I was invited to speak at Seattle’s Social Media Club on Wed 1/22 (registration here) on the topic of Free Speech and Social Media. I’m inviting your opinions to help me sort out my own. It’s a subject Iv’e followed for a long time, but it’s complex enough I’d benefit from opening the floor here on the blog.
The initial premise of “Does social media help or hurt free speech?” is definitely a false dichotomy, but false dichotomies are useful in laying out a general landscape so I’m sticking with it for now.
Clearly there are so many facets to this wide question that both are true: social media improves people’s ability to make their speech visible, meaning the ability to publish, but it can simultaneously make the consequences of speaking up harder if more people pay attention to what you publish than you expected. Mob justice, harassment and vigilante behavior have different dimensions online and the combination has some very destructive consequences.
Among other research I’m reading Tom Standage’s book Writing on the Wall: The first 2000 years of social media and it’s excellent so far. We have had social media for a long time and despite what the laws have said about speech, plenty of people have chosen to speak freely anyway (often at their peril). We have much to learn from look backwards.
I have 6 questions I’m exploring:
- How has new media changed access to expression?
- How has this made things better?
- How has this made things worse?
- What new challenges are we facing? (and what can we learn from how we adjusted to previous media innovations?)
- What implications does all this have for individuals?
- What implications does all this have for leaders, corporations and governments?
Here’s the list of articles and perspectives I’ve been reading recently. Suggestions welcome:
- Death Threats On Twitter Are Meaningless
- Why Women Aren’t Welcome On The Internet
- The war over free speech, harassment and trolls
- Be Careful What You Post
- A Facebook like now covered by First Ammendment
- No Apology for Pearl Harbor Joke
- A guide to tweeting during a crisis (re: Boston marathon bombing)
- Sacco fired after AIDS tweet
- A&E calls off duck dynasty suspension
- White house official fired for tweets
- A dongle joke that spiraled out of control
Opinions welcome. The floor is open. I’ll reference useful comments in the talk itself. Thanks.