Last year, a law was passed in Texas that classified the largest social-media platforms as “common carriers,” or “publicly accessible conduits for the goods or communications of others.” In doing so, the law also barred these platforms from discriminating against speech on grounds of viewpoint. That law has since been challenged in court, and, as Philip Hamburger points out, the outcome of this case may have far-reaching implications for the future of free speech. He examines amicus briefs in favor of the Texas law, and notes the broader cultural conflicts reflected in these arguments.
At this stage, what’s most interesting is who is and who is not among the amici—friends of the court—who have come to the aid of free speech by filing briefs in defense of the statute’s constitutionality.
In a rare literary contribution to legal debate, David Mamet offers a powerful vision of the mental dislocation caused by censorship. Donald Landry—a distinguished scientist and doctor—recalls the fate of Galileo to express the danger of suppressing scientific dissent. Students at Columbia draw upon John Stuart Mill to remind us of the value of protecting even erroneous speech. In defense of comedy, the [conservative-leaning satirical website the] Babylon Bee makes a contribution!
The other side will soon have its own amici briefs. But there inevitably will be a stark contrast between the amici for freedom and the resources on the other side.
Big Tech money flows through large law firms, think tanks, and academia. This is not to say that these institutions have sold their souls, but the sheer magnitude of Big Tech’s wealth means there is no end of talent ready to argue for censorship. But legal and moral reasoning does not depend on the number or size of amici. There is, or at least should be, no strength in mobbing a court or representing groupthink. Rather, what should prevail are accurate arguments that uphold rather than twist the law, and that appeal to the mind rather than the passions.