Chapter 10: Augmented and virtual reality, freedom of expression, and the personalization of public space
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Free speech protection is not absolute. Even as it protects individuals’ rights to speak to each other in public spaces, it leaves government with room to assure these public spaces are suitable for shared activities: It lets officials regulate, for example, to assure the free flow of traffic or protect against “visual blight.” Virtual and augmented reality have the potential to alter this aspect of free speech law by enabling individuals to “privatize” public space:  Signs, art work, or other expression that may have once been forced on unwilling audiences might now instead emerge only in the custom-designed VR or AR world of a willing viewer. This chapter looks more closely at this First Amendment implications of VR and AR, and also at the reasons that some VR or AR images and words may still be subject to government regulation, either because they do not count as First Amendment “speech” or because they count as speech which government has power to regulate.

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