Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Finstas, Falsehoods and the First Amendment

Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Jeff Kosseff, Jen Patja
Thursday, October 14, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With
Brookings

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s recent testimony before Congress has set in motion a renewed cycle of outrage over the company’s practices—and a renewed round of discussion around what, if anything, Congress should do to rein Facebook in. But how workable are these proposals, really?


This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jeff Kosseff, an associate professor of cybersecurity law at the United States Naval Academy, and the guy that has literally written not just the book on this, but two of them. He is the author of “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet,” a book about Section 230, and he has another book coming out next year about First Amendment protections for anonymous speech, titled “The United States of Anonymous.” So Jeff is very well positioned to evaluate recent suggestions that Facebook should, for example, limit the ability of young people to create what users call Finstas, a second, secret Instagram account for a close circle of friends—or Haugen’s suggestion that the government should regulate how Facebook amplifies certain content through its algorithms. Jeff discussed the importance of online anonymity, the danger of skipping past the First Amendment when proposing tech reforms, and why he thinks that Section 230 reform has become unavoidable … even if that reform might not make any legal or policy sense.



Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Jeff Kosseff is a nonresident senior legal fellow at The Future of Free Speech Project. The views expressed in this piece are only his.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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