The Internet and Social Media

Gregory P. Magarian, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law


This chapter surveys the distinctive free speech problems raised by the Internet and social media, discussing the most pressing, prominent issues around Internet speech regulation, with attention to variations across legal systems. It begins by briefly describing the Internet’s communicative architecture. The chapter then looks at structural concerns that have limited online free speech or prompted regulatory attention in the Internet Age. These include inequalities of access; power relationships among governments, private speech intermediaries, and Internet users; and the ways the Internet’s architecture complicates effective regulation. Finally, the chapter considers key substantive issues for online communication, including hate speech, privacy, intellectual property, and the credibility and influence of online news sources.