Can Free Speech Survive the Internet?

Antón Barba-Kay and Adam J. White

Hertog Foundation | 2019

Two divergent tendencies are strikingly evident in American public discourse: the invocation of the right not to be offended, and the insistence on the right to say whatever one pleases. And it is clear that both of these tendencies are affirmed and, in fact, enabled by the Internet.

This weekend seminar will explore the political psychology of the Internet, its latent implications for our political associations, and its bearing on our understanding of law and the common good. Students will look at current controversies in tech and the political principles that intersect them: What responsibilities do tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have to protect constitutional values like free speech? To promote civil debate? Why does social media seem to encourage mob mentality, and how should we respond to the chilling effects of online harassment for freedom of thought and expression? And can we trust private companies like Google – with their own vision of the public good – to neutrally enforce standards and police speech? More importantly, can we trust ourselves to use this vastly powerful tool responsibly? What virtues are needed for the digital age?

Image courtesy Animated Heaven, Flickr