Presenting media law research at the 2018 Undergraduate Research in the Capitol 4.3.18
Research Abstracts Is Facebook the New Phone Company? Common Carrier Law Provides a Transnational Foundation for Limiting the Power of Online Media Platforms Abstract: Common carrier law offers the most promising legal and policy option for limiting the ability of social media sites, search engines, and other online media platforms to restrict communications or distort public discourse. The communication-enabling "platform" layer of the Internet requires a different balancing of policy goals than the more prominent debate over net neutrality at the level of broadband connections. If common carriage is carefully distinguished from the related but problematic concepts of free speech, public utilities, and economic monopolies, it offers an established body of law, accepted across many cultures and legal systems. These principles will allow online platforms with distinctive voices to maintain them, but also require services that promise open transmission of user content to live up to their promises. The increasingly global scale on which social media sites and other such platforms operate requires finding a basis for consistency across national laws and policies. Order of Authors: Andrew Donald Pritchard, J.D., Ph.D. Courtney E. Carstens
This research will be shared at 'The State of Our Satirical Union' Symposium.
The Picture of Sacrilege: Religious Discourse Through Images as a Matter of Public Concern from Hustler to Charlie Hebdo
Abstract: Two points of similarity — beyond the vast category of “free speech” — unite the parody advertisement in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell and the cartoons that provoked the Charlie Hebdo gunmen: Both were speech through imagery, and both were speech about religion. This explosive combination, especially in cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed, has been readily acknowledged as the main motivation of the extremists in the January 2015 slayings. The Hustler case, however, is rarely considered a case specifically about religious speech, even after Snyder v. Phelps expanded the Hustler rule on even more explicitly religious facts. Moreover, interpretation of the Hustler ruling often overlooks the genesis of the emotional distress claim: the images conjured in Hustler readers’ heads, more than the words actually written in the parody, provoked the plaintiff’s outrage. These two aspects place Hustler squarely within speech that in many Western countries would be restricted under religious disparagement laws. The immense protection for offensive religious speech under the Hustler rule stands in stark contrast to such laws and illustrates the degree to which American law presupposes that religion is a legitimate subject of public debate, truth-finding, and persuasion, rather than a purely private matter. We discuss the roots of this difference in American and European religious history, and we assess the durability of Hustler and Snyder in the future as speech increasingly transcends national laws. Order of Authors: Andrew Donald Pritchard, J.D., Ph.D. Courtney E. Carstens