The Future of Free Speech

Plenary Sessions

The guarantee of free speech is critical to any well-functioning democracy and yet, a slew of challenges loom for free expression globally. Chief among these contemporary threats are authoritarianism, political polarization, and the weaponization of hateful speech online. Today, a rising tide of authoritarianism has coincided with efforts to stifle domestic dissent and undercut free press in countries around the world. Meanwhile, the ubiquity of difficult-to-regulate social media platforms has facilitated the amplification of mendacious and hateful speech while making it more difficult to establish and enforce protections for online speech.  Menacing forms of online content like fraudulent news and disinformation proliferate to skew discourse, sow divisions and even throw elections. In order to safeguard free expression globally, it is crucial to understand new forums for speech, new threats to it, and race to defend it, even when that means rising in support of speech from which we personally dissent.  This talk will focus on the major threats to free speech and what it will take to address them.