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Gaining power, losing control

Gaining power, losing control

In the wake of the Capitol riots and the deplatforming of Donald Trump, Harvard Law tech expert Jonathan Zittrain explores the clash of free speech and public health online

As we grapple with disinformation driving the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol and hundreds of thousands of deaths from a pandemic whose nature and mitigation is subject to heated dispute, social media companies are weighing how to respond to both the political and public health disinformation, or intentionally false information, that they can spread.

These decisions haven’t taken place in a vacuum, says Jonathan Zittrain ’95, Harvard’s George Bemis Professor of International Law and Professor of Computer Science. Rather, he says, they’re part of a years-long trend from viewing digital governance first through a “Rights” framework, then through a “Public Health” framework, and, with them irreconcilable, most immediately through a “Legitimacy” framework.

Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Societydelivered his remarks as part of the first of two editions of the 2020 Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Clare Hall, Cambridge, a prestigious lecture series that advances and reflects upon how scholarly and scientific learning relates to human values.

Read more on Harvard Law Today

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