WEF Professor Warns Free Speech ‘Leading to Harm’ Because It’s ‘Legal’

A top Ivy League professor has warned her colleagues at the World Economic Forum (WEF) that free speech is “leading to harm” because it is currently “legal.”

Claire Wardle, a Brown University professor and member of the WEF, expressed her frustration that the First Amendment allows people to legally speak freely, even if they express views that conflict with the official narrative.

She argued during a World Economic Forum panel discussion that the lack of limitations on free speech is to blame for “misinformation” spreading online because it is not illegal.

Wardle suggested that it may be necessary to change free speech laws to prevent “low-level” or “hateful” information from being repeated.

“Well, it might be legal, but if it’s leading to harm, can’t we actually have a conversation about that?” she said to Adrian Monck, the WEF’s Head of Public and Social Engagement, who was moderating the panel.

She continued by explaining to Monck and the panel that her “fear” is that the First Amendment allows people to say things that are deemed to be “disinformation” without breaking the law or social media guidelines.

“So my fear, when it comes to your point, Adrian, is that people say: ‘Oh, the First Amendment, what kind of harm is this causing?’” Wardle explained.

“Well, what does this kind of low-level, conspiratorial, hateful, misogynistic content, that doesn’t break platform guidelines, over time, where is that leading us?

“So I just wish we could have a more nuanced conversation about speech because I worry that this idea of more speech is good speech — that’s not really the case,” Wardle said.

“And if you talk to people of color or women, their experiences on the internet look very different to probably your experience, Adrian.

“And so this idea that all speech is equal is not true.

“And I wish we could just have that conversation properly and talk about the long-term impacts of different types of speech.”


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Wardle, a co-founder of the Information Futures Lab at Brown University’s School of Public Health, has previously argued that more must be done to censor free speech online.

She recently warned she thinks that “misinformation” has “terrifying” implications for future elections.

“When you have half the country that fundamentally does not believe that the system of democracy, that the electoral process is one that they trust — I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer — but I am really concerned around the midterms,” Wardle said on the Rhode Island Report podcast.

She added she thinks the 2024 elections will be illegitimate because of online “disinformation.”

“I think there’ll be a number of races where we just won’t have a winner,” Wardle said.

“There won’t be the infrastructure to call some races, and I don’t know where we end up.

“That’s why I think it’s a terrifying situation.”

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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