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The Tower of Babel: Five Challenges of the Modern Internet

Late last year, I wrote a column about free speech and democracy in the age of micro-targeting. In it I observed that in order to preserve an open democratic discourse, it was critical to require that all micro-targeted political ads and their targeting information be public record, so that advocates and watchdog organizations could keep track of what candidates and their supporters were claiming in private at scale to different constituents.

It was heartening to see that almost exactly a year later Facebook has very strongly committed to move to do exactly that, making all ads and most targeting information publicly available for review on pages.

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If, however, the result of the discussions about speech is continuous compromise and reactionary moves that try to thread the needle without taking on hard structural decisions, I fear we will end up a fractured civilization, unable to clearly hear or understand each other at a time when it is critical for us to be able to do both.

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Richard Reisman, Ben Weiss and 3 others commented on this article.
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If we decide that anyone should be able to reach everyone, then we need to be willing to tolerate a lot of painful speech.