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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Free Speech Consequentialism – regulating harmful kinds of speech


Free Speech Consequentialism – regulating harmful kinds of speech
Source: the Adjunct LawProfs Law Blog [Posted by Judge Craig Estlinbaum, 130th Dist. Ct., Texas]

Erica Goldberg, Esq. (Harvard: Climenko Fellow) has posted "Free Speech Consequentialism” on Social Science Research Network.  The abstract reads:

Balancing the harms and benefits of speech — what I call “free speech consequentialism” — is pervasive and seemingly unavoidable. Under current doctrine, courts determine if speech can be regulated using various forms of free speech consequentialism, such as weighing whether a particular kind of speech causes harms that outweigh its benefits, or asking whether the government has especially strong reasons for regulating particular kinds of speech. Recent scholarship has increasingly argued for more free speech consequentialism. Scholars maintain that free speech jurisprudence does not properly account for the harms caused by speech, and that it should allow for more regulation of harmful kinds of speech. This article evaluates the various ways courts already employ free speech consequentialism. It then establishes and defends a principled basis for determining when speech’s harms greatly outweigh its virtues. I argue that courts should engage in free speech consequentialism sparingly, and should constrain themselves to considering only the harms caused by speech that can be analogized to harms caused by conduct. In this article, I develop a framework that recognizes the need to incorporate free speech consequentialism, and to constrain it, at various stages of First Amendment analysis, in connection with both tort and criminal law. I then apply this framework to timely and difficult speech issues, including campus hate speech, revenge porn, trigger warnings, and government speech — with the aim of rehabilitating core values of our First Amendment doctrine and practice.

Ms. Goldberg's article is forthcoming in Volume 116, Columbia Law Review and is currently posted on the internet at:

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