Home » Reframing the Debate on Online Speech: The Search for Ideological Coherence and Sound Ideological Grounds Between Freedom of Expression, ‘Economic Speech’ and Freedom to Conduct a Business

Reframing the Debate on Online Speech: The Search for Ideological Coherence and Sound Ideological Grounds Between Freedom of Expression, ‘Economic Speech’ and Freedom to Conduct a Business

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WP 2022-10.

There is already a vast literature on the freedom to express one’s thoughts online. Most of this body of work, however, even analyses based on apparently very different ideological premises, seems to be united by the idea that greater restrictions are needed to counteract hate speech, so-called fake news, or the overwhelming power of platforms. In this paper, I propose a different point of view, arguing the case for reconsidering a classic civil libertarian approach to freedom of expression, despite some serious objections raised within the libertarian perspective itself. With the foregoing in mind, I will first consider the specificities of online speech, i.e., the increasingly preponderant cases in which thoughts are expressed via the Internet, whether in the comment sections of websites or via the all-pervasive social media (§ 2). Subsequently, I examine the state of the art on protecting online freedom of expression at a comparative level (§ 3), then reconstruct the most widespread opposing views in public and scholarly debates, which, as mentioned above, generally call for the introduction of new curbs on a right that, historically in the West and particularly in the United States, has traditionally enjoyed very strong protection (§ 4). Finally, I will attempt to make a convincing argument for a coherently non-interventionist approach and, in the concluding paragraph (§ 5), draw together the threads of my analysis, with a glance at possible regulatory scenarios for the near future (§ 6).

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