Current proposals for modifying the landscape of online speech governance would either expand civil liability for social media companies or modify their market imperatives through antitrust law and other regulatory reforms. The leading alternative to changing government regulations that govern online speech is for social media companies to self-regulate, a form of private speech governance most notably embodied in Facebook’s new Oversight Board. None of these proposals considers that social media companies have a built-in alternative to public and private regulation: regulation by social media users themselves.
This Article explores the promise of implementing democratic mechanisms for deciding the rules that govern online speech, and first principles for doing so. Although modifying existing public and private regulations continues to be a promising avenue for improving online speech governance, failure to consider democratic reforms obscures social media users’ capacity to determine the rules applicable to their own speech. Such reforms would mitigate the free speech concerns that arise when the government regulates speech, while restoring the public’s trust that social media companies are capable of governing online speech well.