Compelling Code: A First Amendment Argument Against Requiring Political Neutrality in Online Content Moderation
Lily A. Coad, B.A., Duke University, 2018; J.D., Cornell Law School, 2021; Publishing Editor, Cornell Law Review, Vol. 106.
In 2019, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill that exemplifies conservatives’ criticisms of big tech and Section 230. The Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act seeks to eradicate the alleged “anti‑conservative bias” on social media platforms by requiring large tech companies to maintain politically neutral content moderation algorithms and practices. This Note argues that requiring tech companies to maintain politically neutral content moderation algorithms is a form of compelled speech and is therefore presumptively unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Further, it argues that Senator Hawley’s bill cannot survive the applicable standard of strict scrutiny because eliminating alleged political bias by social media companies is not a compelling government interest, and, even if it were, the bill is not narrowly tailored to serving that interest.