Government Speech and First Amendment Capture
Virginia Law Review Online, Vol. 107, p.224 (2021)
22 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2021 Last revised: 31 Aug 2021
Date Written: March 12, 2021
Alarm regarding government speech is not new. In earlier decades, scholars worried that the government’s speech might monopolize a marketplace and drown out opposing viewpoints. But today, using a move I term “First Amendment capture,” the government need not be the loudest speaker because it can become the only speaker. First Amendment capture has been made possible by the Supreme Court’s developing government speech doctrine, which holds that government speech is not subject to the Free Speech Clause. Consequently, once speech is declared governmental, the government may censor viewpoints it does not like. First Amendment capture—categorizing contested speech as government speech and then eliminating contrary viewpoints—is an increasingly frequent occurrence, and risks giving the government too much power to suppress those who would criticize it or blow the whistle on it. While one solution is to resist the government speech label, this Essay also proposes recognizing “mixed speech” as a potential means of curtailing the expansiveness of the government speech doctrine.
Keywords: First Amendment, Free Speech, speech, government speech, private speech, internet, social media, twitter, whistleblowers, marketplace of ideas, democracy, Trump
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation