With Dr. Michael Edward “Ed” Lenert, Plutopians discuss communications and democracy: the Fairness Doctrine, hate speech, cancel culture, and much more. Ed’s work is at the intersection of communication theories and democratic practices. He has 25 years of experience teaching law, communications, and journalism at the university level, including MA and PhD-level students. He is a licensed attorney in California with 30 years of experience and has taught communications law and other classes at the University of San Francisco since 2009. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he earned his Ph.D. from The University of Texas and his law degree from Georgetown Law School. From 2005-2009, he was a Professor, and the Fred W. Smith Chair in Critical Thinking and Ethical Practices, at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada.
“In the case of the New York Times, vs Sullivan, the very famous libel case, the New York Times republished the libel and became standing in the same shoes as the libelous party. By republishing a libel, you have equal responsibility. And under Section 230, you have zero responsibility. The user generated content you’re indifferent to. So I think some happy medium needs to be found between this absolute immunity for harmful content and free expression. So, for example, my students work a lot with hate speech in the graduate class. One of their assignments is to develop a hate speech policy for an imaginary online company. And you look at Facebook’s hate speech policy as an example, and it’s just a horrible mismatch, a jumble of impossible to interpret rules.”