I’ve commented frequently about the tendency of foreign governments to interfere with speech rights in pursuit of legitimate public policy objectives. Is there hate speech or terrorist material online? Let’s require websites and social media platforms to purge it from their systems. Is there outdated or irrelevant material online? Let’s require search engines to delete links to this material. Is there fake news? Let’s require online websites to block it. In each case, the law would go too far. It would restrict far more speech than is necessary to achieve legitimate policy goals.
At last week’s RightsCon in Brussels, much of the talk was about “fake news” and what to do about it. I was on one of several panels devoted to the topic and found the conversation enlightening. Here’s what I said and some of my reactions from the panel.
The panel’s title was “Resisting Content Regulation in the Post-Truth World: How to Fix Fake News and the Algorithmic Curation of Social Media.” So, unsurprisingly, the panelists largely agreed that the government should stay out of the way. I met no resistance when I said that freedom of expression means that governments should not determine what is or and what is not fake news; that’s a path to censorship, and we don’t want to go there.
I also got buy-in from my second big point, which was that Internet platforms are playing and ought to play a crucial role in controlling the spread of fake news.
This role has two distinct components. Platforms ha ...