The Google Anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act Statement, Corporate Speech, and the First Amendment

Following Citizens United, I heard many people argue that the Court was wrong because corporations should not be seen as having First Amendment rights — not just that they do have First Amendment rights but that there’s some special compelling interest that justifies restricting corporate speech about candidates, but that corporations aren’t people and therefore can’t have First Amendment rights at all. (UPDATE: I don’t agree with this, for reasons that include those briefly sketched here, but I set those arguments aside for now.) Let me then ask this question of our readers who take this view:

Today, Google’s U.S. query page features an anti-Stop-Online-Piracy-Act statement from Google. Say that Congress concludes that it’s unfair for Google to be able to speak so broadly, in a way that ordinary Americans (including ordinary Congressmen) generally can’t. Congress therefore enacts a statute banning all corporations from spending their money — and therefore banning them from speaking — in support of or opposition to any statute. What would you say about such a statute? Again, I limit the question to those who think corporations generally lack First Amendment rights.

(1) Perfectly constitutional, because corporations aren’t people, and thus have no First Amendment rights.

(2) Unconstitutional as applied to Google, because media corporations do have First Amendment rights, though other corporations don’t, and Google should be seen as a media corporation, even as to its query page rather than as to and the like.

(3) Unconstitutional, because though corporations aren’t people and thus have no First Amendment rights for purposes of advertising in support of or opposition to candidates, they are people and thus do have First Amendment rights for purposes of other speech.

(4) Unconstitutional, for some other reason.

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