Over two days last November, the Knight First Amendment Institute convened "The Tech Giants, Monopoly Power, and Public Discourse" symposium with experts in law, computer science, economics, information studies, journalism, political science and other disciplines at Columbia Journalism School and Columbia Law School. The panelists were asked to focus on two major questions: how and to what extent the technology giants’ power is shaping public discourse, and whether anti-monopoly tools might usefully be deployed to expose or counter this power.
The Knight Institute commissioned 12 essays for the symposium, each examining different facets of the influence big tech companies have on our lives and our democratic practices, and proposing different strategies for the way forward.
Below is a selection of quotes and videos from some of the panelists explaining their positions on the most pressing freedom of speech issues related to big tech.
Zuckerman is the director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and associate professor at MIT Media Lab.
"Many people are worried about monopoly power around these questions of online speech because we're suddenly asking either these platforms or the government to have a great deal more power over speech."
Read his paper, "The Case for Digital Infrastructure," here.
Douek is an S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. She also blogs for Lawfare.
"You have situations where these platforms are sharing information and signals between them, Facebook and Google and Twitter, ... but we don’t have any insight or visibility into that. ... They’re sharing the information between themselves, but they’re not sharing that information with us."
Read her paper, "The Rise of the Content Cartels," here.
Teachout is an associate professor of law at Fordham Law School.
"Targeted public ads [help] ... the companies make more money−the more addicted you are, the more you spend time on the sites. And because of that, they prefer content that is extremist and controversial."
Read K. Sabeel Rahman and Zephyr Teachout's "From Private Bads to Public Goods: Adapting Public Utility Regulation for Informational Infrastructure" essay here.
Chilson is a senior research fellow for technology and innovation at the Charles Koch Institute.
"If you're using antitrust to achieve goals that it's not currently built for, you could actually empower some of the people who want to censor content."
Read Neil Chilson and Casey Mattox's "[The] Breakup Speech: Can Antitrust Fix the Relationship Between Platforms and Free Speech Values?" essay here.
ELLEN P. GOODMAN
Goodman is a professor of law at Rutgers University and co-director and co-founder of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law.
"There really needs to be more systemic transparency about who messages are reaching, what kind of content is getting amplified and how the algorithms work."
Read her paper, Digital Information Fidelity and Friction, here.