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What Unites Advocates of Speech Controls & Privacy Regulation?

Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper, Vol. 16, No. 19, August 2009

14 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009 Last revised: 13 Jul 2014

Adam D. Thierer

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Berin Michael Szoka


Date Written: August 11, 2009


Efforts to regulate both free speech and online privacy are united by an elitist vision and common regulatory mechanisms. The better alternative to political elitism enforced by regulation, they argue, is an empowerment agenda based on fostering an environment in which users have the tools and information they need to make decisions for themselves and their families.

The imposition of two elitist beliefs held by some leaders, activists, or intellectuals through coercive, top-down mandates in particular are at the root of almost all privacy and speech regulatory efforts: (1) the belief that people are too ignorant (or simply too busy) to be trusted to make wise decisions for themselves (or their children); (2) the belief that all or most people share essentially the same values or concerns and, therefore, 'community standards' should trump household (or individual) standards.

Enforcing these elitist beliefs by law threatens individual liberty and free speech as well as the future of free and open Internet. Other parallels between the two regulatory movements include internal philosophical inconsistencies on both the Left and Right, common mechanisms, political tactics, and motivations. An agenda of self-empowerment that lets users and families, instead of political elites, determine what is in their own best interest is superior to top-down regulation.

Keywords: privacy regulation, speech controls, online privacy, free speech, elitism, online regulation, speech regulation, parental controls, child protection, Intellectual Schizophrenia, age verification, richard thaler, cass sunstein, lessig, green dam, clear channel, fcc

JEL Classification: A13, D11, D7, D79, D73, D81, I18, I21, K3, I2, I28, K14, K42, K23, L5, L51, L82, L86, L96, L98, O33,

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D. and Szoka, Berin Michael, What Unites Advocates of Speech Controls & Privacy Regulation? (August 11, 2009). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper, Vol. 16, No. 19, August 2009. Available at SSRN: or

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3351 Fairfax Drive
4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201-4433
United States

Berin Michael Szoka

TechFreedom ( email )

1899 L ST NW
12th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States


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