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First Amendment

Limits to the freedom of speech are already being defined by private interests. While recent data suggest that young people, aged 18-29, feel that the state should intervene in preventing speech that could be regarded as offensive to minority groups, limits to the freedom of speech are already being defined by private interests in the US.1 On university campuses across America, as students are drawing attention to past injustices, they are simultaneously acting as censors of free speech by preventing talks by Condoleezza Rice, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a Somali writer and Muslim) and Jason Riley (an African American author). “Students and their sympathizers think that free speech is sometimes invoked to deflect these claims; or, so Princeton’s Black Justice League maintains, as a ‘justification for the marginalization of others’ ” [99].

Recently, a gossip blog, Gawker.com, declared bankruptcy after a $140 million lawsuit alleging violations of privacy. The lawsuit was financially supported by Peter Theil, the tech billionaire, who writes

A free press is vital for public debate. Since sensitive information can sometimes be publicly relevant, exercising judgment is always part of the journalist’s profession... The press it too important to let its role be undermined by those who would search for clicks at the cost of the profession’s reputation. [98]

When Facebook and other social media platforms set limits on content publishable on their sites, they are being private enforcers of the First Amendment. However, when Apple opposed inclusion of the rifle emoji as part of Unicode 9, the standard set by the non-profit consortium Unicode, the Harvard scholar, Jonathan Zittrain questions the extent of private sector vigilantism.

To eliminate an elemental concept from a language’s vocabulary is to reflect a sweeping view of how availability of language can control behavior, as well as a strange desire for companies - and inevitably, governments - to police our behavior through that language. In the United States, this confuses taking a particular position on the Second Amendment, concerning the right to bear arms, with the First, which guarantees freedom of speech, including speech about arms. [100]

 
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