Is free expression online threatened by content removal?

U.S. laws regulating online speech offer broad protections for private companies, but experts worry free expression may be threatened by "better safe than sorry" voluntary censorship.

A member of the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrates outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • U.S. laws regulating online speech offer broad protections for internet intermediaries.
  • Despite this, companies typically follow a "better safe than sorry" approach to protect against legal action or loss of reputation.
  • Silencing contentious opinions can have detrimental effects, such as social exclusion and negating reconciliation.
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Angry with someone online? You should (literally) hear them out.

Want a genuine exchange of ideas? Science proves you won't get that in the comments section.

Photo: Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • A 2016 Pew Research survey showed that half of political discussion online leaves participants feeling worse off then when they started.
  • Ideological opponents are less likely to be dehumanized when their voices are heard aloud vs. typing.
  • Morally outrageous content is more likely to be shared than rational political talking points.
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The science behind why our brains make us cooperate (or disagree)

Studies from neuroscience highlight how the brain both helps with and prevents collaboration.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Neuroscientists identify the parts of the brain that affect our social decision-making.
  • Guilt has a large affect on social interactions, find the researchers.
  • To find ways to cooperate, people need to let go of fear and anxiety, suggest studies
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If you lost friends in the 2016 election, watch this

American society is in trouble if we let fundamental disagreements cancel entire relationships.

Videos
  • As the saying goes: Diversity isn't rocket science—it's harder. Living in a diverse civil society isn't just about embracing the things we like, says Eboo Patel. That's the 'egg rolls and samosas' view. Diversity means cooperating through disagreements.
  • Have you ever judged someone harshly, ended a relationship or avoided one because of a fundamental disagreement? "Does the fact of that disagreement—voting differently in a particular election, disagreeing on fundamental issues, immigration policy for example, or abortion—does that disagreement cancel any chance of a relationship? If it does, we don't have a civil society anymore," says Patel.
  • Even so, there are limits—what Patel calls the 'true barbarians'. In political philosophy, that person is defined as someone who destroys the conversation. With some groups, like the KKK, there can be no productive disagreements. Anyone else, you should try to engage with.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
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