Redefining Free Speech for the Digital Age


The internet has set us free. The internet will destroy our democracy. Both the utopian and apocalyptic hype share a common belief that there is something unprecedented about the power of digital communications online.

Future Tense and the Tech, Law & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law are launching a collaborative year-long Free Speech Project, an open-minded and far-reaching inquiry into the current state, and future prospects, of free speech. Does the revolution of communications technology we’ve witnessed over the past quarter-century demand a fundamental re-evaluation of traditional (and close to absolutist) American free speech tenets—or should we reassert these tenets as timeless and all the more essential to our current environment? What are the roles and responsibilities of tech companies that mediate our speech online? Who decides what we can and can’t say?

Please join us for the launch event on February 24 at the American University Washington College of Law, located at 4300 Nebraska Avenue NW, Warren Building, Ceremonial Classroom, where we will begin our exploration of these questions with an exciting group of thinkers to look at how similar debates around speech have played out in the past.


3:00 PM: Registration

3:30 - 4:15 PM: First Things First

Anne-Marie Slaughter
, @SlaughterAM
CEO, New America
Author of The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World

Sylvia M. Burwell, @SylviaBurwell
President, American University


Jennifer Daskal
, @jendaskal
Professor and Faculty Director, Tech, Law, & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law

4:15 - 5:00 PM: Obnoxious Speech Before the Age of Twitter

David Greenberg
, @republicofspin
Professor of Journalism & Media Studies and History, Rutgers University
Author of Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency

Heidi Tworek, @HeidiTworek
Assistant Professor of International History, University of British Columbia
Author of News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900–1945

Nicole Hemmer, @pastpunditry
Associate research scholar, Obama Presidency Oral History project at Columbia University
Author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics

W. Joseph Campbell, @wjosephcampbell
Professor, American University School of Communication
Author of Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism


Katherine Mangu-Ward
, @kmanguward
Editor in chief, Reason
Future Tense Fellow

5:00 - 5:30 PM: Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All

Suzanne Nossel
, @SuzanneNossel
CEO, PEN America
Author of the forthcoming Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All

Cecilia Muñoz, @cecmunoz
Vice President for Public Interest Technology and Local Initiatives, New America


Andrés Martinez
, @andresDCmtz
Editorial director, Future Tense

5:30 PM: Drinks and Conversation

The Free Speech Project is in partnership with the Tech, Law & Security Program at American University Washington College of Law:

Free Speech Project Logo.png