyers to include so much legalize as to confuse everyone, are often all that now really stands between you and your ability to express yourself. Should we be concerned at how modern speech is almost always controlled by private terms of service, rather than the First Amendment, or is there enough openness and competition online that it doesn’t really matter?
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