Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center sheds some light on the topic of internet censorship in a recent article in the North Country Gazette. He argues that, while the first amendment does not apply to private companies, privately owned internet companies have an unprecedented amount of control over the speech of large groups of people.
For hundreds of millions of people in the United States and elsewhere, companies like Facebook, MySpace and Google have tremendous power to control what we say, see and hear. Huge numbers of people could, in effect, never know what they’re missing.
Citing two recent first amendment cases, he discusses how a man shouting obscenities at police officers was found to be protected by the first amendment, but Facebook removed pictures of breastfeeding women from their site without legal repercussions. He draws the conclusion that:
The nation’s Founders felt it necessary to provide constitutional protection for self-expression and the free flow of information from those who govern real communities. Our task now is to discuss and decide how –and even if – those protections should apply to those who govern virtual ones.