David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Reno v. ACLU , the 1997 landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court providing sweeping protection to speech on the Internet, is usually discussed in terms of familiar First Amendment issues. Little noticed in the decision is the significance of the ontological assumptions of the justices in their first visit to cyberspace. I analyze the apparent awareness of the Supreme Court of ontological issues and problems with their approaches. I also argue that their current ontological assumptions have left open the door to future suppression of free speech as the technology progresses. Ontology is significant because zoning in the physical world has long been recognized as a way to segregate "adult" entertainment from minors. So far, at least, the justices seem to agree that such zoning is not possible in cyberspace, and therefore that adult zones for certain forms of expression are not possible. But this conclusion is far from settled. The degree of free speech on the Internet in the future will depend on whether or not our ontological understanding of cyberspace supports such zoning or renders it incoherent or impossible.
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