Event Details

There is growing debate around online content moderation and its impact on free speech, specifically Section 230, a landmark Internet law largely credited with shaping the Internet and online speech as we know it. Recent attacks on the law have left Internet companies struggling to balance promoting free expression with growing pressure to remove or label hateful and misleading content online. 

These challenges regarding online content moderation could transform our Internet ecosystem. How will this shifting landscape impact the future of free expression online?

On Thursday, July 16th, Center Fellow and Director of Ranking Digital Rights at New America Rebecca MacKinnon, Research Associate for the UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy Jess Miers, and Center Academic Advisory Board member and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Law & Public Policy at UCLA John Villasenor discussed these and other questions during the first webinar in our “#SummerConversations on Speech” series. Center Executive Director Michelle Deutchman moderated the discussion.


On Section 230:


On ways companies can be held accountable that don’t involve changing Section 230:


On global free expression online:


Rebecca MacKinnon

Director of Ranking Digital Rights, New America; 2019-2020 Fellow

Rebecca MacKinnon directs the Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) project at New America, working to set global standards for corporate respect for freedom of expression and privacy online. The RDR Corporate Accountability Index ranks the world’s most powerful internet, mobile, and telecommunications companies on relevant commitments and policies, based on international human rights standards. (See: https://rankingdigitalrights.org)

Author of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom (2012), MacKinnon co-founded of the citizen media network Global Voices, serves on the Board of Directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists and was a founding board member of the Global Network Initiative. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she was CNN’s Bureau Chief and correspondent in China and Japan between 1998-2004. She has also taught at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Pennsylvania, and held fellowships at Harvard, Princeton, and the Open Society Foundations.

Jess Miers

Research Associate,
UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy

Jess Miers is a rising third year law student at Santa Clara University School of Law where she studies Internet law and policy. Jess is also currently a Summer Research Associate for the UCLA Institute for Technology Law and Policy, where she speaks and writes about intermediary liability law. Her primary scholarship covers Section 230 and content moderation. As of recent, Jess is also a full-time Policy Specialist at Google. All opinions shared are her own and do not represent her previous or current employers.

John Villasenor

Professor of Electrical Engineering, Law, Public Policy & Management, UCLA; Center Academic Advisory Board Member

John Villasenor is on the faculty at UCLA, where he is a professor of electrical engineering, public policy, and management, and a visiting professor of law. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

John’s work considers the broader impacts of key technology trends, including advances in digital communications, the increasing complexity of today’s networks and systems, and the growth of artificial intelligence. He writes frequently on these topics and on their implications with respect to cybersecurity, privacy, and law.

He has published in the Atlantic, Billboard, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Scientific American, Slate, the Washington Post, and in many academic journals. He holds a BS from the University of Virginia, an MS and PhD from Stanford University, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Related Resources


Fellows Program

Speech Spotlight Series