Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
The Courts Technology Your Rights Online

Free Speech For Computers? 228

snydeq writes "Law professor Tim Wu sheds light on a growing legal concern: the extent to which computers have a constitutional right to free speech. 'This may sound like a fanciful question, a matter of philosophy or science fiction. But it's become a real issue with important consequences,' Wu writes. First it was Google defending — and winning — a civil suit on grounds that search results are constitutionally protected speech. Now it is doubling down on the argument amidst greater federal scrutiny. 'Consider that Google has attracted attention from both antitrust and consumer protection officials after accusations that it has used its dominance in search to hinder competitors and in some instances has not made clear the line between advertisement and results. Consider that the "decisions" made by Facebook's computers may involve widely sharing your private information. ... Ordinarily, such practices could violate laws meant to protect consumers. But if we call computerized decisions "speech," the judiciary must consider these laws as potential censorship, making the First Amendment, for these companies, a formidable anti-regulatory tool.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Free Speech For Computers?

Comments Filter:
  • Wtf? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @08:08PM (#40405863)

    A computer can't have rights any more than a hammer can. Not unless it's sentient, it's a tool that does what you tell it to.

  • Makes perfect sense. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 21, 2012 @08:21PM (#40405983)

    It doesn't matter if the text is algorithmically generated or if it was penned by a human. If google broadcasts it, it's speech.
    When you conduct a search you're really asking Google it's opinion. They just happen to form an opinion based on a computer model they developed, and choose to pass it to you automatically.

    Makes me wonder, though. What if I developed a piece of software that, through analysis and crawling the web, was designed to create the most offensive and repugnant statements possible? What if it made potentially slanderous and libelous statements? Could I claim my "Offend-o-tron" is free speech? Would I put 4chan out of business?

  • Jesus Fucking Christ (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Luke727 ( 547923 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @08:48PM (#40406237) Homepage Journal

    This is the most retarded thing I've ever read.

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @08:59PM (#40406327)

    This might actually have a unintended benefit if this was an active law.

    We could all write programs that output source code. Since the program and its decision (output) would be considered "free speech" we could then legally give a big F.U. to patents! (Almost any code of practical value infringes on (useless) patents.)

    The fact that is is illegal to copy numbers (aka data) is already stupid, but no one said we couldn't use the law to make more idiotic conclusions and cognitive dissonance!

    Why are corporations taxed on "profits", but individuals taxed on "income" ??

  • Re:determinism (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chrylis ( 262281 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:11PM (#40406437)

    Whole universe is deterministic.

    If you can prove that, there's a Nobel in it for you. As of right now, the evidence seems against it.

  • by ocratato ( 2501012 ) on Thursday June 21, 2012 @09:51PM (#40406719)

    Interesting. I am currently beginning some experiments in self organising systems. I am using randomly generated genes and a genetic algorithm to spawn a self organising structure. Later I hope to be able to use these structures to create software. If I succeed, and give this software to you to run - who would be responsible for what it did ?

  • Re:Wtf? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drkstr1 ( 2072368 ) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:31AM (#40408443)
    The problem is multithreading. Our brains are highly parallel, while computers are not. This parallelism allows us to do many things a computer can't easily do (for now). Neural networks attempts to solve this problem at a software level, but it's just not practical on today's hardware. We will need a fundamental change in architecture before we have computers that can "love." I don't think Moore's Law accounts for this.

Information is the inverse of entropy.