SMU Law Review


Does the First Amendment protect computer code from being compelled by the government? As society becomes more reliant on coded devices— like pacemakers, insulin pumps, and even some baby bassinets—courts will need to grapple with this question. In considering compulsions related to code, this Article concludes that intermediate scrutiny is almost always the appropriate standard of review. Rather than expressing a particular viewpoint, code generally constitutes a functional and neutral script. Given that a machine’s interpretation of code generally results in an objective action, not a subjective belief, the government need only show in most instances that the compulsion furthers a significant government interest. Accordingly, this Article argues that many requests for code compulsions are likely constitutional and will warrant compliance on the part of technology companies.

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