January 18, 2012 3:22PM

How Google Destroyed American Democracy

Eugene Volokh poses some pertinent questions about Google and freedom of speech.

Google notes that Congress is considering the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. They urge their readers to sign a petition opposing both bills.

You may recall the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Google the corporation is also exercising its freedom of speech in this case.

As Volokh notes, many critics of Citizens United have argued corporations should not have First Amendment rights because they are not persons. Letting corporations fund political speech, they say, will destroy democracy.

If that position were judicial doctrine, Google would have no right against congressional regulation to speak on this issue or “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Congress would have the power to prohibit the speech associated with the link above.

If McCain‐​Feingold were still good law, Google’s case would be a bit complicated. As the speech stands, McCain‐​Feingold would not prohibit it. Google is addressing an issue which was permitted. However, if just prior to an election, Google had said “contact Lamar Smith (a sponsor of the House bill) and tell him you oppose SOPA!,” McCain‐​Feingold would have prohibited that speech or petition.

Because of Citizens United, Google can criticize Congress as it wishes. They can even mention the name of a member of Congress in their speech if they want. If the critics of Citizens United have their way, Google’s criticisms of Congress could become a criminal act.