Golumbia & Pasquale on Corporate Constitutional Rights and Personalized Feeds

David Golumbia (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Frank A. Pasquale (Brooklyn Law School) “From Public Sphere to Personalized Feed: Corporate Constitutional Rights and the Challenge to Popular Sovereignty” (Human Rights after Corporate Personhood, edited by Jody Greene & Sharif Youssef (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 2020)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

What might a society look and feel like in which the free expression rights of for-profit corporations eclipse and override persons’ rights to privacy, and interests in fair political representation? And how might the acceleration of current trends toward corporate personhood erode the autonomy of actual persons? This chapter explores these questions through two prisms: U.S. jurisprudence of corporate free speech rights, and an imaginative evocation of one fictional world this jurisprudence is leading towards.

The first section makes the case that many aspects of American legal culture pave the way to a public sphere in which corporations have far more meaningful political agency and capacity for planning than citizens or even political parties. The second section introduces the setting of M.T. Anderson’s Feed, a dystopian novel with surprisingly rich insight into the habits of mind and character that would naturally thrive in an automated public sphere (and kaleidoscopic personalized feeds) even more dominated by for-profit corporations than our own. We conclude by reflecting on the fragility of opportunities for autonomous self-creation when communications are increasingly monitored, shaped, and monetized for profit.