transcript of Prof. Tribe’s speech on the First Amendment & technological change

by on September 11, 2007 · 0 comments

A few weeks ago, I outlined the amazing keynote address that Harvard University law professor Laurence H. Tribe delivered at PFF’s annual Aspen Summit. Now you can read it for yourself. PFF has just published the transcript of his speech, which was entitled, “Freedom of Speech and Press in the 21st Century: New Technology Meets Old Constitutionalism.”

Professor Tribe provides a 14-part indictment of new government proposals to regulate “excessively violent” content. But he also speaks more broadly about the importance of defending the First Amendment from attacks on many different platforms, and for many different types of content. Here’s one of my favorite passages from the concluding section of his remarks:

The broad lesson of this discussion of television violence is the centrality of the First Amendment’s opposition to having government as big brother regulate who may provide what information content to whom, whether or not for a price. The large problem that this exposes is that especially in a post-9/11 world, where grownups understandably fear for themselves and for their children and worry about the brave new world of online cyber reality that their kids can navigate more fluently than they can, it is enormously tempting to forget or to subordinate the vital principles of constitutional liberty. Even if, after years of litigation and expenditure, the First Amendment prevails, it can be worn down dramatically by having to wage that fight over and over and over.

Amen to that. And that, in a nutshell, describes what much of my research agenda at PFF has been focused on. It is a pleasure to add Prof. Tribe’s address to our growing body of research on the sanctity of freedom of speech and centrality of the First Amendment to our democratic republic as we continue “to wage that fight over and over and over.”

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