Deplatforming is Not Censorship, with Rick Hasen

Richard L. Hasen is one of the nation's foremost experts on election law. He teaches law and political science at the University of California-Irvine. He is co-director of the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center. He runs the Election Law Blog. And he has written numerous previous books, including The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown, in 2012, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court and the Distortion of American Elections in 2016, and Election Meltdown in 2020.

Hasen's new book - "Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics - and How to Cure It" - lays out a diagnosis of the problem. "The survival of American democracy depends on the success of free and fair periodic elections in which voters have access to reliable information to make ballot decisions that are consistent with their preferences and interests, and where the losers accept the results as legitimate and agree to fight another day."

The entire second half of Hasen's book is a fairly detailed examination of potential ways to ameliorate the problem. Several are legal and regulatory, and then a few have more to do with civil society. In the legal arena, Hasen says that the U.S. Supreme Court is a likely obstacle to several reforms. "  

Hasen said the court’s conservative justices have an “outmoded” view of how to apply the First Amendment’s free speech protections that relies on a “marketplace of ideas model in which citizens debate ideas publicly and the truth rises to the top.”


Hasen is skeptical that such a purely self-regulating marketplace of ideas has ever existed, but he is adamant that it does not now. “The marketplace of ideas is experiencing market failure,” he writes.

He says that the First Amendment is a vital “bulwark against government censorship,” but adds that “the greatest danger today is a public that cannot determine truth or make voting decisions that are based on accurate information, and a public susceptible to political manipulation through repeatedly amplified, data-targeted, election related content, some of it false or misleading.”

In this conversation, we talk a little bit about some of his proposed reforms, and why the Supreme Court's conservative justices are a likely obstacle to them. And we also discuss why decisions by social media platforms to remove public figures is not, in his view, censorship.

You can listen to Rick's previous appearance on "The Long Game," from July 2020, here.

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