The First Amendment is neither clear nor its future certain. Indeed, it is contradictory, ambiguous, and constantly evolving. But contemporary debates about the First Amendment are riddled with an oversimplified understanding of what it means. This is especially true in the context of new technologies. Cases developed in one institutional context are abstracted away to fit a new media environment—the result being, in many cases, a hollowing out of their meaning.
In this series of blog posts, Knight Institute visiting research scholars Genevieve Lakier and evelyn douek reread iconic First Amendment cases with the aim of complicating the false or incomplete assumptions that underlie so much of the conversation about free speech.
This is no mere academic exercise. It comes at an unpredictable inflection point for the First Amendment, when the shifting politics of the moment may rewrite the prevailing understanding of “freedom of speech.” Lakier and douek’s rereading of iconic and less well-known cases will not simply try to match old rules to new problems but rather explore which among the possible interpretations will best safeguard the values we think the First Amendment should protect.