How to Handle Speech Online: Q&A with Prof. Annemarie Bridy

"According to Annemarie Bridy, Professor of Law at the University of Idaho and Affiliate Scholar at Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, the Internet is facing some hard questions.

“How do we limit the spread of hate speech, harassment, and disinformation on billion-user platforms without building an automated censorship machine?” Bridy asks, and “How do we protect the rights of provocative speakers while also caring about the dignity of listeners and the overall quality of the online information ecosystem?”

Bridy’s latest paper, “Remediating Social Media: Why Layers Still Matter for Internet Policy,” addresses these very questions. DisCo spoke with Bridy to discuss her paper, and we summarize that conversation in this blog post. We recommend reading her full paper (available here) for a deep dive into some of the topics we discussed in our Q&A session.

 

DisCo: Why should Internet regulation be, as you call it, “layer-conscious”?

Bridy: Internet regulation should be layer-conscious because different layers of the network have different technical functions in an end-to-end architecture, which is the type of architecture the Internet is built on. Network providers like Verizon and Comcast act as common carriers and are responsible for routing data to and from endpoints specified by the network’s users. They provide the “pipes” through which content flows in the form of data packets. Edge providers create the applications and services that allow amateur and professional users to populate the Internet with content. The application layer of the Internet is the human experiential layer. It makes sense to regulate content at the application layer because that’s the layer at which people create, experience, and share content."