This month’s edition of Delmarva Today: Writer’s Edition is the third in the series on free speech. The first discussed the challenges to free speech on college campuses; the second considered whether free speech is being seriously challenged in civil society today. Our program this month addresses the question of the meaning of free speech in the digital age. It’s clear that the internet and social media have radically changed the nature of communication: the way information is broadcast and received today and perhaps even the way we see ourselves. It is a world now where anyone; individual, corporation, or group, anywhere can express their beliefs, thoughts, convictions, desires, etc. without fear of being coerced into silence. And it is a world where we can receive thoughts, beliefs, convictions, desires, and admonitions of others and respond, if we wish, in the privacy of our own domains. Oddly enough, this represents both a separation and a connection. As Peter Sunderman says in his New York Times opinion piece of September 11, 2018, “That world is one in which speech is often perceived not as an individual right, but as a public act, in which words and ideas are not your own, but a contribution to the collective. Social media has, in effect, socialized speech.”
Is Sunderman right? And if so, what is the place of free speech in this new age of socialized speech, this digital age?
Wilson’s guests to weigh in on this important issue are: Don Rush, Associate Program Director- Sr. Producer News and Public Affairs; at Delmarva Public Radio; and Adam Wood, Chairman of the Department of English at Salisbury University, and chair of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Also joining the discussion is Dr. Jennifer Cox, Associate Professor on the Communication and Arts faculty at Salisbury University.