Wright Center Lecture Series

A Susan and James Wright Center Lecture on Computation and Just Communities

Dr. Mary Anne Franks

"Selling out Free Speech"

October 23, 2023, 5pm in person at the Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall, Dartmouth College.

OR Livestreamed on Dartmouth Youtube

Wright Center Hosts Law Professor Mary Anne Franks for Campus Lecture - The Dartmouth

Free and open to the public with reception to follow

Abstract and Bio below


Mary Anne Franks

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.


Dr. Mary Anne Franks is the Eugene L. and Barbara A. Bernard Professor in Intellectual Property, Technology, and Civil Rights Law at the George Washington University Law School. She is an internationally recognized expert on the intersection of civil rights, free speech, and technology. Her other areas of expertise include family law, criminal law, criminal procedure, First Amendment law, and Second Amendment law.

Dr. Franks is also 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 served as the reporter for the Uniform Law Commission's 2018 Uniform Civil Remedies for the Unauthorized Disclosure of Intimate Images Act and frequently advises state and federal legislators on various forms of technology-facilitated abuse. Dr. Franks also advises several major technology platforms on privacy, free expression, and safety issues. She has been an Affiliate Fellow of the Yale Law School Information Society Project since 2019.

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). She was awarded a Knight Foundation grant to support research for her second book, Fearless Speech, which is expected in 2024. Her scholarship has also appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the California Law Review, and UCLA Law Review, among others.

Prior to joining the GW faculty, Dr. Franks was the Michael R. Klein Distinguished Scholar Chair at the University of Miami School of Law and an Affiliated Faculty member of the University of Miami Department of Philosophy. She previously taught at the University of Chicago Law School as a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law and at Harvard University as a lecturer in social studies and philosophy. She holds a JD from Harvard Law School as well as a doctorate and a master's degree from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. She was named a member of the American Law Institute in October 2018 and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

The Inaugural Susan and James Wright Center Lecture on Computation and Just Communities

Dr. Ruha Benjamin

September 20, 2023, 3:30pm ET in-person at the Oopik Auditorium, Life Sciences Center, Dartmouth College

Princeton Professor Ruha Benjamin Delivers Inaugural Wright Center Lecture - The Dartmouth

This event is also available online, please request access by emailing your full name and affiliation to the Wright.Center@Dartmouth.edu and you will be sent the private link.


Ruha Benjamin

From automated decision systems in healthcare, policing, education and more, technologies have the potential to deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to harmful practices of a previous era. In this talk, Ruha Benjamin takes us into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provides conceptual tools to decode tech predictions with historical and sociological insight. When it comes to AI, Ruha shifts our focus from the dystopian and utopian narratives we are sold, to a sober reckoning with the way these tools are already a part of our lives. Whereas dystopias are the stuff of nightmares, and utopias the stuff of dreams… us topias are what we create together when we are wide awake.

Full Bio

Ruha Benjamin is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, founding director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, and author of the award-winning book Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, among many other publications. Her work investigates the social dimensions of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and inequity, health and justice, knowledge and power. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Marguerite Casey Foundation Freedom Scholar Award and the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton. Her most recent book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want, winner of the 2023 Stowe Prize, was born out of the twin plagues of COVID-19 and police violence and offers a practical and principled approach to transforming our communities and helping us build a more just and joyful world.