Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Grimmelmann on Whether Robot Transmissions Are Speech For First Amendment Purposes @grimmelm

James Grimmelmann, Cornell Law School, is publishing Speech in, Speech Out in Robotica: Speech Rights and Artificial Intelligence (Ronald K. L. Collins and David M. Skover, eds., Cambridge University Press 2018). Here is the abstract.

This invited short response was published as part of Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover's book Robotica: Speech Rights and Artificial Intelligence (Cambridge University Press 2018). Collins and Skover make a two-step argument about "whether and why First Amendment coverage given to traditional forms of speech should be extended to the data processed and transmitted by robots." First, they assert (based on reader-response literary criticism) that free speech theory can be "intentionless": what matters is a listener's experience of meaning rather than a speaker's intentions. Second, they conclude that therefore utility will become the new First Amendment norm. The premise is right, but the conclusion does not follow. Sometimes robotic transmissions are speech and sometimes they aren't, so the proper question is not "whether and why?" but "when?" Collins and Skover are right that listeners' experiences can substitute for speakers' intentions, and in a technological age this will often be a more principled basis for grounding speech claims. But robotic "speech" can be useful for reasons that are not closely linked to listeners' experiences, and in these cases their proposed "norm of utility" is not really a free speech norm.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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