UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Andrew Chin


The World Wide Web, a vast speech domain that may ultimately swallow all current forms of telecommunications media, presents urgent First Amendment issues. Most significantly, the structure of linked documents on the Web has served to concentrate speech power and impoverish democratic discourse. As extensive surveys by the author and others demonstrate, commercial speech dominates the Web and political discourse on the Web has become balkanized.

Using a quantitative model, it is possible to isolate and identify the characteristics of Web sites that contribute to robust public debate. These findings suggest a range of structural policies that would support the democratic aspirations of the First Amendment by protecting equal access to speech power on the Web. Among these is a "must-carry" rule that would require popular Web sites to provide free links that would be distributed on an egalitarian basis. Such a rule should be found constitutional under current First Amendment doctrine.