PRIOR RESTRAINT IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Since the 1930s one of the fundamental First Amendment doctrines has been the rule against prior restraint of speech: there are strict limitations on the constitutionality of preventing expressions, even harmful ones, before they occur. One of the implications of the doctrine is the courts’ refusal to issue injunctions against speech. The rationale of the doctrine is the need not to chill lawful speech. The emergence of the network society has raised new considerations regarding how the First Amendment should be interpreted in an era when anyone with an Internet connection and a computer has the ability to transmit messages to potentially large audiences. Expressions that appear on the Internet, have eternal exposure; Internet access is extremely broad; and posts on social networks and actually any publication on the web may have a viral effect. Against this background, we suggest a reshape of the prior restraint doctrine in regard to expressions in the new media.