Experts consider the future of democracy in the "Internet Era"

(September 21, 2010) LOUISVILLE, Ky.- Four prominent free speech scholars from the U.S. and Europe discussed free speech and the future of democracy in the so-called "Internet Era."
Experts consider the future of democracy in the "Internet Era"

A four-person panel of prominent free speech scholars from the U.S. and Europe considered the challenges presented by the Internet and the possibilities and perils for democracy in a discussion entitled, "From Gutenberg to the Internet: Free Speech in the Internet Era and Implications for Democracy." The event was held Sept. 14, 12-1:15 p.m., at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

Russell L. Weaver (Louis D. Brandeis School of Law), Ron Krotoszynski (University of Alabama School of Law), Tobias Keber (Johannes Gutenberg University) and John Knecthtle (Florida Coastal School of Law) were panelists. Student Tommy Sturgeon, editor in chief of the University of Louisville Law Review, moderated the panel.

Knecthtle argued that the Internet was not a new force of communication, rather an amplification of existing forces. While promising, the Internet has not revolutionized civic involvement and dispersed political power as there remains a lack of security and the unequal distribution of technology, Knecthtle said.

Certain proposed legislation continues to allow gatekeepers to censor information, thereby infringing on the free speech of citizens, Keber pointed out. A paradigm shift needs to occur to resolve the tension between freedom of speech versus freedom of information, Weaver said.

McConnell Scholar Ben Shephard (Class of 2012, Oldham County) agreed: “What this panel discussion illustrates is that the questions and problems associated with free speech have changed little from the Renaissance to the present. While the means through which we communicate ideas change as to scale and scope, the ideas themselves do not.”

The event was co-sponsored with The Federalist Society and International Law Society.

Learn more about the event-McConnell Center Reflections by Meagan Floyd (Class of 2013, Jefferson County)