***Times and panelists subject to change***

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Monday, January 29 • 2:30pm - 3:20pm
Internet Speech: Truth, Trust, Transparency, & Tribalism

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In December 2016 a North Carolina man, Edgar Welch, drove 350 miles from his home to a neighborhood pizza place in Washington, DC with his AR-15 assault rifle to “self-investigate” a bogus election-related Internet story involving the democratic presidential candidate. Traditional media had discredited the fake news story countless times. Welch was arrested after firing shots in the pizza place. Mercifully, no one was injured.  Internet policy veterans have seen a lot develop in the space in the last 25 years. They’ve been shocked, disgusted, and often perplexed by the information circulated online. Yet many have taken solace in the belief that the antidote to bad or bogus speech is even more speech by more trusted speakers. We believed that more speech would inexorably lead to a hegemony of trusted, credible, and truthful content on the Internet.  We’ve heard from many Internet policy veterans that the pizza shooting catalyzed some soul searching about what the Internet had become and whether even more speech would level the equation. Since then we’ve learned more and more about the information that was flowing virally around the Internet during the election. What sources of information and which speakers can be trusted? We have had to create a new lexicon to understand the state of speech on the Net: Fake news, troll-farms, disinformation, nation-state sponsored advertising, post-fact society, data injection attacks, narrative-laundering, networked propaganda, to name a few.
Now the rush to find solutions has begun, and it’s not yet clear whether solutions will be easy to come by. Pizza place shooter Edgar Welch was stark illustration that fake news can manifest itself directly as mortal danger in the nation’s capital. But the fact that Welch went to “self-investigate” veracity of the false story is even more disturbing. He didn’t fully trust the erroneous conspiracy story, evidenced by his later admission that the “Intel wasn’t 100%.” Yet, he also did not trust traditional media stories debunking the story.
We’ve reached a crisis of trust in our society’s sources of information just as the lines between traditional media and Internet media have all but vanished. Recent congressional hearings have revealed that determined actors can further erode trust in information and institutions.
At the same time, more powerful platforms designed to help us sort through information may have inadvertently empowered us to view only information that we prefer or that reinforces our own biases. A sort of societal tribalism is emerging, leading to increased polarization.
Solutions to these problems are far more complex than most are willing to believe. As prominent researcher danah boyd rightly pointed out in a blog piece, “[Edgar Welch] was doing was something that we’ve taught people to do — question the information they’re receiving and find out the truth for themselves.”
Our panel will explore these questions and what we can do about it.

avatar for Tiffany Li

Tiffany Li

Resident Fellow, Information Society Project at Yale Law School
Tiffany C. Li is an attorney and Resident Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. She is an expert on privacy, intellectual property, and law and policy at the forefront of new technological innovations.Li leads the Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries... Read More →

avatar for Ambassador Karen Kornbluh

Ambassador Karen Kornbluh

Senior Fellow for Digital Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Ambassador Karen Kornbluh is senior fellow for digital policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, Kornbluh was executive vice president of Nielsen, responsible for global public policy, privacy strategy, and corporate social responsibility. Kornbluh served as U.S. ambassador... Read More →
avatar for Mike Masnick

Mike Masnick

President and CEO, Techdirt
Mike is the visionary behind Floor64, building up the core idea into reality and recruiting the management team. In addition to providing the strategic direction for the company, Mike oversees all editorial aspects of the Floor64’s public and customer sites. Mike’s insight into... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Whitney Phillips

Dr. Whitney Phillips

Assistant Professor of Literary Studies and Writing, Mercer University
Whitney Phillips is an Assistant Professor of Literary Studies and Writing at Mercer University, and holds a PhD in English with a folklore structured emphasis (digital culture focus). She is the author of This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online... Read More →
avatar for Dr. John Samples

Dr. John Samples

Vice President; Director of Center for Representative Government, CATO Institute
John Samples is a vice president at the Cato Institute. He founded and directs Cato’s Center for Representative Government, which studies the First Amendment, government institutional failure, and public opinion. He is the author of The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political... Read More →

Monday January 29, 2018 2:30pm - 3:20pm EST
Room 704