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November 3, 2008

By: Joel Cohen

Since the days of John Stuart Mill, we have believed in the free "marketplace of ideas" — that is, the constitutional right for all people to share their thoughts, even stridently unpopular ones, with the rest of the world. Historically, however, we have entrusted that ability to journalists and other media commentators. And, absent extraordinary circumstances, the courts have frowned on "prior restraints" of such comments.  

Yes, the crazies at Speakers' Corner in London, or similar venues, have likewise been able to weigh in for many years. But their often provocative comments are typically limited to a finite audience within earshot of that Hyde Park "broadcast." Nowadays, though, cyberspace enables anyone willing to spring for a domain name and pay an Internet service provider (ISP) $15 a month to become a "publisher." And even better for these latter-day Horace Greeleys, they can corral a limitless number of "reporters" without paying one red cent. Small wonder that blogging has become a force of mainstream media.

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