Hate Speech on Social Media: Is There a Way to a More Civil Discussion?
October 10, 2019
First Amendment Watch, ConSource, and the John Brademas Center at New York University co-hosted a panel discussion entitled, “Hate Speech on Social Media: Is There a Way to a More Civil Discussion?” A book signing by Professor Timothy Zick, author of The First Amendment in the Trump Era, immediately followed the panel discussion.
The panelists discussed if social media has facilitated greater freedom of expression and a “marketplace of ideas,” if the government should have a role in regulating content on social media platforms, the available remedies for people who are attacked on social media in the United States and abroad, and advice they would give to individuals on how to handle hate speech directed towards them on social media.
The speakers for the evening included Wajahat Ali, Attorney, Playwright, New York Times Op-Ed Contributor, Lata Nott, Executive Director of the First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum Institute, Timothy Zick, Constitutional and First Amendment Professor of Law at William and Mary Law School, and author of a new book, The First Amendment in the Trump Era, and serving as moderator for the evening was Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project.
Please note that this event may have been filmed and/or photographed.
Wajahat Ali, Attorney, Playwright, New York Times Op-Ed Contributor
Wajahat Ali—a New York Times contributing op-ed writer who regularly appears on CNN to discuss politics—is a new kind of public intellectual: young, exuberant, and optimistic. He speaks on the multifaceted American experience, covering our growing need for cultural unity, racial diversity and inclusion. In hilarious, politically up-to-the-minute talks, Ali shows how to learn from, and join with what he calls “the multicultural coalition of the willing”—the emergent generation poised for social change.
Wajahat Ali is a journalist, writer, lawyer, an award-winning playwright, a TV personality, and a consultant for the U.S. State Department. He helped launch the Al Jazeera America network as co-host of The Stream, a daily news show that extended the conversation to social media and beyond. He was also a National Correspondent, Political Reporter, and Social Media Expert for Al Jazeera America. There, he focused on stories of communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media. As a playwright, Ali is the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans post-9/11—which was published by McSweeney’s and performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center. He is a Peabody-nominated producer of the series The Secret Life of Muslims, a series of short-form, first-person documentary films featuring a diverse set of American Muslims. Ali was also the lead author and researcher of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the seminal report from the Center for American Progress.
Previously, as Creative Director of Affinis Labs, Ali worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives that have a positive impact for marginalized communities, and to empower social entrepreneurs, young leaders, creatives, and communities to come up with innovative solutions to tackle world problems. Recently, Affinis Labs launched a global startup incubator network, aimed at identifying and fostering “emerging entrepreneurial talent from around the world that understands what makes the global Islamic economy special.”
In 2012, Ali worked with the U.S. Department of State to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. He initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. He was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Ali has given many presentations, from Google, to the United Nations, to Princeton, to The Abu Dhabi Book Festival. His writing appears regularly in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Salon. He is a frequent guest on CNN to discuss politics and current affairs.
Lata Nott, Executive Director of the First Amendment Center, Freedom Forum Institute
Lata Nott is the Executive Director of the First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum Institute. Prior to that, she was the assistant director of admissions at the Georgetown University Law Center, and a litigator in New York City at the law firms of Proskauer Rose and Chadbourne & Parke. Nott graduated from the University of California, Davis, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelor of Arts in international relations. She earned her Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School in 2010.
Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director, The Constitutional Sources Project
Julie Silverbrook is Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization devoted to increasing understanding, facilitating research, and encouraging discussion of the US Constitution by connecting individuals with the documentary history of its creation, ratification, and amendment. ConSource educates lawyers, judges, teachers, and students about United States Constitutional History. Prior to leading ConSource, Silverbrook was the Founding Director of an award-winning constitutional literacy program called Constitutional Conversations, in collaboration with the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at William & Mary Law School, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and the Williamsburg Regional Library System. Silverbrook has given lectures and presentations on the Constitution at a number of colleges and universities, including The George Washington University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Baltimore, and the University of Virginia, as well as at historical societies, presidential homes, state bar associations, and social studies associations.
In 2015, Silverbrook and venture capitalist Chuck Stetson launched the National Constitutional Literacy Campaign. The Mission of the National Constitutional Literacy Campaign is to increase visibility and financial support for the constellation of organizations educating citizens along the learning spectrum—from kindergarten to adulthood—about the American Constitution and our nation’s history. In addition to assembling a broad and diverse group of organizations, including non-partisan, non-profits, for-profit entities, and groups from both the left and right who believe in the fundamental importance of constitutional literacy and civics education, the National Constitutional Literacy Campaign also publishes an annual Constitution Day special section in The Washington Times.
Silverbrook holds a J.D. from the William & Mary Law School, where she received the National Association of Women Lawyers Award and the Thurgood Marshall Award and served as a Senior Articles Editor on the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa (elected as Junior) from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science. Upon graduation, she was awarded the GW Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Scholar Award, the highest academic award given to a student in the arts and sciences college. Silverbrook was also awarded the John C. Morgan Prize by the Department of Political Science—an award given annually to an outstanding graduate pursuing a law degree after graduation. In 2013, she was awarded a GW Political Science Department 100th Anniversary Alumni Award.
Silverbrook currently serves on the George Washington University Alumni Association Board of Directors, and the steering committee of the National Archives Foundation's Young Founders Society.
Timothy Zick, Constitutional and First Amendment Professor of Law, William and Mary Law School, Author
Timothy Zick is the John Marshall Professor of Government and Citizenship and Cabell Research Professor at William and Mary Law School. Professor Zick graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University, and summa cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center. Following law school, Zick was an associate
with the law firms of Williams and Connolly in Washington, D.C., and Foley Hoag in Boston. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Levin H. Campbell of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Zick is the author of four university
press books on the First Amendment, and is the author of a new book, The First Amendment in the Trump Era, published by Oxford University Press.
Other questions to consider for the evening:
- Why does bullying, trolling, proliferation of fake or misleading information, and other antisocial and antidemocratic behaviors seem more prevalent on social media?
- What can social media companies do to police these activities? What should they avoid? Is there a danger of chilling speech?
- What are some of the informal roles non-governmental actors can play in setting behavioral norms for social media use?
- How do governments, here in the U.S. and abroad, address issues related to hate speech? Does this have application in the social media context? Does social media present a unique set of challenges to the application of these laws? If so, what are they?
- What advice would you give to Facebook and Twitter on how to handle hate speech on their platforms?