Lying has been a part of society since the beginning. Over the past decade, however, it has become increasingly clear that damaging lies and falsehoods are amplified as never before through social media platforms that reach billions. Lies have abounded: about COVID-19, about vaccines, about public officials, about products. And unfriendly governments have circulated lies in order to create chaos in other nations. In the face of these problems, renowned legal scholar Cass Sunstein probes the fundamental question of how we can deter lies while also protecting one of our most fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech.
Sunstein joins us via livestream with a powerful analysis of why lies and falsehoods spreads so rapidly now, with support from his book Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception. He examines why free societies must often allow falsehoods and lies, reasoning that we cannot and should not trust governments to make unbiased judgments about what counts as a lie. However, he argues, governments should have the power to regulate specific kinds of falsehoods. And moreover, he believes that private institutions like Facebook and Twitter, have a responsibility to greater exercise their authority to stop the spread of lies. Navigating a fine balance, Sunstein contends that we can reform our laws and policies regarding speech to alleviate the problem–and still protect the promises contained in the Bill of Rights.
Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University. From 2009 to 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2018, he received the Holberg Prize from the Government of Norway, often described as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for law and humanities. Founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, he has been involved in law reform activities in nations all over the world. He is the author of many articles and books, including Nudge, How Change Happens, and Too Much Information.