Computing Applications

Legally speaking: First Amendment rights for information providers?


Applying the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to computerized communication of information is raising many interesting questions. While the general principle of this amendment can be simply stated—it forbids the government from interfering with freedom of speech—the specifies of its application over two centuries of American history have yielded a complex matrix of principles whose application depends on a variety of factors. Where computerized communication of information fits into this schema has yet to be definitely determined. The last “Legally Speaking” column (Mar. 1991) discussed some First Amendment issues raised by treating computerized information as private property, theft of which might be criminally prosecutable. This column will discuss quite a different First Amendment issue. But these two columns can only begin to introduce a few of the challenging First Amendment issues presented by the “Electronic Frontier.”

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