Bowers CIS Distinguished Lecture on Free Expression: Dr. Mary Anne Franks

Dr. Mary Anne Franks is the Eugene L. and Barbara A. Bernard Professor in Intellectual Property, Technology, and Civil Rights Law at the George Washington University Law School. She is an internationally recognized expert on the intersection of civil rights, free speech, and technology.

ABSTRACT: The prevailing American conception of free speech is reductionist, consumerist, and antidemocratic. While the First Amendment in theory is neutral with regard to the content of the speech it protects, in practice it is invoked most visibly and eectively in the service of powerful antidemocratic interests, including misogyny, racism, and religious zealotry. The fetishization of reckless speech is not contained to the United States, but has rapidly taken hold around the world due to the influence of the Internet and related
technologies. No industry has benefited more from the convergence of civil libertarianism and economic libertarianism than the tech
industry, which sells the promise of free speech to billions of people around the world in order to surveil, exploit, and manipulate
them for profit. In the name of free speech, the tech industry has accelerated and incentivized serious abuses— including “revenge
porn,” doxxing, and deepfakes— that inflict life-destroying and irreparable harm on vulnerable communities.

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