chapter  1
29 Pages

New Boundaries of Free Speech in Social Media

ByJennifer Jacobs Henderson

At a time when more people in the United States use social media than vote, what happens in these spaces is becoming increasingly significantshaping politics, economics, and history. If health care policies, stock market movements, and entertainment franchises are now debated in social networks rather than traditional media, understanding the boundaries of allowable speech in these spaces is essential. The amount of and ability to access digital content means that the potential for disagreement over speech has increased exponentially, and thus the number of legal challenges regarding speech, has increased. The fundamental questions raised, however, are not so different than those posed when people with a podium and a bullhorn spoke a century ago: What kinds of speech should be allowed? When can government intervene? How can someone protect private speech from public eyes? The distributed and participatory nature of social networks, however, have left judges analyzing complex new communication patterns as they attempt to draw the boundaries of free speech, government intervention, user and consumer harms, and privacy rights.