Newer Media, Republican Moments and the Constitution
Chapter 2: A digital republic of citizens
The previous chapter considered the revival in republican political thought and looked at some free speech arguments associated with this revival. The purpose of the present chapter is to explore the nature of altered patterns of communications in the digital era and to begin to consider some of the constitutional free speech issues that are thrown up by these patterns. Specifically, in the first part it will address how newer, non-traditional media outlets and speakers might provide a valuable resource in republican terms for audiences to access a more diverse set of news stories than has hitherto been the case. The second part of the discussion then asks whether the hopes identified in the first part might in fact reflect unrealistic expectations. Several problematic issues that call for analysis here include a generalised apathy towards political debate; the nature and quality of online political expression and the private ownership of internet intermediaries. The latter in particular points up the private, contractual nature of online speech regulation by corporate entities that are accountable not to the people but instead to shareholders. As was noted in the previous chapter, the way in which news and information is produced and disseminated is undergoing rapid change. For some time now, traditional newspapers have been in decline.
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