Is the American First Amendment the best way to protect free speech? For @NYTMag, I argue that the answer is ... maybe not. At least, we should consider how democracies in Europe & Canada etc do it, by balancing free speech w *other* pro-democratic values.
These countries' approaches may be a better fit for our age of disinformation. To be clear, I am NOT arguing against vigorous debate on politics & culture & public affairs! I'm arguing 1) about the Scotus-created First Amendment law of treating corporate speech in elections.../2
... as equal to the shouting of protesters. And 2) I'm asking qus about blanket protection of hate speech.
I'm also not sure I'm right! I very much welcome a vigorous debate about the reporting & argument in my piece. 3/
A few notes to go along with lots of words in the magazine. (I started my research file for this story in 2018, back when I first pitched it, so I've got lots of thoughts.) /4
Along with Citizens United, a key Scotus decision that deserves more attention is Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., which used the First Amendment to weaken consumer privacy.
In Sorrell, 6 justices struck down a Vermont law that prevented drug cos from selling information from /5
prescriptions that identified patients. “Speech in aid of pharmaceutical marketing,” Kennedy wrote for the majority, “is a form of expression protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” (Justice Sonia Sotomayor later suggested she regretted her vote.) /6
Long before the US election in 2016 woke us up, foreign countries like Kenya dealt with data manipulation in elections. Or ethnic violence (India, Myanmar, more) from social media, especially messages forwarded via WhatsApp. /7
The effects of disinformation campaigns remain much worse abroad. @freedomhouse does amazing work tracking this. Read @Max_Fisher and @amandataub on it too. /8
I learned a ton from reading @kevinroose, @MikeIsaac, and @CaseyNewton @sheeraf @CraigSilverman (subscribe to Casey's newsletter & check out new Daily Distortions feature in the NYT). And from experts : @katestarbird @persily @evelyndouek @Klonick @BrendanNyhan @YochaiBenkler /9
more experts to thank: @rashadrobinson @JameelJaffer @jasonintrator @AdamBerinsky @fadiquran @Karmacoma @ArnauddMercier and Robert Post and Matthew Gentzkow /10
In the piece, I quote Angelo Carusone talking about how Facebook & Twitter & YouTube are doing more to fact check and label (some) election misinformation -- now, after a long time of letting it "metastasize." The same could be said of their efforts to root out Qanon content /11
or content that glorifies violence. By being SO leery of govt regulation of the platforms, we have given them huge power. They make the rules for the space that *functions* in many ways as our public square though legally it is not that. /12
I cite a new working paper by the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard on the disinformation loop from Trump to Fox News to social media and back. Here’s more from Max Boot on a new Pew survey on the tight embrace of Fox and the president: /13
I'll end with Hannah Arendt, writing after the 1930s & WWII--a different age of disinformation. She called it propaganda. /15
Arendt wrote that the ideal subject of fascist ideology was the person “for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) & the distinction between true & false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.” /end
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