Losing Our Voices: Who Owns Free Speech on the Internet?
April 17, 2018 12:30 ET

In an era when 69% of American adults use social media platforms to express themselves, the free market powers of digital giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have collided with the free speech rights of citizen internet users. In the wake of a consistent pattern of censorship by tech companies of lawful but politically incorrect viewpoints -- particularly those of conservatives and Christians -- what is the legal status of digital free expression? Is big tech entitled to the information of its platform users? And in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, can the tech giants be trusted to regulate themselves? What are the benefits and pitfalls of government intervention? And will Silicon Valley be the final arbiter of opinions and information in the virtual sphere?

Join us as FRC hosts an expert panel discussion on one of the most important freedom of expression issues in decades.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn has dedicated her service to making America a more prosperous place to live. Congressman Blackburn's reputation for focusing on freedom, free people, and free markets boosted her from the Tennessee Senate to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 to represent Tennessee's 7th Congressional District. She continued the fight for accountable government, becoming a leader in Congress and a leading voice advocating for a small, efficient federal government that is accountable to its citizens. She became the first woman in the state to win a Congressional seat in her own right.

In 2012, she co-chaired the platform for the Republican Convention. She has served as a Republican whip every Congress, holds a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Marsha has earned a special reputation as a bi-partisan leader and policy expert on telecommunications issues and intellectual property rights.

Rep. Blackburn and her husband Chuck live in Williamson County, Tennessee. They have two children, Mary Morgan (Paul) Ketchel and Chad (Hillary) Blackburn; and two grandsons. Blackburn is a native of Laurel, Mississippi and graduate of Mississippi State University.

Craig Parshall is a civil liberties attorney who has represented clients before most of the U.S. Courts of Appeal across the nation, several state supreme courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He serves as Special Counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice in Washington, and has testified numerous times before committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on constitutional issues. Mr. Parshall has also been a presenter to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington on the subject of the "future of media" and in its field hearing at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. During his previous tenure as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for National Religious Broadcasters where he was an advocate on a variety of communications issues, he also launched a pioneering project that evaluated the suppression of free speech on the Internet, moderating a series of public panels that brought together experts in law, government, media, and technology to discuss the problem and to search for possible solutions. Mr. Parshall is also a columnist and best-selling fiction writer of 13 suspense novels with story lines that often highlight current issues of technology. His newest novel, The Empowered, illuminates the gritty reality of the "dark web."

Brent Skorup is a Senior Research Fellow in the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research areas include wireless policy, new media regulation, telecommunications, and driverless cars.

He serves on the FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee and is the vice chair of the Competitive Access subcommittee. He is also a member of the Arlington County (Va.) Broadband Advisory Committee.

Brent has authored pieces for law reviews, National Affairs, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Wired, The Federalist, Reuters, Reason, and elsewhere. He's appeared as an interview guest for news outlets like C-SPAN, NPR, CBS, and CNBC.

Brent has a BA in economics from Wheaton College and a law degree from the George Mason University School of Law, where he was articles editor for the Civil Rights Law Journal. He was a legal clerk at the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and at the Energy and Commerce Committee in the US House of Representatives. Before joining Mercatus, he was the Director of Research at the Information Economy Project, a law and economics research center.

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