Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cato First Amendment forum occurs just as Russian use of social media to undermine democracy unravels itself

Other important topics covered on the Cato Institute’s “The Future of the First Amendment” on Sept. 28 included commercial speech (Martin Redish) and campaign finance (the Citizen’s United issue, Jeffrey Milyo, and later Jeffrey Herbst).  Another important presentation was Emily Ekins and the Cato Institute 2017 Free Speech National Survey (for example).   One particularly notable finding was that a majority of people thought that employers should be able to fire people for social media posts even off the job.  

The Cato survey took place the same week that the sensational revelations about the attempts by Russians to disrupt American society through fake social media accounts and ads appeared in the mainstream media. As explained on Smerconish on CNN Saturday morning, the intention behind Russian intervention was not so much to help Trump win as to sow discord among “neglected” groups in American society to discredit American-style democracy and boost authoritarianism in their own countries.  Some of the regulations proposed already for political ads could include “free ads”, throwing us back to the 2005 controversy over whether political blogs could by themselves constitute illegal “contributions

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