The Internet and social media have played an incredible role in facilitating communication and disseminating diverse viewpoints. Despite connecting people like never before and promoting free speech to an unprecedented extent, the Internet has also served to undermine our social values and drive people apart. Racism, profanity, pornography, and misogyny are as common on social media as mutual friends and hashtags.
Internet culture’s proclivity towards profanity and incivility is largely related to the anonymity of Internet speech. Users are able to hide behind a username or Twitter handle, and avoid being held personally accountable for their online conduct. The result is an erosion of decency in Internet communications. Is it possible to reconcile the norms of civil society with Internet culture? How ought online decorum be enforced?
On July 6th, Hudson Institute hosted Jeffrey Herbst, President and CEO of the Newseum, for a discussion on protecting free speech while promoting civility in Internet communications. Harold Furchtgott-Roth, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for the Economics of the Internet, moderated the event.