The Future of Speech Online: The Supreme Court’s Pivotal Term 

For the past 25 years, law around content moderation and the liability of online intermediaries in the United States has been clear. The First Amendment — and heavily debated intermediary liability law Section 230 — have granted content hosts the freedom to set and enforce their policies as they see fit, while being shielded from liability for most user-generated content.

This discretion has been key to enabling a diverse range of speech, developing online communities, and addressing abuse on these services, even as it has vested them with enormous influence over the online information environment. Seismic changes in the legal landscape for online free expression, however, could upend the status quo.

At the sixth annual Future of Speech Online event, “The Supreme Court’s Pivotal Term,” the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and Stand Together Trust will explore the consequences of these potential shifts: The Court is poised to consider multiple cases that address the scope of protections for speech online, including its first-ever examination of Section 230. In Congress, multiple bills have weighed whether content moderation amounts to “discriminatory” behavior that should be legally prohibited. Such fundamental changes could force online services to walk a challenging tightrope between reduced ability to moderate content and increased legal risk over users’ speech, potentially threatening their very existence and jeopardizing people’s ability to find places for their speech online.

On December 6-8, join us to deliberate over strategies for protecting online speech and addressing abuse, and consider questions including: Is content moderation “censorship,” or a necessary part of responsible online content hosting? When should intermediaries be liable for speech posted by their users? Who should decide who gets to have access to major online platforms for speech? We’ll hear from legal experts, online service providers, advocates fighting against online hate and disinformation, and more. 

Center for Democracy and Technology

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) is a 27-year-old 501(c)3 nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to promote democratic values by shaping technology policy and architecture, with a focus on equity and justice. The organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has a Europe Office in Brussels, Belgium.

Stand Together Trust

Stand Together Trust supports social entrepreneurs across society working in education, communities, business, and government. We do this by supporting applied research that turns great ideas into practical solutions and investing in projects that demonstrate new and better ways to tackle the root causes of our country’s biggest problems.