Dartmouth Events

"Selling out Free Speech", Dr. Mary Anne Franks

The Susan and James Wright Center Lecture Series on Computation and Just Communities More..https://neukom.dartmouth.edu/wright-center/lecture-series-presentations

Monday, October 23, 2023
5:00pm – 6:00pm
Filene Auditorium, Moore Building
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Arts and Sciences, Conferences, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Free Food, Lectures & Seminars

The American conception of free speech is reductionist, consumerist, and antidemocratic. It is fixated on what I call "reckless speech," the hallmarks of which are insincerity, sycophancy, and cowardice. Reckless speakers distance themselves from the views they express; their speech flatters or legitimates those in power; and they are undeterred by the risk of harm to others created by their speech. While the First Amendment in theory is neutral with regard to the subject matter of the speech it protects, in practice it has been deployed most visibly and effectively in the service of powerful antidemocratic interests: misogyny, racism, corporate profits, and religious zealotry. This reductionist and reactionary interpretation of free speech is not contained to the United States, but is rapidly taking hold around the world in part through the tremendous influence of the Internet and related technologies. No industry has benefited more from the sublimation of civil libertarianism into economic libertarianism than the tech industry, which sells the promise of free speech to billions of people around the world in order to surveil, exploit, and manipulate them for profit. The tech industry has accelerated and incentivized life-destroying harassment, irreparable violations of privacy, deadly health misinformation, pernicious conspiracy theories, and terrorist propaganda in the name of free speech.


Mary Anne Franks, Professor of Law and Michael R. Klein Distinguished Scholar Chair, is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on the intersection of civil rights and technology. She teaches classes on First Amendment law, Second Amendment law, criminal law, criminal procedure, family law, and law and technology. Professor Franks is also an Affiliated Faculty member of the University of Miami Department of Philosophy and an Affiliate Fellow of the Yale Law School Information Society Project (ISP). 

Dr. Franks is the author of the award-winning book, The Cult of the Constitution: Our Deadly Devotion to Guns and Free Speech (Stanford Press, 2019). In 2020, she was awarded a grant from the Knight Foundation to support research for her second book, Fearless Speech (expected 2023). Her scholarship has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the California Law Review, and UCLA Law Review, among others. Dr. Franks has also authored numerous articles for the popular press, including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and Newsweek. She received a University of Miami Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity for 2019-2020 and was named a member of the American Law Institute in October 2018. 

Dr. Franks is the President and Legislative & Tech Policy Director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating online abuse and discrimination. In 2013, she drafted the first model criminal statute on nonconsensual pornography (sometimes referred to as “revenge porn”), which has served as the template for multiple state laws and for pending federal legislation on the issue. She also served as the reporter for the Uniform Law Commission’s 2018 Uniform Civil Remedies for the Unauthorized Disclosure of Intimate Images Act. Dr. Franks is a principal investigator for a 2020 National Science Foundation grant project, COVID-19 and sexual cyberviolence: Impact on general users and vulnerable populations. She regularly advises legislators, tech industry leaders, and advocacy organizations on issues relating to online privacy, sexual exploitation, extortion, harassment, and threats.

Learn more at Neukom.Dartmouth.edu


For more information, contact:
Christine Ellen

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.