An Optimistic Realist About Speech Online

Written by Brian Wesolowski

CDT, in partnership with the Charles Koch Institute and the Newseum Institute, hosted the Future of Speech Online on September 15, 2017. The event featured a number of talks focused on what the future may hold for online speakers. Here we share the video of a talk and our reflections on it.

Like many of us working in tech and tech policy, Mindy Finn started out as an extreme optimist about how the internet could make the world a better place. For better or worse, she is no longer a “sunny idealist,” but instead, a realist.

In her remarks at the Future of Speech Online, Finn, who is perhaps most known for being Evan McMullin’s running mate in last year’s presidential election, touched on some of the most pressing challenges that technology poses to a functioning democracy. She highlighted the impact of social media and fake news on politics, and noted how undemocratic societies, such China and Russia, are powerfully leveraging technology to control information among their citizens.

And yet, despite some of the gloom in her remarks, Finn ended by noting that as long as humans are running the internet, both in terms of policy and standards, we should have hope for the future. She believes humans have an intrinsic desire for “freedom, liberty, and a voice,” which is, in turn, a great basis for progress.

It’s this hope and belief in the good of humanity, despite some ugly lapses, that keep me coming into work each day. While it may seem challenging in today’s political climate, I remain a true believer in the power of collaboration and think that the best policy outcomes arise when all sides work together to find solutions. That’s the CDT way, and it’s an approach that is very much needed today.

I am grateful for Mindy Finn’s thoughtful comments at the Future of Speech Online – definitely take the time to watch!

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