Why Policymakers Should Protect Public Speech Online

Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
2253 Rayburn House Office Building
45 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20515

Every day, Internet users generate millions of new posts on blogs, social networks, and e-commerce platforms to share their opinions and feedback with others. However, some individuals have found their rights under assault as they are threatened with meritless lawsuits introduced for the sole purpose of silencing their voices. This type of lawsuit, known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or a SLAPP, can have adverse effects on free speech, intimidating users from posting negative reviews or sharing critical feedback, and creating a negative impact on markets as consumers have less information to make informed choices. While there is a patchwork of states that have legal protections against these lawsuits, there is still no federal baseline level of protection for citizens’ basic rights of petition and free expression online. Mounting a defense against this type of lawsuit can be expensive, and without creating additional protections, consumers who are dissatisfied with merchants or reporters who speak out against those in power may soon find that free speech is more a luxury than a right.

Please join ITIF for a panel discussion on how policymakers can protect public discourse and civic participation, while not deterring parties from filing legitimate lawsuits.

Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX), cosponsor of the bipartisan Securing Participation, Engagement, and Knowledge Freedom by Reducing Egregious Efforts (SPEAK FREE) Act of 2015, will make opening remarks.

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Blake Farenthold
Representative (R-TX)
U.S. Congress
Daniel Castro
Vice President, ITIF, and Director, Center for Data Innovation
Laurent Crenshaw
Head of Federal Public Policy
Mike Godwin
Distinguished Senior Fellow
R Street Institute
Kevin Goldberg
Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth
Michael Hayes
Government Affairs Manager
Consumer Technology Association
Evan Mascagni
Policy Director
Public Participation Project