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Friday, April 1 • 9:00am - 10:15am
Trolls, Threats and Online Free Speech

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This session will examine the dilemmas posed when unfettered speech online and on social media has the effect of deterring counterspeech. The Gamergate controversy is perhaps the most visible manifestation of this pernicious phenomenon, where online discussions of sexism in the video game industry provoked vitriol and direct personal threats to the point where speakers were not only driven offline, but forced to cancel speeches and flee from their homes. Other examples are manifest in debates playing out on college campuses, as well as in exchanges between political activists and anonymous speakers online. 

While the chilling of speech with anticipated counterspeech is not new, the speed, ferocity, reach, and permanence of online vitriol have taken the problem to a new level, posing a formidable constraint on speech and narrowing some online discourse to closed communities or widely accepted points of view. At the same time, attempts to address the problem can themselves impose significant constraints on speech. This new threat to free speech poses formidable challenges for traditional free speech advocates, internet and social media platforms and law enforcement, all of whom must balance competing interests in the protection of speech. There are no simple answers, and yet failure to address the problems more systematically could lead whole populations and viewpoints to retreat from participation in the modern, online public square.

This session will examine key examples of this phenomenon and explore approaches to handling it that do not interfere with speech, including more robust prosecution of threats, methods for flagging and exposing trolls, and collective strategies to assert and hold the space for speech. It will examine the obligations of users, platforms, law enforcement and advocates.

avatar for Elisa D'Amico

Elisa D'Amico

Attorney & Project Co-Founder, K&L Gates Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project
Elisa D'Amico is a partner with K&L Gates LLP and co-founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, a nationally and internationally recognized project that provides pro bono legal assistance to victims of sexual cyberharassment. New York Times has highlighted the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project as “the first of its kind at a major United States law firm.” The project has helped individuals living in the U.S., Canada, Europe... Read More →
avatar for Mary Anne Franks

Mary Anne Franks

Professor, University of Miami School of Law
Dr. Mary Anne Franks is a Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, where she teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, First Amendment law, family law, and Law, Policy, and Technology. Before joining the UM faculty, Dr. Franks was a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago School of Law and a Lecturer in Social Studies at Harvard University. Dr. Franks received her J.D. in 2007 from Harvard Law School... Read More →
avatar for Peter Stern

Peter Stern

Policy Manager, Facebook
Peter Stern is a Manager in the Product Policy group at Facebook in Menlo Park, California. Product Policy is responsible for writing and interpreting global policies governing what users can share on Facebook, and how advertisers and developers interact with the site. Peter leads a risk management team that seeks to ensure Facebook has the proper policies and enforcement practices in place, and is aligned with key external stakeholders such as... Read More →

Friday April 1, 2016 9:00am - 10:15am
The Lab

Attendees (50)