The First Amendment was crafted in an era when the government was the most powerful entity on Earth. That's no longer necessarily true.
Sure, when it comes to physical power, the government reigns supreme. Nobody can compete with an institution legally allowed to possess tanks, hellfire missiles, and nuclear bombs. But in the arena of information, agencies like the CIA and FBI no longer remain unchallenged. Instead, internet companies like Google and activist websites like Wikileaks have become the global gatekeepers of knowledge.
Consider the sorts of personal things Facebook knows about you. It knows what you look like, the names of your friends, your political and religious beliefs, and many other things that you like -- from food and music to TV shows and movies. Not even Big Brother has an extensive profile of a majority of American citizens. Mark Zuckerberg does, though.
Google might know just as much about you as Facebook. It certainly knows things you wouldn't willingly post on Facebook. Google can guess what you've been up to if you search for "Am I still a virgin?" at two in the morning.
Possessing embarrassing, blackmail-worthy personal information is far from the only threat that the internet poses. What if Google doesn't like you? It has the power to manipulate search engine results. A WSJ article from November 2016 wrote that "[a]n analysis by online-search marketer CanIRank.com found that 50 recent searches for political terms on Google surfaced more liberal-leaning webpages than conservative ones."
What if you're a small business owner that relies on Google searches for people to find you? There's nothing that requires them to treat all coffee shops equally.
Its search algorithm could be designed to favor Sergey Brin and Larry Page's favorite locations. And your business' spot on Google Maps is not a divine right; the company could make it disappear, if it wanted.
Amazon already engages in that sort of behavior. Stephan Neidenbach, a middle school teacher who moonlights as the Internet's most aggressive pro-science warrior, wrote a negative yet very thorough review of a misleading book called "Whitewash", by Carey Gillam, who serves as Research Director at the organic industry front group U.S. Right to Know, an attack dog created by Organic Consumers Association to harass and intimidate scientists. It's about what she claims is a corporate conspiracy to control food, with Monsanto knowingly causing cancer.
Amazon deleted it and has refused to explain why. Book reviews from Carey's boss at US Right To Know and all of Carey's friends, though, were retained, in direct violation of Amazon's stated policy on reviews. Even though she pre-arranged positive reviews and gave them the book, like with Stehanie Strom from the New York Times. Amazon owns Whole Foods, one of America's largest organic food corporations, and Whole Foods is one of the many corporations that funds the Organic Consumers Association corporate trade group. US Right To Know is essentially working for Amazon now.
George Orwell warned about the dangers of Big Brother in 1984. In his dystopian novel, the government was the tyrant; in the real-world, the tyrants are politically-biased technology elites in Silicon Valley who can get away with anything unless their bosses find out about it by reading about it in the New York Times. And this is one controversy we know Stephanie Strom, Danny Hakim and Eric Lipton will never cover.