A small number of tech companies now control the digital public square, or large parts of it. These companies have an enormous influence over who can speak, what can be said, and who gets heard. During this symposium, we’ll examine the extent and nature of the technology giants’ power to structure, shape, and distort public discourse, and we'll consider whether anti-monopoly tools might usefully be deployed to limit, expose, or counter this power.





Thursday, November 14, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Columbia Journalism School

Joseph D. Jamail Lecture Hall


Private platforms, public discourse

In this stage-setting conversation, we’ll discuss digital platform business models and their impact on public discourse, relative advantages and disadvantages of content-based regulation versus structural reform, and the relevance of First Amendment principles to these issues. This panel will sharpen the questions we’ll tackle over the course of the symposium.


Steve Coll, Dean, Columbia Journalism School

Opening remarks

Jameel Jaffer, Knight First Amendment Institute


Jack Balkin, Yale Law School

Emily Bell, Columbia Journalism School

Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Lina Khan, Columbia Law School


Katy Glenn Bass, Knight First Amendment Institute


Friday, November 15, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Columbia Law School

Jerome Greene Hall, Room 104


9:30 am


Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University


9:45 am - 11:15 am

Information plurality and integrity in an era of concentrated power

For a number of related reasons—media consolidation, the collapse of local news, the mechanics of surveillance capitalism—a small number of technology companies occupy central positions in our speech environment.  These companies’ human and algorithmic decisions have an outsized influence on the quality and integrity of the information we see, as well as on who sees which information, and in which context they see it. In this conversation, we’ll consider legal or institutional reforms that could protect the public’s access to a diversity of news sources and improve the quality and integrity of the information that underlies public discourse.


Lina Khan, Columbia Law School

Susan McGregor, Columbia Journalism School

Andrea Prat, Columbia University

Ethan Zuckerman, MIT Media Lab


Vivian Schiller, Civil Foundation



11:15 am - 11:30 Am

Coffee Break 

Outside Jerome Greene Hall, Room 104


11:30 am - 1:00 pm

New (and old) approaches to shaping the online information environment

Legislators, advocates, and scholars—some of our contributors among them—have proposed a wide variety of legislative and regulatory reforms to address information disorders on digital platforms, including disorders that stem from the technology companies’ increasing power over the speech environment. In response to the threat of legislation, the largest technology companies have begun to develop their own measures to address some of these disorders. In this conversation, we’ll evaluate the promise of these proposed and already-implemented measures and consider whether opening new avenues for government intervention would give rise to new risks for free speech online.


Neil Chilson, Charles Koch Institute

Evelyn Douek, Harvard Law School

Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers Law School

Surya Mattu, The Markup


Alex Abdo, Knight First Amendment Institute



1:00 pm - 2:15 pm


Drapkin Lounge, Jerome Greene Hall (second floor)


2:15 pm - 3:45 pm

Public options, public utilities, public spheres

Questions about information policy and communications infrastructure are tied up with notions of the common and the public good. As the power of privately owned social media platforms has expanded, concerns about the platforms’ dominance and opacity have prompted proposals to regulate the platforms as public utilities, or to intervene more directly in their operations in the name of the public interest. Simultaneously, as other nations advance a vision of an internet that is heavily surveilled, censored, and manipulated, questions about what values we want the internet to reflect have returned again to the fore. In this conversation, we’ll discuss some of the most ambitious proposals for restructuring the internet, and we’ll consider some of the most powerful arguments for and against those proposals.


Richard John, Columbia Journalism School

John Samples, Cato Institute

Ganesh Sitaraman, Vanderbilt Law School

Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Law School


Ramya Krishnan, Knight First Amendment Institute



3:50 pm - 5:15 pm

First Amendment as object and obstacle

Animating many landmarks of First Amendment jurisprudence is a concern about centralized control over the speech environment. But as the courts have construed the First Amendment to protect an ever-wider range of activity, it may be the First Amendment itself that is the most significant obstacle to some of the antimonopoly reforms that legislators and others are proposing.  In our closing conversation, we’ll reflect on the intertwined histories of the First Amendment and antitrust law, and we’ll consider whether, and to what extent, the First Amendment could prove an obstacle to legislative and regulatory proposals meant to protect our system of free expression.  We’ll also consider whether reform proposals could be restructured in ways that would make them less likely to fall foul of the Roberts Court’s First Amendment.


Daniel Crane, University of Michigan Law School

Genevieve Lakier, University of Chicago Law School

Tim Wu, Columbia Law School


Olivier Sylvain, Fordham Law School



Program Materials