Free Speech is a Moving Target

Written by Taylor Portela


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.

Figuring out what the future of speech online is requires posing a series of new questions, not falling back on old answers. Carlos Maza, a Vox video producer, showed a willingness to ask such questions – and even be wrong – in order to move the conversation about censorship ahead. (And a special thanks to Carlos for being bold enough to speak first in our “future” session).

He identifies a shift in our historical context that has destabilized our previously sound arguments against censorship. But with an extremely low barrier to entry, does the current marketplace actually filter out ideas that play off of oppressive ideologies? In practice, and not just in theory, does counter-speech in fact work on platforms who have no incentive to showcase diverse viewpoints? And does shutting down “bad speech” really cause such speech to proliferate underground, underneath the current monopolistic landscape of giant tech platforms?

We need to question more, argue better, and revisit our basic assumptions that have guided our views on censorship in order to forge a path ahead that respects an individual’s right to free speech, while not playing off the historical oppression of marginalized groups.

Watch the rest of CDT’s firestaters and speakers here.

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