Aspen, Colorado (CNN) – The future of free speech will be chosen by lawyers and businessmen at companies such as Google, Comcast and Facebook, not by politicians in Washington or the judicial system.
That is George Washington University Law School Professor Jeffrey Rosen's "big idea" he delivered at the Aspen Ideas Festival Monday night to an overflowing crowd of the top leaders in business, politics, technology, and law - including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Rosen named Nicole Wang, Google's deputy general council, as a company executive who has more say over free speech than most. Wang has the authority to keep or remove YouTube videos. When governments around the world want a video removed, she is woken up to make the decision.
In Washington, political institutions constantly jockey over who has the right to control content on line. The Federal Communications Commission has ruled against Comcast, America's largest internet provider, for blocking the popular file sharing network BitTorrent. This year, a federal appeals court ruled the FCC had no legal authority to rule against Comcast. The FCC has tried to reintroduce the policy and Rosen says it will be a fight between regulators and Congress to will settle this issue.
"The future of free speech will not be determined by a Supreme Court justice interpreting the first amendment, because the first amendment only binds government," Rosen said. "It does not bind Google, Comcast and Facebook."
Directing his message to the "titans of digital communication" in the room, Rosen warned, "the future of the first amendment will ultimately be decided by the decisions you make while doing business."