Speech Engines Goes Gold

Speech Engines, my article on Google, search bias, and the First Amendment, has just been published in the Minnesota Law Review. As you may recall from last year, my argument is that we should think about search engines not so much as conduits for others’ speech or editorial speakers in their own right but more as advisors for users. This unabashedly listener-centric view of the speech in search inverts many of the usual arguments about Google, and it gives what I think is a genuinely satisfying theory of search bias. I claim that disagreement over the right search results is not a proper basis for search regulation, but that regulation to prevent dishonesty is permissible. The key is whether the search engine is deliberately underplaying its hand and returning results that it itself thinks are less relevant to users than others it knows of.

Even if you’ve read a previous draft, I hope you’ll look at this version. It takes a village to write a law review article, and I had excellent neighbors. My editors were perceptive and thoughtful, and a number of colleagues were characteristically generous with their suggestions. I substantially reworked key parts of the article during the editing process, including a much more precise discussion of falsity and the First Amendment. The article is 85 pages now, but trust me, it feels shorter.