The Implications of Platform Speech Regulation of Disinformation

Perhaps the most comprehensive regime of speech regulation in U.S. history was enacted over the past year. It was put into place by private companies, not the government. In response to criticisms following the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook and Google have altered their algorithms, advertising policies, terms of service, and even mission statements — all in the service of cleaning up the pollution of the information ecosystem. We have only begun to come to grips with what this private outsourcing of speech regulation means for democracy and the marketplace of ideas, both in the United States and around the world. This paper explores these new rules and the costs and benefits of these corporations' attempts to enforce measures to combat disinformation and other democracy-threatening speech. It concludes by mapping a way forward, suggesting how governments and media companies should divide responsibility for combating the kind of speech that undermines democracy.