• Educate and persuade: At a minimum, most people agree that an important step involves persuasion and education, relying on voluntary means to dissuade people from saying things that are arguably harmful, objectionable, or offensive to others.

  • Rely on contractual provisions: Someone agrees, as a condition of use, to abide by regulations regarding the content of speech.

  • Weigh political considerations: An institution may wish to weigh how it will be seen in the eyes of its relevant public in determining the nature of its response.

  • Rely on market mechanisms: Grass-roots pressure on suppliers of information services often forces change because suppliers fear losing the business of those complaining.

  • Explicitly rely on First Amendment freedoms: A state university may have far fewer options for regulating speech due to the fact that it can be regarded as an arm of government.

How are these issues different in the electronic networked environment? Lessig asserted that

in ordinary life, social norms are created in a context where other things besides speech are going on, things such as exclusion, anger, and the impact of local geographies. … [These are the] sorts of things that help the process of norm creation in a speech context. [But] what makes electronic networks so difficult from the perspective of creating and molding norms is that the interactive human behavior on these networks is mostly if not entirely pure speech. From the constitutional perspective, this is the first environment in which society has had to face the problem of creating and changing norms when the only thing it is doing is trying to regulate speech.

The steering committee generally concurred with this assessment, concluding that

  • Networks offer a greater degree of anonymity than is possible for speakers under other circumstances.

  • Networks enable communications to very large audiences at relatively low cost as compared to traditional media.

  • Networks are a relatively new medium for communications, and there are few precedents and little experience to guide the behavior of individuals using this medium. As a result,

    • Speakers are less familiar with a sense of appropriateness and ethics here (treating a big megaphone as though it were a smaller one); and

    • Policymakers are less confident in this domain.



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