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tv   Jacob Mchangama Free Speech  CSPAN  April 2, 2022 8:00pm-9:31pm EDT

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good afternoon. welcome to the cato institute. for another nurse continuing series of book forums this particular one is has been i've been eager to look forward to it for many months because i knew about this book for some time now. i knew about the podcast that
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came first with it. this is jacob machangama's free speech a history from socrates to social media, which is available. now. i'm been available for a couple of weeks and is getting a very strong and appreciative audience. i would say in the united states and we'll find i think it's audience in europe. also where these issues. so we thought it was great. we've known jacob for quite a while and we'd great to have a book form and and who better to have to have just a conversation among like-minded people with some differences then john roush from brookings. so let me give you what i'm going to do here is give a brief bio you may know both of these people from their work of both of our people and by the way, i'm john samples of vice president here at cato if you don't know me, and then i thought jacob would tell us something about the book and then we would talk about the issues and then turn to q&a in a
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little while. okay? jacob machangama is the founder and executive director of the danish thing. just yeah and the host of the podcast clear and pleasant danger a history of free speech not surprisingly. i highly recommend that to you. it's a very interesting podcast series and is available still he's riding on free speech has appeared in the economist the washington post foreign policy and many other outlets around the world. he lives in copenhagen denmark. john rouse is a senior fellow in the governance studies program and the author of eight books. writing that really made me feel bad. i just ate books. how do you do that? they and then many articles on public policy culture and government his articles to have been highly influential as you may know. he's many brookings publications include the 2021 book the constitution of knowledge a defensive truth.
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as well as the 2015 ebook which i think more and more is coming into its own political realism how hacks machines big money and backroom deals can strengthen american democracy also writes often for the atlantic and his recipient of the 2005 national magazine award. the industries equivalent of the pulitzer prize so i'm eager to get started here. jacob could you tell us something about the book about what led you to write it also the podcast and and some of our the themes that you found and what is really i have to say just in a striking uh effort at research. i mean you really conquered a very demanding very broad set of issues and that's very hard just to work with right because it's 2,000 years. first of all, thank you john. thanks to cato for hosting me
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one of the few sort of live events i've been doing on this too as i really appreciate that opportunity also because it's almost exactly two years since i was in washington, and that was also speaking at a conference on i think the 9th or 10th march in john you were i think we were having a dinner at a time where you know seen in hindsight might not have been the most respond. it's the fool's paradise. it could have been sort of a super spreader event. and yeah, so what let me to write this book, you know, i was born in in cosi's secular liberal denmark and in my youth free speech was sort of taken for granted. it was the air that we we breathed and and sort of in the 90s and early 2000s, so i didn't really think about it and i think most people didn't because it was not under threat. it was just part of daily life and then denmark became sort of the epicenter of a global battle of values over the relationship
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between free speech and religion when someone who later became a good friend of mine fleming also the editor of a danish newspaper published a number of cartoons depicting the the prophet muhammad which which led to a global crisis and and fleming and many others still live with around the security because of threats from from extremists, but that forced many days and i think many in europe. and maybe around the world to sort of really think what what is this principle that we hail and that, you know as a sort of an enlightenment value and the foundation of democracy. is it really that important and a lot of people said, you know, maybe it's not so important. you know, these cartoons are punching down on a vulnerable minority and this is not what free speech was supposed to to be about and that sort of surprised me shocked me a little bit and then what i've also saw was that generally people on the right was we're sort of free
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speech absolute is when it came to the cartoons and then we had a number of governments who then adopted a number of restrictions on religious free speech. basically target, not not formally but everyone knew it was targeted at sort of extreme as muslims and that limited free speech and i was sort of saying this is goes against the very principles that we held up during the cartoon affair but a lot of people on the right side. yeah. well free speech is important, but in order to you know, safeguard our fundamental values. we have to limit the free speech of these particular extremists and that sort of led me. to really try to investigate the whole history of free speech. what's at stake? what does it mean? what does it mean when society is based on free speech? what does its absence? i mean is this principle really so, you know, is it really worth? you know all the fuss and and i found that it was but i think you know looking at present debates about free speech.
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you can have a more detached attitude rather than sort of the culture war tainting everything when you look at it through the prism of the past and so the book really starts. i i locate the origins of free speech in the athenian democracy some 2500 years ago where the athenians had two concepts of free speech. one of them being isagaria. so equality of speech which is exercise in the assembly where all freeborn male citizens had a direct voice in debating and passing laws, but perhaps even more of even more consequence was the second concept called parise which means something like uninhibited speech which allowed a culture of runs and free speech, which so you know, if you were a plato you could set up an academy and you could you could basically, you know teach philosophy that that was not specific particularly fund
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of the democracy that allowed you to to philosophize you could have foreign life foreigners aristotle set up shop. and until the tolerance war a bit thin socrates could heckle people and roast them in the agora the marketplace and in in athens and and the athenian. statesman damustan is i think came up with it. you know, he said, you know in athens you're free to criticize the athenian constitution and praise the spartan constitution, but in sparta sort of the bitter enemies of the athenians, you can only praise the spartan constitution and i think that really is still is the litmus test of free speech. are you able to criticize the the political system under which you you live? so so i you know the athenian system obviously by our standards was not radically egalitarian, but by its time it was very much an egalitarian free speech idea, and i i sort
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of contrast that with the roman republic where there was a much more elitist top-down approach to free speech so you would have senators like cato like cicero who believed in free speech, but mostly sort of for the senatorial elite not the plebs and the and the roman citizens did not have a right to address assemblies the way that that athenian citizens did and i think these two concepts leaders and and egalitarian free speech have have been intention throughout the history of free speech, especially when when the public sphere has been expanded either through technology be it the printing press the radio the telegraph and today social media or through political development. so, you know, it could be a democracy giving the vote to to women to the poor and property list to religious racial minorities. the you have always been an elitist pushback against this idea and a dread an existential dread that the unwashed mob was
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unfit to be given access to to information that had to be filtered by the elites because otherwise everything would would go to hell and basically and so that's that. that's a very important sort of thesis in in the book. another one is related to that. it's that i argue that that many today see free speech as entrenching unequal power relations. i argue that free speech. in fact may be the most powerful. of human equality that human beings have ever stumbled upon and that every single oppressed group or minority has relied on free speech the practice and and principle to further their cause and stake a claim for equality and in this country. i spent a bit of time on how southern states in the 1830s adopted the most draconian
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censorship laws in american history in order to to counter abolitionist literature and an so take virginia. of course in 1776, virginia became the first state to adopt a bill of rights even before the declaration of independence, which said that press freedom was the ball work of liberty, but then in 1836 with virginia passes a law, which says something like you know that you it's a crime to deny that white masters have a right to property in their black slaves and it's also a crime to inculcate resistance to slavery and you know among the whole laundry list of ways to try and counter abolitionist ideas on the other hand you had abolitionist like frederick douglass who himself of course was born as a slave but who argued for a universalist idea of free speech which he said would and would basically destroy slavery and he argued that that free speech is not depend on the color of your skin or the size of your wallet and that the right of a free
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speech is a very precious one, especially especially to the oppressed and and i would say that that you know is is a another theme that that runs through the book, you know, i'm staying at a hotel here. at lafayette square very close to it and and you'll see a placket there showing how in 1917 a number of women women's rights advocates were were burning and effigy of president woodrow wilson, and they were arrested and fined many of these women who were basically arguing for the right to vote and i remember thinking about that in in 2018 when i was living on the upper west side with my family and i took my son to a museum and when we went outside tens of thousands of people were protesting most of them women wearing these pink -- hats and and shouting up sanities at the president of the time and the nypd was there to save god their first amendment right to criticize the the president in terms that were probably more aggressive than those that went
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before them and i thought you know, i thought that was, you know, really a sign of how free speech had furthered the the rights of groups that had previously been persecuted. of course, john has written very el about how that was also the case for for the gay rights movement for instance. so when you see the huge increases in acceptance and tolerance of interracial and gay marriage, i think that that was not achieved through censorship and and putting people biggest in jail. it was to a large degree one by people using the first amendment rights to to do activism to appeal to come in humanity and so on and the last thing i might want highlight is that ultimately, i believe that free speech. the health of free speech at any given nation depends more on a culture of free speech than law. so the first the first amendment was ratified in 1791. it hasn't changed the wording, but you know in 1798 you could
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go to jail for criticizing president john adams, and that would be supported by people like hamilton and washington the federalists whereas with with jefferson and madison on the other side of that conflict then you know you go to to as i mentioned slate laws prohibiting abolitionist literature, but if you go to world war one, you know, the supreme court is completely fine with sending people to to prison for 10 or 20 years for a posing american involvement in in world war one you have the red scares and so on and and you really have to get into sort of the 50s before free speech is is consistently protected and and reaches the the threshold by the end of the 60s that with sort of brandenburg. is ohio that very very high threshold for for limiting specific specific viewpoints and i think that reflects a change
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in cultural attitudes in norms and among americans because the wording hasn't changed and you see that actually also in in famous works like on liberty by john stuart mill. he is at least as concerned about the stifling norms in victorian england as he is about the the censorship of the magistrate and warns that you know when side is tendency to impose its values on descenders is is a danger to free speech. george orwell says some of the same things as so so and that's why i worry for for this country because in my view both sides if there are there probably more than two sides, but but you know eating away at the cultural of free speech in hyper polarized partisan nature of american politics which i which i fear will ultimately have downstream effects that might affect how
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the first amendment is constitutional protected whether in 10 or 20 or 30 years. so that was a an executive summary. very good john some comments of well, the first comment is is thank you john. thank you cato. it's even though i think most of our viewers are online. it is nice to be in a room with actual human beings. so thank you all i feel very good about that john. the only thing i don't feel good about is it in your introduction? you didn't mention that my first and seminal work on this subject now 29 years old kindly inquisitors. the new attacks on free thought was published by whom there goes by performance review the cato institute cato institute. yeah, and it's even worse than that because the second edition john and i corresponded frequently after because i was the publisher of it for okay, that's right. how could i forget that and don't forget the audiobook narrated by penn gillette.
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yes, it's spectacular. anyway, i so i have a spectacular i owe a big debt to cato because at the time no one i couldn't get a commercial publisher for the book. and here we are 30 years later. it's a fair to say a classic which is what we call books that are ignored for 25 years before anyone responding is because he was getting so much money from chicago that i was really really excel sold and the second edition. so quite well, so i thought i'd just say three drinks quickly. the first is about the book the second is about what we learned from the book and the third is about the environment wherein right now first thing about the book is is get it by it read it. it's not only readable and comprehensive. it's the only thing like it unbelievably until this book came along there was nothing to read that took you from the very beginning of the ideas of free speech right up to social media. it's all here the ancient greeks medieval times where there were occasional outbursts of very interesting thinking only to be suppressed the enlightenment the
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long history of seditious libel which reappears again and again, it's a fantastic book. i just can't say enough about it. it's a service it will be a touch. for years to come and it's also a lot of fun. second thing what i learned from the book or maybe relearn from it. is that the idea of that the government? should not only allow. but actively protect speech and thought which is seditious vulgar offensive wrong-headed bigoted or just plain wrong the idea that government should actually protect that. is the most crazy counterintuitive wacky social idea of all time bar none? if you if you pop that proposition to someone on the street, they'll say what's the matter with you? and it's only redeeming feature
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is that it's also the single most successful social idea of all time bar none. it gives us the peace the freedom and the knowledge that build this society but because it is so deeply counter-intuitive it took. 2500 years to build in the form. we know it and as jacob just said the current form in the united states is very young. just extremely young. it's the environment in which the founders. wrote the first amendment was much more restrictive than today's. so what i remind people of and what i hope they take away from this book is that defending and protecting this radical wacky proposition requires getting up every morning and explaining it from scratch. to a whole new generation and then our kids will have to do that and their kids and their grandkids every single day and we just need to be cheerful about that because as this book shows you we're doing incredibly. well. actually, i'm not sure jacob would agree with that.
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a compared to for example, my grandfather's time the greatest greatest novel the 20th century ulysses was banned by the government and confiscated on on the docks couldn't happen today. right up at the present. however, we have i think a couple challenges. it really been the paradigm and challenge jacob and me and john and all of us. because they're quite unconventional we're used to thinking of free speech as something that we protect against intrusion by sensors, primarily the government. free speech in terms of legal protections is stronger in america right now than i'd say. it's ever been anywhere in the world. would that be safe? yeah, i think that's a very accurate and i think it may be about to get stronger with the current supreme court. the kinds of challenges we face however don't really fit that box. one is disinformation.
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and the other is what's often called cancel culture the systematic use of social coercion to chill in silence. disinformation is not about censorship. it's actually about a stephen bana and trump's former advisor very aptly and accurately put it flooding the zone with --. putting out so much. many laws half-truths conspiracy theories exaggerations that no one knows which end is up. and it turns out that platforms like social media are tailor-made for this because their business model is to maximize eyeballs for revenues and the way you maximize eyeballs is attractive conspiracy theories outrage, which is addictive and so forth. so what we didn't know when the internet got going was we thought you know, it would all be a big open forum and marketplace of ideas and the best ideas would rise to the top. we did not realize how easy it would be to manipulate. this environment to make it epistemically toxic. it's now well known.
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that fall stuff travels much faster and much further online than true stuff, which is much more expensive to make and much less fun to click on. that is not a problem that you can tackle with traditional free. speech. in fact it it does the opposite it harnesses free speech weaponizes it and turns it into a weapon of epistemic destruction or weapon of mass confusion and chaos. and i think jacob and i we can talk about this but jacob and i may have something of a disagreement on that because i think he's kind of a purist and wants platforms like facebook. but she sees as platforms. to essentially adopt the morality though. not the law of the first amendment and i think that's impractical unsustainable and actually betrays. a lot of the rest of their mission which has to do with being a community business and a publisher so i think they're going to have to be content moderation and it's a hard problem. but getting it right is a lot more complicated than just saying free speech online.
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the second area which jacob didelude to awfully important so-called so-called capsule culture the weaponization. of social coercion that's always been around tocqueville came to the us in 1835 and warned that the biggest threat to liberty in america was not from the government. it was from social coercion to tyranny of the majority he called it. madison worried about the same thing. john stuart mill worried about it turns out however, it can be tyranny of the minority even relatively small groups of people that are ready to whack you online demolish your reputation go to the search engines so that you're called a racist the first thing any employer sees demand that you be fired even small minorities of people can make life living health or dissenters and cause a widespread shilling effect. and at the moment two-thirds of americans say that they are chilled that they are reluctant to say their true beliefs about politics for fear of social and professional consequences.
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two-thirds and it's about 60% of students on campus. that's approximately four times the level to the best. we can measure its hard to compare. it's about four times the level of 1953 the height of the mccarthy era and a reason for that is in the mccarthy era. there were a couple things you couldn't do and you could you could be pretty safe. in the counseling area. you don't know when you're safe and when you're not and that's on purpose they want to make us our own policemen so that we're always afraid that we'll step on a new landmine. this is both the widespread shilling problem and the disinformation problem are severe stresses on the epistemic environment. that is our ability to sort truth from falsehood. and they're not things that are within the traditional bounds of free speech. so this book in a way is a ladder up to the kind of next kind of conversation. that is now beginning. so i think i would interestingly i wanted to go back and to the
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infant disinformation issue before you you can respond to it, which is also sometimes called disinformation. sometimes called misinformation. sometimes called fake news. and in general shows up as false speech across a wide range of historical background. so what i want to pose is out yesterday, i was listening to a seminar at a major university at a scholar was talking about youtube and measuring youtube and sort of and what he saw there was that sort of partisan differences. related to speech or facts or whatever. but rather an insider outsider perspective and at the end of the this was a scholar most people were scholars, i think professors listening to it at the end of the seminar. he posed the question. which was somewhat seemed someone nervous about posing but or uncertain which was that.
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is the category of disinformation? a way for us to basically put down an uprising a populist uprising the last few years. and if that's true, shouldn't we consider that that might be that? and if it's true, is that normatively good? and two more than normatively good. is it possible? right and no one really engaged him on either one of those. but i do think john talks about the differences of the usual and it is a problem because there are differences as a private platforms. and they and some sort of suppression of speech is needed for business, right? but is it normatively good? it just happens it needs to be discussed and thought through. because it does i've had the feeling that i might be engaged
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in putting down an uprising in my other you want to explain what that other role is. i'm work indirectly for facebook on its oversized board. now i have to say i will quickly say as a kind to inquisitor. what's that? yeah, the kindly inquisitor not. what i want to say is there's absolutely i don't have any evidence. from anything that's happened or anyone has said that anyone canceives what facebook is doing and content moderation as a political effort to head off a political movement. there's just i just and i should also say that i have inside knowledge that there's very no evidence that facebook is pursuing a jihad against conservatives. is not there outside or inside. however when you think about the big picture there's that to
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think about and also beyond that which this scholar was trying to force on us i think is it may not be possible. even if we say, you know, we've got to stop this stuff. it may not be possible, but your perspective is an interesting one jacob. what do you think about all this? yeah, so i think acknowledging that free speech comes with costs and harms is essential to its advocacies that have the idea that free speeches is is an unmetically good under all circumstances. i think is it's not a persuasive idea. i think that social media has amplified. i don't think it has generated sort of polarization. so it is amplified. a disinformation and and hate speech however, i you know, i'm and i think you know, for instance january 6th for instance the attack in the
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capital that probably could not have happened without social media right that you know, if the lies conspiracy theories hadn't been sort of endlessly regurgitated on social media. i don't think it would it would have happened but on the other hand, i'm more skeptical perhaps than john about this share of disinformation. so a number of studies show that actually the sheriff of misinformation which is all you know, how do you define it? and that's a problem in and of itself is not you know as messes as the narrative after the 2016 presidential election where it was sort of fake news decided everything and and people were manipulated into to voting for trump and also that those who are most likely to be persuaded by conspiracy theories are those who are already deeply partisan ideologues. so if you already someone who hated hillary clinton and the democrats and and were sort of sympathetic to trump. you are much like more likely to
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consume and share this information than someone who is an independent or or a democrat. so i think those are important nuances, but but but you know even so even if it's not as effective as as we initially thought, you know in absolute numbers, you know, if you convince two or three thousand people that the election was stolen and that would have helps motivate them to attack the peaceful transfer of democracy. that's a real problem for for for a state like the us and so how do we how do we handle it? and this is where i think the european approach is is a cure worse than the disease. so the european approach is to say to facebook and others you have to remove illegal content or sometimes even like harmful contents, which is then not really defined within say 24 hours or you will risk fines of
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up to 50 million euros, and and the effect of that is that it basically we've done a number of studies which shows that then russia turkey venezuela all these states basically copy paste that approach they do it in bad faith, obviously and but we also see that the collateral damage to to all kinds of other speech is enormous. so i think you know, i think more in terms of technological development. so i remember i'm old enough to remember the blockus fear when it was blogs and not centralized platforms that were sort of the frontier of the internet digital age and at the time no one really cared about content moderation on a blog even if a blog had say a million followers because it didn't really affect the entire ecosystem of information on the internet because no no single block could act as a choke point or as a massive disseminator of false information the way that centralized platform with with
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billions of people can't so so i think decentralization is is one potential remedy and i think that chimes with lessons of the history of free speech. so for instance the dutch republic became some of the first free speech zone in europe and one of the key reasons for that was they didn't have a constitution. they didn't have lost protecting free speech, but they had a very weak political center and so the provinces of the dutch republic had a lot of autonomy and so, you know, if one province tried to censor someone they could skip you know a state lines and set up shop elsewhere and and that cultivated sort of a culture of tolerance that was comparatively much much more extensive than elsewhere on on the continent. another thing. i think that that might go some way is to provide uses more control over content. and and sort of allowing it could be ngos to develop filters that we can then use. so for instance take the issue of anti-semitism.
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so some people believe that these campaigns to boycott israel because among to anti-semitism whereas others think this is legitimate debate. so facebook has to to make a decision, you know, should we should this constitute antisemitism or not and then that, you know has downstream effects for everyone on the platform. but if the adl which tends to promote an expansive definition of hp could then develop a filter that you can use then you know that you can shield yourself from what you perceive to be antisemitism, but it wouldn't affect everyone else the same could be said with with women a lot of female journalists and and all those fine, you know a flooded with the misogyny that might not reach a threshold of illegal speech, but which nonetheless is creative disincentive to engage on social media so you could have a filter that filtered away some of the misogynistic term
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but again wouldn't affect everyone because there might be women who say, you know, i want to see what these bigots are saying. i want to use it to expose people. i think that is a more of a solid monic solution than the sort of centralized approach where where governments impose standards on the tech companies or where the tech companies themselves sort of try to navigate through, you know, the lens of pr or stakeholder management. you know, what do you what do we do to have to do to avoid being summoned to capital hill every second week and answer for this or that, you know outbreak of what i call in the book elite panic about speech that this or that group doesn't like, but ultimately, you know, know, you can adopt as david hume ultimately did sort of a pessimistic case for free speech. he had david hume had been very optimistic about free speech and then gel wilkes in in the 70 in the 770s or 76s in in the uk
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sort of used free speech as a blowtorch to to attack everyone and sort of radicalizes his supporters and david hume sort of came to think of free speech that you know it, you know, the radical speech is sort of an abusive free speech, but it's more it's more dangerous to allow the government to climb down so it's sort of and and in unavoidable cost of free speech that you have people with with extreme views, so that's how i look at it, but i wouldn't i would i would certainly not say that, you know, facebook and twitter. we should just be in different to what what goes on there, but i think there are there are other solutions then sort of centralized content moderation that we should that we should try to to look at before we go down that road. i'll add a response to john the point you made and then expand that maybe into a question for for jacob on based on what you just said. john i think the question about
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populism versus elitism that this university professor asked would have been more appropriate 15 years ago than now because what we have learned in the last few years, is that what we are not seeing on online for example, is the voice of the broad public what we're discovering is how easily manipulable all of these systems and platforms are by small numbers of dedicated actors be they the internet research agency in saint petersburg anti-vaxers who are able to use a combination of bots and trolls and search engine optimization to make a very small number. of activists look like a consensus online whether they're counselors who are typically small numbers of ideological left-wing radicals who were able to project themselves as much bigger forces. the reason we have a constitution of knowledge and that i wrote a book about it. is in an unstructured marketplace of ideas, it turns out instead of getting sort of everyone equal big conversation
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you get manipulation by small dedicated groups. using tools of information warfare and that's why we go to so much trouble. to develop all the rules and norms and institutions like science and mainstream journalism academia law a lot of government that set up all these systems that require us to be on better behavior to expose our views to people who don't don't agree with us to make it very difficult for one faction to take over the expense of others all the things the us constitution does the constitution of knowledge does in the epistemic world, so it is naive to think that without those rules the people rule they don't the opposite is true. so expanding that to a question for jacob. if it's the case that there do need to be rules out there and they shouldn't be government rules. i agree with you on that. i think the eu approach is too rigid and top down and you know finding people for heaven's sake. i don't think that'll work. and i don't think it's desirable. it seems to me like what
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facebook is doing is exactly the right approach. we've had earlier problems like this the invention of the printing press. the rise of the offset printing in the united states which led to a huge amounts of hyperpartisan fake news in us media. and others and they were solved the same way which as it took a little while but building up institutions and norms like publishers and peer reviews ethical norms and journalism journalism schools. that began to cabin these things it seems to me. that's what facebook is doing. they're saying, okay. let's see if we can come up with some framework some rules. some guidelines will make them transparent. will tell people what they are they'll be voluntary in the sense that you don't need to be on facebook. but if you are here this is what we expect that seems to me like what's worked in the past and in the best available route. do you disagree with that? yeah. i don't think that there's a sufficient degree of transparency. first of all on facebook. i think it's extremely difficult to find out what what what's going on and i also think you
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know, so one of the suggestions that that my organization has made is that the terms that facebook and youtube and others should should be inspired. you know, they should be inspired by you know, the only thing that approaches something at the universal level because we have to you know, there's always this danger but in free speech debates of what i call the tyranny of american parochialism, you know, everything is viewed through a us lens, but but these are global platforms and and and what's at stake in the us is not the same in russia or iran where social media is basically the only way that you can circumvent official propaganda and and and censorship. so what we argue, is that the terms at least an issues such as hate speech and disinformation should then be inspired by international human rights norms. that's what they that sort of the limit that they should try to to reach but when we analyze the content moderation of
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facebook we find that, you know on hate speech for instance of deleted commons that we looked at. it was 1.1% of the deleted commons that actually violated danish law. we also found that of what's what's being kept up. it was less than 0.006% of of comments that had been, you know designated as hate speech that actually violated danish laws and i think that's in you know that those type of research that type of research and looking at it in that way is an important antidote to sort of the the message that a lot of european politicians are pushing that basically the platforms are flooded with illegal content, you know, our you know, i'm not going to say that our research is exhaustive, but i think it's suggests very much that that this is actually not the case and then you know should facebook tinker, i think that's
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unavoidable that they will be tinkering with with different models if we were part of it, we would be experimenting with all kinds of things. but that's also why i think a more decentralized model would be better because then you would have more experimentation by various platforms rather than having as dominant a platform as facebook which gives a huge incentive to governments and other powerful access to say we want you to reflect our norms and our values because that will give us a huge say on how on what is being allowed on other certainly a case for decentralization. but and this this question now is not meant to be a gotcha or pin you down. it's it's curiosity driven in the world. we live in where facebook has a large market share, would you rather that the facebook oversight board exists or not? oh, i think it's i think it's a good idea that the the oversight board exist and and they do you know, they do, you know, i think in all your decisions you
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actually point to international human rights norms the problem with that is of course, does it work at scale because i don't know how many decisions you've made so far, but but you know that that amounts to the the sort of a nanosecond of content moderation decisions in real life across the platform and and can those content moderation decisions. can they reflect the jurisprudence if you like the other side this is i want to go back to john's point is reply to me. first of all, it's not there was ever really i'm not going to be defending a completely unstructured system the first amendment in the public forum is structure right? jacob mentioned viewing a descent in 2016 a vigorous kind of resistance to trump the police were there to protect the protesters. so you have that structure, you know, and you also had not as perhaps not significant, but
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there was speech that is not protected by the first amendment. that's a constitutional structure, right? the real question is you have a with the case of facebook, but youtube is perhaps even more important because of the video element. you have a platform that is global with one about two billion people on it every day doing things two billion posts or whatever, right? the numbers are just immense. then you have things on it that are are false. speech. so who is the judge what speech is to come down? is it facebook? are they to judge it because it contributed to maximizing shareholder value. that's one answer. the facebook answer in part has been to send disputed post to.
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these groups that decide that right the the various kinds of panels that look at the speech and decide whether it's business information or disinformation. you know when? mark zuckerberg's became concerned about this information misinformation. so on. he said things you don't want on the platform include, you know, we don't want obvious hoaxes and we don't want conspiracy theories. well and so i think there was an assumption. it's very easy to tell what that is. and in the american political system, we basically just leave that to people even up to the incitement. i mean excitement's prove. but essentially you're turning over the question of truth. to small numbers of these determination of facts right now. i hasten to add on top of that
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my impression is that that actually is not the way it works because what john mentioned which is the problem of scale if you've got two billion people 100,000 disinformation pose is a very small number. right, and if you have a panel that or an oversight board that has to go through these things and determine the truth of them. they're not going to get there very many. so it's very the scale the one thing about social media that is different is speed and scale and the scale turns out to be humans can't manage the system at least we'll see we have humans that can manage that system and actually the algorithms have our algorithms that those levels make mistakes all the time. it's inevitable. so you have to decide what kind of mistakes she want to make and what the call star? so i don't think you know, this
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is quite as i don't think there is actually has been an answer. there's been struggling with it. and finally the point i would make is this. you have you had this is not a point about the current administration. it could be any administration. you have a president and administration that is going to be running for reelection that has political concerns, etc. etc. and those are known sometimes they want in recent cases. they want facebook or others to take down pose to take down. speech. is that and they're not going to call the police in and make zuckerberg take stuff down, but everyone knows facebook is on tv asking for regulations that will be considered by congress and the president is important to that process, right he could prevent regulations. he could advance them. this kind of jaw boning process
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should you know, what is truth in that context and his government involved in ways that perhaps our first amendment doctrine hasn't realized and can act on i'll just mention a couple things that have gone by areas of agreement that i think are important that could easily get get missed in our often often missed in the conversation. one jacob said something which is important and true. i spin it a little differently but as important as social media and facebook, for example, are they are not the chief spreaders? based on my reading of the literature of misinformation and disinformation. it's not even clear that they're number two they buy with. am radio and especially cable news, especially on the right, but far and away the biggest spreader of disinformation and misinformation is the oldest and that's politicians. and they can use all kinds of channels and we saw that and stop the steel that was accelerated.
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i'm sure by social media, but when you've got a former president of the united states plus his political party plus conservative media plus dozens of lawsuits. all pushing a big lie. it's going to get through so i'm all for focusing on social media, but i think at the moment there's a tendency to blame technology first. when the principles of disinformation and misinformation apply across every channel and there are many channels so kudos to jacob for pointing that out. i agree. i also agree by the way that the gold disinformation. it doesn't succeed primarily in changing people's minds, but that's not what it's trying to do. it's primarily interested in polarizing and confusing and it's very good at that secondary of second area of agreement when we do get to social media. i think it's an area of agreement. i think it is important to establish rules and boundaries and norms of conduct and i recognize this will always be hard to enforce but i also think that in the long run the larger bulk of the solutions to this crisis won't be in the realm of
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policy design. it's going to be in the realm of product design. it's going to be figuring out systems that do things like slow people down introduce friction before they retweet or like something so that they're asked is facebook now does or don't you want to read this before you retweet it? make us think a little harder change the way the algorithms work in terms of what's promoted and what's not and how fast velocity goes and there are lots of ideas about that and i i think we're looking at systems that we're designed for a an age in which it was just all about getting eyeballs at any price. we've discovered the price is high and the systems are now looking for ways to integrate more guidelines and guardrails into the user experience. we don't know what that'll look like. but i think we have general directions and and that's where the bulk of the improvement will come from. i'm going to direct us away from american parochialism because i must say yes. i must say one of the things i've learned at facebook is very hard for me as a person working
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here at cato and working in dc has been to get beyond one thing i learned by the way, and i will see i love your response to this is that if i wanted to advance free speech arguments. the worst thing i could do with my colleagues that didn't come from the united states was say the words first amendment. or the united states, right? because there's this response that it's it's a parochialism, but also people really do if you go to the content of free speech rather than the american experience. i think they respond much more favorably, right? so what is the what's your general sense about outside of europe and the united states? how is the free speech story going is it? well, you know, i actually agree with with john that we're you know compared to 50 or 100 years ago. we're living in a golden age of
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free speech not only you know in terms of legal protections, you know, even if outside the us you might the legal protection may not be as strong as under the first amendment there are internationally human rights and norms there are constitutional protections. there are human rights courts that that try to uphold and enforce these norms and you know, even even authoritarian states have to pay lip service to the idea of a free speech it becomes such a great norm, however, i would argue that that the golden age is probably in decline, so i wrote a piece in foreign affairs a week ago about the free speech recession. so if you look at sort of numbers suggests that that free speech has been in decline for more than a decade and you know when authoritarian states are on the rise, it's not a surprise because you learn that. going all the way back to the athenian democracy the first things that our authoritarians will do when they try to crush democracy or representative government is to go off the free
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speech. that's just you know, that's that's the 101 of trying to established authoritarian regimes. what worries me more is that liberal democracies have started to view free speech perhaps as much as a threat then as a as a foundational value and there's a you know, a whole wave of repressive laws in in democracies one of them for instance in the european union where the european commission wants to to define hate speech as an eu crime, which would allow the commission to define hate speech across all 27 members days and and said the minimum rules. i mean that to me is just a big flashing warning sign of how you know leading democracies are thinking about free speech and and unfortunately, i don't see a lot of sort of civil society organizations in europe that pushing back against this and i think you know, i i argue in the
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book that this is based on on what i call the bimar fallacy, which a term which i've sort of borrowed from a brilliant professor called eric heinzer, but i use it slightly different from him and and the idea is basically one that i hope we all share that of never again in that we will never want to experience the rise of totalitarianism and and and industrial scale genocide in in europe or hopefully anywhere again, but the european idea is that you need basically militant democracy this idea advanced by carl louvinstein this german immigrate professor who went to colombia and wrote these influential articles about how democracies when confronted with fascism had to get tough and couldn't worry about free speech and and and and had to sort of clamp down, but i try to show in the book that in the bible republic even though it was very liberal compared to to you know, the empire under on smug and and the german confederation before
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that. it was actually quite hostile to extreme speech and it allowed laws and regulations of speech that we would never accept today. let me give you an example. so a german state could administerively ban in newspaper for up to eight weeks if it spread false news or attacked, you know, public officials or undermined the government and so use of gibbles who had started the newspaper that enclave sort of basically to to troll particularly a jewish high-ranking police officer and claim sort of proudly that it was the most frequently banned newspaper in in germany. and the reason he started the enclave was that eight of hitler was banned from speaking in a number of german states the most depraved antisemite in history was probably euler schleicher. who was the the editor of the stroma who was i think justly executed as part of the
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nuremberg trial because during the war he explicitly inside it to genocide and i don't think anyone would argue that that is covered by free speech, but but during the weimar republic he was less explicitly genocidal, but he did spread these vicious blood liables about -- and he was convicted on a number of times for offense against religions including in 1929 sentenced to two months in prison cheered by hundreds of supporters when leaving the courtroom and less than a year later the nazis increased the share of the boat including in nuremberg the hometown of striker where he was born and you know, the radio did not allow communist or nazis on there and most alarmingly i think is that the nazis basically used the provisions in law and the constitution of the weimar republic that was supposed to protect democracy they use that to abolish democracy and that i think is again at flashing warning sign that you know, even for all of the good in if you adopt instead of laws that are restrictive of
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free speech they might very well be used by enemies of democracy when when they get into power and they and they may not even be efficient at countering the the rise of these especially in demo. i mean, how far can you go in democracies in if you want to counter especially in the digital age how much censorship would it take to anti-democratic voices, you know where you could you could migrate from facebook to telegram to yeah, of course, that's to some extent why they're turning to disinformation. yeah, but you scarce resource today is not access to publication. it's access to attention, which you can swap. so on the international front. i'm not i think you'd agree with this jacob, but tell me a development that seems to me to be global very much happening in the in europe very much in the us and the thing that breaks my heart most about this entire debate. is the widespread belief that
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free speech harms minorities. yes. we see again and again on college campuses in the us and in the eu again, and again the justification for various kinds of chilling censorship investigations punishments. is where protecting minority groups from being traumatized being injured being made second-class citizens being told that they don't belong in the planet. and as someone who was born in a very different world in 1960 and worked for years for same-sex marriage. we couldn't have done that without free speeches. you said earlier i banged on this again. and again frederick douglass said it john lewis said it. mandela said it. they all said without free speech as john lewis said the civil rights movement would have been a bird without wings, but i think that that message is being lost. i think we're losing that battle internationally. do you what's your dad? no, i i tend to yeah and maybe
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especially in democracies. unfortunately, i think that you know in a lot of of states where they face censorship and repression they intuitively get that that you know free speech restrictions will harm the the powerless more more than anyone else, but but i think this this idea is is really unfortunately and and and and i don't know the best way to counter it. hopefully, you know a historical approach and awareness of what went before is part of is part of the solution, but i would also, you know, look at europe, you know free speech restrictions in hungary and poland are actively being used against the lgbt+ community. for instance that that should tell you something and and and and so so and so so and you know look at the history in the uk when they first adopted this this law to try to protect minorities from from hatred incitement to hatred the very first person who was convicted
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was was a black britain who had said something about white people. whereas a powerful white policians were not prosecuted and so it created more controversy, but you also see sort of a scope creep in hate speech laws. so more and more categories of being protected and what you will see is that those those groups will then use it as a weapon. each other so it could be the lgbt+ community trying to use hp laws against religious conservatives and vice versa and that i think really is dangerous because that's sort of a race to to the to the gutter where different we're seeing the trans community now use some very sensorious tactics and britain in the us, which also breaks my heart. so before we go to q&a, let me ask you follow up on one of your points. so there's the international covenant of civil and political rights that the united states signed about 30 years after it was introduced to it.2.
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the iccpr the international human rights law main document contains two interesting parts that relate to freedom of speech and this relates to the global element of free speech now article 19 is very much like the first amendment it reads a somewhat like the first amendment. on the one hand article 20 section 2 includes a part that requires the signatories. to essentially ban hate speech it mandates that they agreed to do so that is and also speech require, you know fostering war aggressive warfare now clearly there was a lot of debate about this in the 50s and 60s, but clearly you can see that section article 20 came out of the trying to not repeat the national socialist experience in germany and so on and yet there it is an international law both
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a strong statement of freedom of speech and a requirement for banning which by the way facebook has and others have a strong community standards about hate speech. so what looking back and from your research and do you think that what side of the international law is going to win out? that's a good question and the interesting thing about this. i won't go down the rabbit hole of that but it was basically a provision that was advanced by the soviet block. they tried to get a similar provision in the universal declaration of human rights eleanor roosevelt for vigorously against it and and western states succeeded initially, but then lost the battle in with with the international covenant and uncivil and political rights. and and so it's and and you know, basically it was based on you know, 1936 stalin soviet union had in article one two,
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three of its constitution. it had an obligation to prohibit hate speech which should tell you something about the concept because stalin was not above using hate speechia himself, but and so that has been a dangerous instrument, but i would say that in the past 10 years or so this provision has been interpreted. very narrowly by a number of someone like david k who was a us law professor, but it was the the special repertoire at the un for freedom of expression and opinion and and who and and even the human rights committee. they have they have sort of tried to narrow it and i think the reason they've done so is because in the un system, it's so obvious that a number of states are trying to gain the system and and try to expand the interpretation of article 20 the obligation to prohibit h speech to basically allow them to prohibit descent and which is exactly what eleanor ruth will warned about in in the 50s, but
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i'm sort of more hopeful now that it that the loophole has been somewhat close. i think the obama administration actually played a crucial role in that in 2011 when they fought against the the campaign by islamic states to to adopt a blasphemy band at the international level. they actually process from sort of resulted in a more limited interpretation of that and and but it's interesting for me as someone who's vigorously opposed to that provision that i often rely on international human rights about to say the for instance when it comes to social media. this is our so the least bad option and then sort of having to to rely on a provision that was basically proposed by the by the soviet blog. so we have a microphone here if you want to come down and so everyone here and online can hear your question. please do so when you come down
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before you offer that question. you have a choice of whether to revealing who you are or not. we preserve anonymity here so that the speech is not chilled. however, this is david bowes if you want to have some pick his david bowes the mask back on yeah i want to go back to something. jacob said early on which. was a culture of free speech is important first amendment and i sort of agree with that on the other hand. it seems to me that i've seen numerous instances in the past few years. maybe the past few months where distinguished writers on free speech are on or public intellectuals generally have said about something going on in canada or britain or continental europe. that wouldn't happen here because we have a first amendment. now maybe there's a question. what is the relationship?
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between the first amendment and a culture of free speech and if somehow you could give canada a first amendment right now, would that change their culture? yeah. no, i think you absolutely right. it's not a serial sum game. i think that there's a relationship between my point. is that if the culture of free speech the culture of tolerance that underpins legal protections deteriorates. the law is likely to to follow behind that but but that doesn't mean that the first amendment is is of no consequence. i think it's it's very much of consequence and i think you know particularly at this point of time in in america, you know without a strong protection of the first amendment. i think you would see speech restrictions being weaponized in various states, you know, blue and red states that would use them speech restrictions in order to pound away at those.
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they deemed ideologically unsound as we're you know, the i think the the bills against so called critical race theory that we see in alum a number of of republican states that are limited to education. i think they would probably be you know adopted at a much broader level and you can actually see that when you when you ask democrats and republicans about their degree of tolerance for different of speech you see huge partisan gaps, you know, you know democrats very supportive of protists against racial justice in 2020 republicans much of us. so republicans, very supportive of the first amendment extending even to to misin from misinformation democrats much less. so so i think the first amendment is really important. i just fear that the level of protection would would erode if the underlying culture of free speech is eroding. am i right jacob to remember that mills said something like this is a very loose paraphrase, but but given a choice between
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strong feet. strong free speech laws plus weak free speech culture versus week-free speech laws and strong free speech culture. he would take the stronger culture as as being the more important thing. milk, i think so. yeah, i think it's in chapter three. i'm not sure. yeah, i'm sometimes asked. you know, how do i feel about bounds on holocaust denial in germany? and i but i tell people is i don't really get my underwear in a knot about it. because germany is a special case and what i worry more about is does the culture of the country does its environment support the values of free speech and if they do then a few laws like that probably won't do a great deal of harm. they probably won't be abused all that much and it's really the culture of free speech. that is the first thing we have to defend in that situation. maybe jacob wouldn't agree. yeah. no and unfortunately, you know the germany has of course a culture of free speech, but is you know what i found in my book
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is that german the german culture of free speech is a very much an elitist one and it has been so throughout, you know, won't go down that rep that rabbit hole either, but the germans are really really concerned about the unwashed mob getting access to dangerous ideas understandably given their history, but i worry that perhaps they interpreted wrongly and leave ammunition for for nefarious forces with their approach to speech so i make a remark about mill here which goes to some of your earlier remarks. i think the harm principle's great. i think you can probably use it to defend free speech and trends global in a global situation. the problem with mill of course is that he says in our liberty that this only applies to civilized countries the barbarians can't do it. so i think it's important when we can rescue the harm principle for our purposes, but it is important to note that that's
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you know, mill was off base there. that was really because otherwise think about if you're somewhere else other than europe or the united states and you're reading john stuart mill and you come across that are you an advocate of free speech after that peter? is that beautiful flick? i'm a order you have no reason to remember that we actually met i do in new york where you were at the baby cater in denmark as i call c+ quite good organization in denmark. and you come along way. congratulations. you also mentioned i could say our mutual friend. let me rose. and but nobody said was that he's also a senior fellow at cato institute. it doesn't look it up and he's still there. my question well where was i? yeah, but fleming rose and i be
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having my action people say oh you're from denmark. why did you have to do that nasty thing about the cartoons? and every store seemed to start with let me rose in the euless passing publishing those nasty cartoons that made the errors very upset. what they forget to tell and i've gone through your videos and i don't really actually the danish muslims through the first punch in that there was a innocent danish like we all published educational children's books about things in the world, and it was about to educate them about what muslims were since they were coming in so that then to denmark and they didn't know where it was and fleming rose was a party where you were hurt. somebody say that the industrator got his name had withdrawn himself from making drawings that we do in all kind
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of books for children. because they had given him death threats. and so flammy said oh my god, do we really have a self-censorship problem in denmark? let's find out and the story was that he went out to the danish cartoon cartoon organization. i think 22 cartoonist denmark and half of them said have them said no did not do it. cover to them said okay. no this just anti-muslim propaganda. we don't want to participate. the ones that did do the cartoons didn't to try to prove that we do not have self-censorship in denmark and the rest is history, but i really like the to tell people that fleming was not the one who threw the first punch. no, i i don't think cartoonists throw throw throw punch. it's a at all and you know, what what is often also forgotten is fleming actually wrote a very eloquent piece accompanying the
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cartoons and he argued that free speech intolerance were enlightenment values that they apply to all and that no single group or individual could claim sort of special protection and that in fact, it was sort of a bigotry of lower expectations to say that special rule should apply to danish muslims. they were to be part of danish society equality intolerance would have to apply an equal terms and yet you have someone like the the german famous author gunter grass who was comparing fleming's peace and the cartoon to destroy and which i thought was just despicable in many. and of course that the cartoon affairs is also pardon possible of why there was an attack against jolly blue because it was one of very few magazines that actually showed solidarity with units boston and republished the cartoons. so peter's question leads me to i just have to reveal this they to have a colleague at facebook who worked on the obama work at
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the united nations that you talked about about religious heresy and so on and she and i were talking one day about things and she said, you know when we were going into those un meetings and arguing for free speech the one group you could always count on the diplomats. you could always have at your side. where the dane and i have to say i don't know. i'll keep testing this. i'll someday i'll find a intolerant dane an illiberal dane, but that seems to me to be true and so keep your eye out if you come across a danish person probably they share your views probably a cato like you on well, we were the first country in the world that that formally at abolished any and all censorship in in 1770 didn't you know go so well the guy who did it who basically you serve the power of the king was executed beheaded and had his hands cut off in public. but okay strong struck a blow
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for free speech so i knew i would do want to get to some online questions here and there's many of them many people are concerned about section 230 and about the in other section 230 is essentially why facebook has the right to do all of this. they're outside laws of liable and so on but there was some a couple of cases that i think that's someone too complicated yet to get into given our if you want to have some comments about it. that'd be very interesting what but this whole question of culture one person points out. these are anonymous questioners that you know this this information and so on and the problems online if they didn't have people who wanted it the consumed it it wouldn't exist and second then there's the traditional over the last few years. anyway response to what about education to what extent can education because actually the free speech doctrine is based in
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the idea that ultimately we can exchange views and suppressing views creates distortions, right? and ultimately we can exchange views and it will be better. it may not be perfect, but it'll be better than it was going to be otherwise and so education the ability to critically think about these questions is important. so i think i'll be interested to hear john on that. and then i'll come back but there were two things there one was education and the other was demand demand. yeah, you answered the demand question in a way. yeah there there's a very large and important element of demand poll in the world of conspiracy theories and disinformation people wanted it fills a gap in their lives often gives them a sense that have insider knowledge and purpose and a mission in life and a villain to slay and all of that. the reason we have a constitution and knowledge is because there are so many ways to manipulate us.
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intelligence provides no protection at all. there are dozens of cognitive biases and social biases and it takes a lot of discipline to keep us away from those things. it's a collective action problem may be good for an individual or fund for an individual to consume and spread conspiracy theories about say --, but it doesn't take much of that to despoil the epistemic environment and that's why we have rules and structures throughout society not just in the epistemic realm. the second point was the big one what education yeah education seems to have some benefits the countries if that doesn't sound like a controversial phrase when put that way. but what i have in mind is that i think a lot of the problems around social media. have to do not just with the design of social media per se but the environment in which they find themselves which was a
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population which had never been exposed to these tools. was epistemically naive about them like your professor friend who says well it's just going to be if a lot of people are doing it it must be populist and it seems to be helpful in countries that are doing it to do educational media literacy. especially middle school and on into high school and critical thinking education seems to help better preparing ourselves. for the pitfalls that we encounter in this environment. so yeah, i'm a fan of of those kinds of measures they're coming to the united states. of course, i don't think they should be dictated by government, but i do think we can be we can better prepare ourselves. for encountering the environment that we're now in and we could hardly prepare ourselves worse. i don't know jacob. what do you you're yeah, you know one of the things that i regret not including in the book is what i see as the real problem with with free speech. is that free speech you know, it
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doesn't provide. a sense of meaning and purpose. it doesn't bind us together in the same way that say religion or nationalism or two for that matter. yeah, or acle consensus so like the the founding generation would would free speech and the opposition to to british to the stamp act and other british attempts to limit a dissent would bind them together, you know, they were they were advancing free speech as the ball work of liberty against british slavery, but when the revolutionary war had been one free speech suddenly became a principle that amplified their political and philosophical differences and then suddenly you have sort of quasi civil war between between the the greatest generation of americans and you have sort of alexander hamilton arguing that you know, this edition actually be vigorously enforced against you know,
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anyone slandering or using malicious propaganda against any government official should be prosecuted and you know foreigners who were responsible for the incendiary presses should just all all of them should be thrown out of of the us where sort of madison writes a very eloquent defense of the first amendment and jefferson is also post but then what happens when jefferson wins the presidential election, you know, he is an organelle address. he gives a great sort of unifying speech sort of instead of owning the feds. he he sort of says, you know, you know, we shouldn't cross-secute each other with laws, but then in 1803 has been dragged through the mud by the federalist press and he rides with these private letters suggesting. that might be a good idea to prosecute some of these federalist papers in state courts and some of them actually are so that shows that you know, even if even jefferson is liable to what in the book i call milton's curse, basically the the on the the unprincipled and selective defense of free speech then then that is something that
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all human beings are a very vulnerable to so we we come with sort of our original software that we've evolved. it's default mode is intolerance, and we've built this sort of fragile patch on top of it, which is tolerance and free speech, but that constantly has to be sort of updated and we have to build a firewall around and with that firewall sort of fails our default mode will override it and we'll be back to to intolerance and and i think you know in those circumstances sort of nationalism or religion will provide a sense of meaning social. mission and in those circumstances free speech will then suddenly be seen as a threat to that sense of social creation that binds us together and that is particularly dangerous in times of uncertainty of political polarization. so more or less the times that that we live in right now. so i would be remiss if i didn't speak up on behalf of my yet
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anonymous professor fred. i don't think that i think he probably agrees pretty closely with what john thinks about these matters. but he thought there was a normative are you know, was that normatively good to suppress essentially a political movement and that you needed that argument john gives you one in his book, but beyond that he raised the question of is it even possible to commit this kind of suppression and essentially prevent a political movement from attaining its ends. and i would say that's an interesting question because remember it may be that you can suppress speech at scale. but there's probably the problem with that is that you also inevitably suppress a lot of speech that is protected. all right. this is the facebook problem not going around and seeing something and say oh, that's bad. right it there's two billion people writing. you can't do that, right?
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you can't even yeah, well, there's appeals processes and those are hard too. i would say yeah, i think this is a straw man question john because no one believes. i don't think anyone seriously believes you can suppress speech. and the current environment the question now the reason i wrote the constitution of knowledge and i think the reason jacob's doing the work it just isia and this book. is figuring out where the guidelines and guardrails are going to go so that we can incentivize ourselves in pro-social ways and humanity's been doing that forever and that is not about suppression. it is not about pre-wiring some particular political outcome. it is figuring out how to be our better selves. you know, i think there are some interesting places to look for inspiration. so taiwan, i think is a very interesting place. so you basically had this. sunflower movement, which were these sort of hackers basically who squatted parliament and one of them is now the minister of i think technology audrey tang,
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and they and they they basically working on on sort of updating institutions to the digital age and and sort of in trying to build institutions and technology that will that will increase rather decrease than decrease trust which will spur sort of cooperation and at a local level, especially sort of it has been quite useful for instance if you want to decide in in a neighborhood, you know, should there be a i don't know a bike path or or then this platform can sort of help people come together and and and and and decide on these issues finding sort of basically areas where people agree rather than sort of looking at disagreement or rewarding that that's an interesting one another. it's a new field called cognitive immun. which is looking at can you kind of create firewalls and communities to slow the viral spread of misinformationers? there's lots of interesting thinking but i will correct something i said earlier. i said no one really thinks that
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you can suppress speech or political movements in this environment someone does and i think it's china. yeah. no, we haven't got to china yet, but talk about a challenge to this paradigm. i i was just that was you can suppress speech. it's just that you get lots of false positives too, but you can't yeah and i think you know china is probably i would say. the soviet union during stalin was probably the most sensorious. state at least in the 21 in the 20th century, but china is probably current china on the xi jinping is probably winning that contest because technology is just being used in such a way. but but the the worrying thing is that china is creating this these digital client states. so it's exporting its technology and also, you know and apocryphal and lending quote is that you know, the capitalist will send us we'll send us the rope which will hang him and i
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think that that is a little bit true with some western companies who you know cisco going into china and and building that the great firewall sort of google working secretly to try and and build a search engine that incorporate the dictates of the of the chinese communist party. so i think china is really they they're ambition is that they will be able to control speech in in almost every and i think the traditional censorship is is really really astounding but they have more devious ways from flooding, you know online community with with propaganda to just having around the clock detail surveillance, which is a much more probably effective way to control what people say if if you're being watched in real time all the time. how do you how you know, would you be would you be not be afraid to to speak out and if it has social consequences if you lose the right to travel or if
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you lose the ability to get a promotion if you say something wrong, so that is is really i think a huge worry. so i hope for the people online who had many good questions that i have. i tried to go through it to get the themes and and speak to themes here. so, please don't take offense if i didn't get quite to your question as always there were more questions and kiddo is a private institution so we can censors we wish that's happened here before it is the auditorium, but i think we got to the issues that were raised in many cases and it does show the importance of the social media and the free speech i think and the book is free speech. the author is jacob lynch hungama and he's been here at cato today. i hope he comes again many times our friend john roush has also commented today and you should
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look for his book the constitution of knowledge. and thank you very much both online and here in the auditorium. it's great to see people again, i agree with john about that. and lunch is upstairs. and you can buy books outside,
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and joining us now on book tv is author tom nichols. his most recent book is called our own worst enemy the assault from within on modern democracy. he is recently retired as a us naval war college professor professor nichols last couple years. we've been hearing that democracy is in danger. do you agree with that? and if so, what does that mean?


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