On Friday, October 20, the Knight Institute will host a closed convening at Columbia University to explore the question of jawboning: informal government efforts to persuade, cajole, or strong-arm private platforms to change their content-moderation policies. Some of these efforts are probably best understood as a legitimate aspect of governance. Others are probably best understood as illegitimate—and possibly unconstitutional—efforts to manipulate or censor public discourse. The latter efforts are especially concerning because platforms often have every incentive to bow to pressure from government actors.
This convening will bring together a group of legal experts, former social media platform representatives, and civil society advocates to consider empirical and theoretical questions about the mechanisms of jawboning, its significance as a form of censorship, relevant First Amendment precedents, and possible regulation or other remedies. While the convening is not open to the public, participants will write short (3-5 page) notes in advance of the event, and these will be published on the Institute’s website.
The participants include:
Enrique Armijo is a Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law. He is affiliated with the Yale Law School Information Society Project, the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Information, Technology and Public Life, and George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. He researches and teaches First Amendment, constitutional, and media and internet law.
Derek Bambauer is the Irving Cypen Professor of Law at the Levin College of Law, University of Florida, where he teaches internet law, cybersecurity, and intellectual property. Bambauer’s research areas include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, internet censorship, and intellectual property.
Jack Balkin is the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School. He is the founder and director of Yale’s Information Society Project and directs the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Knight Law and Media Program at Yale. He has authored more than 140 articles and several books in the field, and founded and edits the group blog Balkinization.
Ashutosh Bhagwat is the Boochever and Bird Endowed Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality at the UC Davis School of Law. He is the author of The Myth of Rights and Our Democratic First Amendment. Ash is also the Executive Editor of the Journal of Free Speech Law.
Hannah Bloch-Wehba is an Associate Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. She teaches and writes on the intersection of tech and civil liberties, with a focus on free expression, privacy, and government accountability. She is affiliated with Yale Law School’s Information Society project, NYU School of Law’s Policing Project, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. She was previously a Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute and host of the Knight Institute’s podcast “Views on First.” Evelyn obtained her doctorate from Harvard Law School, where she researched private and public regulation of online speech.
Will Duffield is a Policy Analyst in the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government, where he studies speech and internet governance. His research focuses on government regulation and private rules that govern Americans’ speech online.
Michael Glennon is a Professor of Constitutional and International Law at Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He is the author of numerous books and articles on constitutional and international law, and previously served as legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In December, Oxford will publish his next book: Free Speech and Turbulent Freedom: The Dangerous Allure of Censorship in the Digital Era.
David Greene is the Senior Staff Attorney and Civil Liberties Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco School of Law and is an expert on First Amendment and media law. Prior to joining EFF, he was the Executive Director of the First Amendment Project and the National Program Director for the National Campaign for Free Expression.
Katie Harbath is the Chief Executive of Anchor Change, where she helps clients think through their civic engagement online. Her expertise is at the intersection of elections, democracy, and technology, and she is affiliated with the International Republican Institute, Atlantic Council, and the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Dean Jackson is a democracy, media, and technology specialist. He is currently a principal of Public Circle Research and Consulting. Previously, he was an investigative analyst with the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack and managed mis- and disinformation research with the National Endowment for Democracy.
Daphne Keller directs the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center. Her work focuses on platform regulation and internet users’ rights. She is a lecturer at Stanford Law School and is affiliated with the Center for Internet and Society. Previously, Daphne was Associate General Counsel for Google.
Genevieve Lakier is Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. Her work looks at the changing meaning of free speech in the U.S. and the role legislatures play in safeguarding free speech values on social media platforms. She was the Knight Institute’s 2021-2022 Senior Visiting Research School, where she led an inquiry into the First Amendment and dis- and misinformation in the public sphere.
Matt Perault is the Director of the Center on Technology Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, a professor of the practice at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, and a consultant on technology policy issues at Open Water Strategies. Previously, he was a Director of Public Policy at Facebook.
Yoel Roth is a Technology Policy Fellow at UC Berkeley and a Non-resident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on how to address collective security challenges on social media. From 2015 to 2022, he was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter, leading the platform’s content moderation and security efforts.
This project on jawboning is the latest in a series of research initiatives the Knight Institute has sponsored at the intersection of free speech and new technology. Earlier initiatives included:
Algorithmic Amplification and Society: A project studying algorithmic amplification and distortion, and exploring ways to minimize harmful amplifying or distorting effects.
Reimagine the Internet: An event designed to spark conversations about how we could design new internet spaces that could lead towards healthier discussions, communities, and societies.
The Tech Giants, Monopoly Power, and Public Discourse: A symposium exploring how and to what extent the technology giants’ power is shaping public discourse, and whether anti-monopoly tools might usefully be deployed to expose or counter this power.
Katy Glenn Bass is the Knight Institute’s research director.