Platform Neutrality: Enhancing Freedom of Expression in Spheres of Private Power
17 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 487 (2016).
29 Pages Posted: 13 May 2016 Last revised: 30 Aug 2016
Date Written: May 12, 2016
Troubling patterns of suppressed speech have emerged on the corporate internet. A large platform may marginalize (or entirely block) potential connections between audiences and speakers. Consumer protection concerns arise, for platforms may be marketing themselves as open, comprehensive, and unbiased, when they are in fact closed, partial, and self-serving. Responding to protests, the accused platform either asserts a right to craft the information environment it desires, or abjures responsibility, claiming to merely reflect the desires and preferences of its user base. Such responses betray an opportunistic commercialism at odds with the platforms’ touted social missions. Large platforms should be developing (and holding themselves to) more ambitious standards for promoting expression online, rather than warring against privacy, competition, and consumer protection laws. These regulations enable a more vibrant public sphere. They also defuse the twin specters of monopolization and total surveillance, which are grave threats to freedom of expression.
Keywords: Free Speech, Search Engines, Internet Platforms, Right of Reply, Fairness Doctrine, Communications Decency Act, DMCA, WeChat, Google, Must-Carry
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