Is free speech “perverted” by corporate First Amendment claims?

The First Amendment forbids the banning of sugary beverage advertisements.

The First Amendment forbids the government from setting wages.

The First Amendment forbids restricting private businesses from recording license plate numbers.

These are a few First Amendment arguments raised by businesses in recent lawsuits and noted by a recent Newsweek piece titled, “Corporations Are Perverting The Notion of Free Speech.”

In the article, John C. Coates IV and Ron Fein discuss the recent wave of corporate First Amendment claims.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, business claims occupied about 20 percent of the court’s First Amendment docket. But since the Virginia Pharmacy decision, that proportion has doubled. And the court is siding with businesses more often. Before 1976, individuals won First Amendment cases twice as often as businesses did. Now they win at the same rate. In lower federal courts too, “commercial speech” cases have increased steadily.

Newsweek argues when a business raises the First Amendment, it often seeks “nothing but profit, with speech as a fig leaf.”

Individuals don’t bring these types of cases—they are a product of an insidious variant of business “strategy.”

For more on corporate speech, read the Newsweek piece here.


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