Filters and the First Amendment

Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 83, p. 755, February 1999

Posted: 28 Apr 1999

See all articles by R. Polk Wagner

R. Polk Wagner

University of Pennsylvania Law School


Internet content filters -- promising a technological solution to the uniquely social problem of widespread availability of adults-only content on the Internet -- appear to shift the debate over control of "cyberporn" from the legislative to the technical. Yet a growing number of commentators are expressing serious reservations about the free speech implications of filters. In this Article, I note that the ever-changing relationship between technology, network economics, and legal doctrine in the new economic and ideological marketplace of Cyberspace will fundamentally impact any constitutional analysis. I argue that the existing literature's analytic reliance on expansive concepts of state action is ill-founded: both vulnerable to technological and legislative manipulation and finding little doctrinal support. Instead, I outline an approach based on First Amendment theories of association, arguing that this "associative" approach -- supported by current precedent -- is the most promising among several alternatives for providing an adaptive and powerful constitutional framework for evaluating indirect government regulation of the Internet.

Note: This is a description of the article and is not the actual abstract.

Suggested Citation

Wagner, R. Polk, Filters and the First Amendment. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 83, p. 755, February 1999. Available at SSRN:

R. Polk Wagner (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
267-433-4431 (Phone)

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