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Free Speech and Democracy in the Age of Micro-Targeting

For many centuries philosophers, political scientists and lawyers have taken for granted that there is a reasonably clear distinction between the public and private spheres and the nature of “speech” in each space.

The private sphere—i.e., speaking with friends in your home—was a sphere of very limited audience and unlimited speech. You were free to say on- or off-the-record almost anything you wanted, but your audience was limited to the people you could pack in your living room.

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I believe that we will look back at this period and laugh about our distraction with sideshows like “fake news” and “feed bubbles.” The real story of this period is how the internet, and the world, is moving away from feeds and toward private messaging, groups, disappearing messages and closed spaces, and how successful brands (and candidates) are customizing their messages in an un-audited space specifically for those groups—not for re-shares in more public spaces.

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Tim O'Reilly, Ross Mayfield and 6 others commented on this article.
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Through micro-targeting and customization, the internet now provides the opportunity for people to reach an unlimited audience with unlimited speech.