Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea to Ignore the Consequences of Free Speech, by Susan Dwyer

What a Constitutive View Can Gain

One important result of a constitutive, or non-consequentialist, view is that "traditional liberals" cannot ignore claims that pornography and hate speech may threaten some person's equality. That is, liberals cannot assert only the unqualified good of free speech. On the other hand, those who argue to restrict pornography and hate speech must say something more about the ways in which these things threaten some person's substantive equality. To do that, they must give more content to the notion of substantive equality as opposed to formal equality. This work will have profound implications for law: it will require judges and legislators to think long and hard and in new ways about the interaction between constitutional guarantees of free speech and equal protection.

A second result is of special relevance to computer-mediated communication. My concern is not the usual one about the content of certain messages on the Internet. Nor is it my concern that so much of this communication is unregulated. These issues seem to me to be substantially the same as those raised in non-computer-mediated communication. (And they are as difficult to solve.) I want to draw attention to something broader, and I think, more important: --the limits of technology.

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