By: Brian J. Meli
Back in the quaint old days of the the 1970’s and early 80’s, when the Internet was still a college science project and social networking was something you did around a water cooler, the US Supreme Court decided a series of First Amendment cases that established the modern-day boundaries between inviolate non-commerical speech (personal, religious, political speech) and less revered, but still important commercial speech.
The result was a distinction between communication that’s subject to government restriction on the basis that it’s false or misleading (commercial), and speech that’s beyond the reach of regulation no matter how untrue or inaccurate it may be (non-commerical). It’s a distinction—and a precedent—that still stands today, nearly 40 years and numerous technological revolutions later. But the longevity of the distinction has less to do with the clarity of the decisions that formed it, and more to do with the Supreme Court resisting reexamination of an issue that, now more than ever, demands drawing boundaries between concepts that can be almost impossible to distinguish, let alone define. Continue reading