How Cheap Speech Underserves and Overheats Democracy

Gregory P. Magarian - Washington University in St. Louis
Vol. 54
June 2021
Page 2455

The Internet and social media have fulfilled Professor Volokh’s democratic vision to a significant extent. Most people in the United States now have the capacity to make their ideas broadly available and have immediate access to more knowledge than our parents could have hoped to amass in a lifetime. We can communicate and collaborate with unprecedented ease, and we have many more choices about what information to absorb and evaluate. The U.S. Supreme Court, confronting Internet censorship two years after Professor Volokh’s article, joined him in extolling “the vast democratic forums of the Internet.” The Court has maintained that sunny view, recently describing the rise of online communication as “a revolution of historic proportions.”

In important ways, however, cheap speech has failed democracy. This Essay focuses on the less optimistic side of the cheap speech story.

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