AI as a Common Carrier - A Utility

These views are not legal advice but business opinion based on reading some English text written by a set of intelligent people.

The question of whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) should be treated as a common carrier or utility, akin to electricity, is an important one, given its impact more recently in the last 2 years . This debate touches on issues of regulation, public access, and the nature of services enabled by AI. A pivotal case in this discussion is the Supreme Court’s Moody v. NetChoice, which scrutinizes a Florida law passed in 2021 that aims to prevent digital platforms from "censoring" content. This case's oral arguments have brought to the forefront the question of whether platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn could be considered common carriers or utilities. 

Edison Laboratory at Menlo Park, Middlesex County, New Jersey 1880

Summarizing Moody v. NetChoice’s Oral Arguments

The Moody v. NetChoice oral arguments explored the Florida law limiting social media platforms' ability to censor content. Plaintiffs argued for the law, asserting platforms control public discourse and should not censor based on viewpoints. Defendants, representing platforms, claimed the law infringes on their First Amendment rights, likening their content moderation to editorial discretion. Supreme Court Justices questioned the law's broad application, its impact on free speech, and the practicality of treating digital platforms as common carriers or utilities, reflecting a nuanced debate on digital platforms' roles in public discourse and regulation's limits.

Based on the oral arguments provided by the plaintiffs and the defendant's attorney in-front of the Supreme Court justices on February 26, 2024, It is unlikely  that social media will be treated as common carriers. 

Common Carrier Defined

A common carrier, traditionally, is defined by several key characteristics:

The Case Against Social Media as a Common Carrier

Arguing that social media platforms are not common carriers rests on several distinctions:

AI as a Common Carrier

Conversely, there is a case for considering AI as a common carrier or utility, driven by arguments that:


The debate over whether AI should be treated as a common carrier or utility is complex, reflecting broader tensions between innovation, free speech, and public welfare. The Moody v. NetChoice case highlights these challenges, offering a lens through which to examine the evolving role of digital platforms and emerging technologies in society. While social media may not neatly fit the traditional common carrier model due to its content curation role and limited use, the case for AI as a utility highlights the growing consensus on the need for equitable access and regulation in the digital age. As AI continues to intertwine with everyday life, the discussion around its status as a public utility will likely intensify, challenging lawmakers, technologists, and society to redefine the boundaries between technology, regulation, and the public interest.

As Thomas Edison said in 1880, 

After the electric light goes into general use,” said he, “none but the extravagant will burn tallow candles.”

This quote asserts the transformative potential of making essential services accessible to all, mirroring the argument for AI as a utility.

Patent drawing from Thomas Edison for an improvement in electric lamps, patented January 27, 1880.


Further read