Article   |   Volume 161, Issue 6

Algorithms and Speech

By
Stuart Minor Benjamin
161 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1445 (2013)

May 2013










One of the central questions in free speech jurisprudence is what activities the First Amendment encompasses. This Article considers that question in the context of an area of increasing importanceóalgorithm-based decisions. I begin by looking to broadly accepted legal sources, which for the First Amendment means primarily Supreme Court jurisprudence. That jurisprudence provides for very broad First Amendment coverage, and the Court has reinforced that breadth in recent cases. Under the Courtís jurisprudence the First Amendment (and the heightened scrutiny it entails) would apply to many algorithm-based decisions, specifically those entailing substantive communications. We could of course adopt a limiting conception of the First Amendment, but any nonarbitrary exclusion of algorithm-based decisions would require major changes in the Courtís jurisprudence. I believe that First Amendment coverage of algorithm-based decisions is too small a step to justify such changes. But insofar as we are concerned about the expansiveness of First Amendment coverage, we may want to limit it in two areas of genuine uncertainty: editorial decisions that are neither obvious nor communicated to the reader, and laws that single out speakers but do not regulate their speech. Even with those limitations, however, an enormous and growing amount of activity will be subject to heightened scrutiny absent a fundamental reorientation of First Amendment jurisprudence.

Algorithms and Speech - PennLawReview.com

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Suboptimal Social Science and Judicial Precedent

Ben K. Grunwald