Cass Sunstein: Liars, Deception and Free Speech

There have always been officials in the political arena who lie to appease their constituents and undermine their opponents. In recent years, lying and falsehoods have only worsened. All over the world, people circulate and amplify damaging lies through social media platforms that influence the masses. These untruths serve to plant seeds of doubt in everyday citizens, citizens who can no longer tell what’s real and what’s fake. In his new book Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception, legal scholar and Harvard professor Cass Sunstein seeks to understand society’s role in regulating lies and falsehoods without threatening the right to freedom of speech.

Generally, he says society must allow lies to circulate to some extent; the government cannot make unbiased judgements about what counts as "fake news.” Still, public officials and private institutions, such as Facebook and Twitter, have the responsibility to regulate the kinds of falsehoods that endanger health, safety and the capacity of the public to govern itself. Sunstein says that as of now, we are allowing far too many lies that both threaten public health and undermine the foundations of democracy itself.

Join us for a conversation with Cass Sunstein as he discusses the tactics used by powerful figures to spread lies, and shows how the government and private institutions can control false information.


This program was rescheduled from March 9.

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Image - Cass Sunstein
Cass Sunstein
Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University; Author, Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception
Image - Kirk Hanson
In Conversation with Kirk Hanson
Senior Fellow and Former Executive Director, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University