Recordings in Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky - Salant Lecture on Freedom of the Press 2011

Clay Shirky, Alex S. Jones

In October 2011, the well-known internet expert Clay Shirky, a professor of New Media at New York University, has given a remarkable lecture on the state of Freedom of the Press in Western democracy. He makes a comparison between the technical, territorial, political and legal implications of the Watergate scandal, the recent publications of Collateral Murder and the documents of Cablegate that were published online by Wikileaks. He concludes that they are inherently different and builds his argument on an analysis of incidents long after the Gutenberg revolution in the 17th century where publications outside of a national territory could not be controlled by its legislation. The future implications for the protection of Freedom of Speech are, however, in no way encouraging in Shirky´s view, he holds that national regulation of Free Speech in democratic countries is at stake. ” (…)  this is a dangerous moment for free speech. Not because we know how nation states and post national media environments interact, but because we don’t. (…) And the reaction to that change, the reaction to the enormous increase in free speech as an actual practical capability could leave us in a considerably worse state than we are now. (…) There is a lot of attention paid when thinking about freedom of speech, particularly as regards to the use of the internet, on the world’s autocracies, on Iran, on China, on Cuba. But of course there is nothing new there. (…) The threat we face now is coming from the world’s democracies.” For this, he is giving recent expamples of South Africa or Italy and argues that the mainstream media´s unwillingness to defend its new internet competitors is the most disappointing. If this is not changing, “we have no standing to lecture autocracies” any more. An extensive Question & Answers session concludes this outstanding event at Harvard University.