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Category Archives: Free Speech

Confronting Misinformation in the Age of Cheap Speech

LawFare: “In 1995, Eugene Volokh published a law review article in which he predicted that the rapidly growing internet would “dramatically reduce the costs of distributing speech” and that “the new media order that these technologies will bring will be much more democratic and diverse than the environment we see now.” The concept, which Volokh dubbed “cheap speech,” would mean that “far more speakers—rich and poor, popular and not, banal and avant garde—will be able to make their work available to all.”  To say that Volokh’s article was prophetic would be an understatement. More than a quarter-century later, the cheap speech that Volokh predicted has upended commerce, art, politics, news and community. Many volumes can and should be written about the effects of the rapid evolution of cheap speech on discrete areas of American life.  Fortunately, Rick Hasen has done just that. In “Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics—and How to Cure It,” Hasen takes on the lofty task of examining the impact of cheap speech on American elections, politics and democracy. Hasen has written an extraordinary, thorough and fair examination of the impact of misinformation on democracy. He examines the costs and benefits of cheap speech and presents carefully crafted proposals that attempt to address the harms without straying from core First Amendment values or from falling into a moral panic about misinformation. Hasen expands on Volokh’s concept of “cheap speech,” defining it as “speech that is both inexpensive to produce and often of markedly low social value.” Hasen devotes the first part of the book to an even-handed evaluation of the impact of cheap speech on American democracy. Hasen does not villainize the internet as the source of all that is evil about modern politics. “There is no doubt that the rise of the Internet has had many free speech benefits,” Hasen writes. “We worry much less about media consolidation and scarcity of information than we did when there were just three main broadcast television networks and a handful of local newspapers in each area.” …

The next book ban: States aim to limit titles students can search for

Washington Post: “Republican lawmakers across the country are proposing legislation that would target online library databases and library management technology — tools built by a half-dozen large companies that catalogue millions of books, journals and articles that students peruse for assignments. These bills — already enacted in Utah and Tennessee, on the verge of becoming… Continue Reading

12 Legitimate Uses for the Dark Web

MakeUseOf:  “The dark web has many legitimate and legal purposes, despite its sinister reputation. A mention of the dark web usually conjures up ominous and sinister imagery. While the dark web is certainly home to some questionable content, it also has a number of legitimate uses, from helping citizens circumvent government censorship, to adding an… Continue Reading

EveryLibrary launches the Banned Book Store

“EveryLibrary is excited to launch the Banned Book Store at bannedbookstore.co as the most comprehensive list of currently banned and challenged books in the United States.  Many of the book challenges come from individuals who have never read the books and who have been encouraged by national right wing organizations to present excerpts out of context… Continue Reading

In the dark – Censored Planet

Seven years, 60 countries, 935 internet shutdowns: How authoritarian regimes found an off switch for dissent: “…Russia is a pioneer in the use of these tools but not an outlier. The technologies it uses are proliferating, creeping into internet infrastructure all over the world, helped by multinational companies that have turned censorship into an off-the-shelf… Continue Reading

How Democracies Spy on Their Citizens

The New yorker: “The inside story of the world’s most notorious commercial spyware and the big tech companies waging war against it.” By Ronan Farrow – April 18, 2022. “…Commercial spyware has grown into an industry estimated to be worth twelve billion dollars. It is largely unregulated and increasingly controversial. In recent years, investigations by the… Continue Reading

Propaganda, Mis- and Disinformation, and Censorship: The War for Hearts and Minds

how to save the world – Dave Pollard: “…But perhaps equally-important in this century are the non-military wars battling for the “hearts and minds” of citizens — fights over votes, seats, laws, ideologies and tax dollars rather than land. It is hard to deny, for example, that the US is engaged in a so-far-non-military civil… Continue Reading

Book banning efforts are inspiring readers to form banned book clubs

CNN: “Book banning — or at least, book banning attempts — appears to be having a resurgence. The American Library Association recorded 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, the most since the organization began tracking those attempts in 2000. While that might seem low overall considering the approximately 99,000… Continue Reading

The Law of Social Roles for The Platform Internet

Mazzurco, Sari, The Law of Social Roles for The Platform Internet (February 21, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4040152 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4040152 “Social roles are integral to social life. Roles like teacher, judge, and employee help people navigate interactions by supplying them with meaning—specifically, societal expectations about actors’ appropriate behaviors in a particular relationship. In the emergent… Continue Reading

TikTok, Russia & the emerging Splinternet

Tracking Exposed: “On March 15, 2022, Tracking Exposed released a special report documenting our investigation into TikTok’s content restrictions in Russia, which was picked up by news outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Vice News, Le Monde, and WIRED Italia. It also gained substantial traction on Twitter. Today we release a… Continue Reading