In Speech, Breyer Notes Supreme Court’s High Tech Puzzlement


Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is baffled by social networking technology, reports the Associated Press. Breyer, 72, said in a speech at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville on Tuesday that he was perplexed when he recently saw the film “The Social Network” about the origins of Facebook. But Breyer said the film illustrates his argument that modern technology should inform justices when interpreting a Constitution written in the 18th century. “If I’m applying the First Amendment, I have to apply it to a world where there’s an Internet, and there’s Facebook, and there are movies like … ‘The Social Network,’ which I couldn’t even understand,” he said. Breyer said of the high court, “It’s quite clear, we don’t have a Facebook page.”

Although Breyer was making a point about judicial philosophy, he also touched on the court’s sometimes limited grasp of technological developments. For example, Chief Justice John Roberts in a public employee privacy case before the court earlier this year tried to figure out the role of a text-messaging service in enabling an exchange between two people. “I thought, you know, you push a button; it goes right to the other thing,” Roberts said. Responded Justice Antonin Scalia: “You mean it doesn’t go right to the other thing?” And in a recent case dealing with a California law regulating the sale or rental of violent video games to children, Justice Anthony Kennedy pressed a skeptical state lawyer on whether the v-chip blocking device, rather than a state law, could be used to keep children away from the games. “V-chips won’t work?” Kennedy asked, before the lawyer explained they are limited to TV.

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