Freedom of Speech in Cyberspace from the Listener's Perspective: Private Speech Restrictions, Libel, State Action, Harassment, and Sex
University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1996
Posted: 20 Dec 1996
This article looks at various free speech problems from the perspective of maximizing the value of cyberspace for listeners. In particular, it argues that1. Private editing of electronic conferences (discussion lists, newsgroups, chat groups, bulletin boards, and the like) is constitutionally permissible, constitutionally protected, and valuable for listeners.2. Heightened libel liability for edited conferences is inappropriate.3. Electronic conference editing should be considered "private" even if the conferences are on government- owned computers and are run by government employees, so long as the editing decisions are not attributable to a government agency.4. Applying telephone harassment statutes and "hostile public accommodations environment" harassment law to online speech is unwise and generally unconstitutional.5. Existing statutes barring public display of "harmful-to- minors" material -- which have largely been upheld by lower courts in the offline world -- may already bar the posting of such material online. Applying these statutes online, though, would be unconstitutional, because less restrictive alternatives (such as a mandatory rating system) are available.
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