What Cheap Speech Has Done: (Greater) Equality and Its Discontents

Eugene Volokh - UCLA School of Law
Vol. 54
June 2021
Page 2303

The “cheap speech” made possible by the Internet famously democratized mass media communications. Many inequalities of course remain, related to wealth, fame, credentials, reader prejudices, and the like. (It’s hard to imagine a nation or an institution where all speakers really had equal influence.) But it’s easier than ever for ordinary people to speak to large groups. It’s easier than ever for them to create audio and visual works, as well as text. It’s easier than ever for a few of them to get mass individual followings without the need for an imprimatur from the “mainstream media.” It’s easier than ever for groups of ordinary people, whether formally organized or just loose sets of social media connections, to spread ideas that they find worth spreading.

Oligarchy, how quickly many have come to miss you! Or at least certain facets of what you provided: many of the criticisms of the modern Internet media ecosystem — and many of the legal and social reactions to it — stem precisely from its greater egalitarianism, or so I will argue below.
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