Elon University

The 2017 Survey: The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online (Q4 Anonymous Responses)

Anonymous responses to the third follow-up question:
What civil liberties might be curtailed by acts to cut misinformation?

Technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others were asked by Elon University and the Pew Research Internet, Science and Technology Project in summer 2017 to share their answer to the following query:

Future of Misinformation LogoWhat is the future of trusted, verified information online? The rise of “fake news” and the proliferation of doctored narratives that are spread by humans and bots online are challenging publishers and platforms. Those trying to stop the spread of false information are working to design technical and human systems that can weed it out and minimize the ways in which bots and other schemes spread lies and misinformation. The question: In the next 10 years, will trusted methods emerge to block false narratives and allow the most accurate information to prevail in the overall information ecosystem? Or will the quality and veracity of information online deteriorate due to the spread of unreliable, sometimes even dangerous, socially-destabilizing ideas?

About 49% of these respondents, said the information environment WILL improve in the next decade.
About 51% of these respondents said the information environment WILL NOT improve in the next decade.

Follow-up Question #3 was:
If changes can be made to reduce fake and misleading information, can this be done in a way that preserves civil liberties? What rights might be curtailed?

Some key themes emerging from all 1,116 respondents’ answers: – There is likely to be a curtailment of the ‘rights’ of those who do harm to society. – Systems should generally be optimized in a way that protects civil liberties. – It’s not easy to define what is real, what is misleading – who gets to decide? – Limiting rights is not likely to reduce the most dangerous fake and misleading information. – Some solutions may help limit misinformation while preserving rights to some extent. – Create resilience and embed critical thinking rather than ‘trying to destroy all lies.’ – The information explosion is so overwhelming we need to rethink things.

Written elaborations by anonymous respondents

Misinformation Online Full Survey LinkFollowing are full responses to Follow-up Question #3 of the six survey questions, made by study participants who chose to take credit when making remarks. Some people chose not to provide a written elaboration. About half of respondents chose to remain anonymous when providing their elaborations to one or more of the survey questions. Respondents were given the opportunity to answer any questions of their choice and to take credit or remain anonymous on a question-by-question basis. Some of these are the longer versions of responses that are contained in shorter form in the survey report. These responses were collected in an opt-in invitation to about 8,000 people.

Their predictions:

An executive consultant based in North America wrote, “I believe this can be done without a severe curtailment of civil liberties. There may have to be further discussions about the ‘right to lie’ vs. free speech. But we will have to find the balance.”

A program manager for the US National Science Foundation wrote, “We need to preserve the ability of people to communicate anonymously, to protect them from harm.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “It might cause a re-thinking of civil liberties; perhaps we need to know that an individual or a group, even among the young, have been responsible for creating false and misleading information.”

An anonymous respondent based in Europe wrote, “I guess the right to privacy, tolerance and solidarity are foremost at risk. In a networked world, with all the digital government and business services, it might be difficult (if not impossible) to keep the same level of individual privacy, unless states and societies would grant citizens a choice of alternative of fully or partially ‘analogue’ living, regardless the economic costs and inconveniences. Most likely the latter is not happening. At the same time, societies need to be cautious of any calls and statements that some rights have to be curtailed.”

A senior expert in technology policy based in Europe, commented, “Most probably NO.”

A graduate researcher at Northwestern University wrote, “We can preserve civil liberties if we improve education around these issues, because that will enable community-based regulation of online spaces. That community-based approach is probably the only way to do this without curtailing rights (e.g., the government getting involved and the ensuing legal battles) or making things much worse (e.g., literally everything that Twitter does to try and ‘solve’ the abuse problem).”

A consultant said, “Anonymity may need to be restrained. Accountability will be required.”

A distinguished professor of computer science and engineering at a major state university noted, “This is an issue that concerns me. Any authority that can prevent dissemination of fake or misleading information can also be used to prevent dissemination of legitimate information. Even public consensus technologies may simply be coopted by a wrong majority (remember, in the US we had a majority belief for a period that blacks were subhuman).”

The CEO of a major American internet media company based in New York City replied, “Yes. The solution isn’t censorship, it is about what gets magnified and promoted. People should be able to have wrong ideas, expound conspiracy theories, et cetera, but those views shouldn’t be magnified by algorithms and media networks!”

A senior international communications advisor commented, “The only way to preserve civil liberties is find ways to reduce fake and misleading information. If we don’t, we’re doomed. We might want to develop something along the lines of ‘truth in advertising’ model and then legislate that all Google search engines be accountable for what they distribute. The historical record tells us that consent is often manufactured – including consent for repression. The most effective form of brainwashing is through mass media.”

A research scientist said, “I think we need to realize that ‘fakeness’ or ‘misleadingness’ are not inherent qualities of information, but always a product of the specific situations in which it is employed.”

An economist for one of the top five global technology companies commented, “Civil liberties can be preserved. Don’t forget, fake news is not a new problem. Historical fakes have been around for centuries – think of anti-Semitic propaganda for example.”

A postdoctoral scholar based in North America wrote, “Ha! We have no rights if we are using a private service like Facebook or Twitter. They can do whatever they want.”

A North American research scientist observed, “Yes we can, but with less anonymity.”

A self-employed consultant said, “No. Who, in the end, decides what news is accurate? What – after all – is accurate? For whom?”

A North American research scientist observed, “People conveniently forget this when they are blaming Facebook. I for one don’t want Facebook deciding what’s true. I can already hear the screams of ‘censorship!’ That’s where we are heading if we want systems to think for us.”

A researcher based in Europe said, “Yes. We lose the condition of being anonymous.”

A public-interest lawyer based in North America commented, “I don’t see a way to do this without dangerous degradation of the First Amendment.”

A self-employed marketing professional observed, “1984 would result.”

A retired academic administrator and professor replied, “Yes, civil liberties can be preserved. However, we will need to be willing to subject all, and I do mean all, information to public scrutiny. Academic and scientific as well as journalistic accounts will need to be scrutinized. The way in which this is done will need to be public and trust will need to be built. This will require time and effort.”

An anonymous editor based in North America commented, “Some smart folks are looking at ways to grade or assess the accuracy and value of news reports. That may be a better way to go rather than curtailing information or stopping publication.”

An anonymous respondent noted, “Linking information creation and flow to actors (institutions and individuals) is one step in creating chains of accountability. This means participants on the internet will need to be willing to be public to the extent that they share or create information possibly used by others.”

An author and journalist based in North America noted, “Yes. Revise the Communications Decency Act and apply libel laws to online communication. The risk of court remedy has always been a good incentive to check your facts before hitting send. If this practice chills the lies, so be it.”

A chief executive officer for a research consultancy said, “There is no evidence that this is happening. A Google search 10 years ago turned up original documents, today it is almost impossible to peel the layers away. The flood of information has dumbed down the ability to learn or even see new things. When society is more curious and active for a better future and more engaging social contract, then what’s shared will be more powerful. Unfortunately this starts at the top of the political spectrum.”

A Ph.D. candidate in informatics, commented, “Yes. People could still write fake information, but systems could mark such information as fake without infringing on the writers’ freedom of speech.”

A member of the Internet Architecture Board said, “Curtailing rights won’t prevent fake news; people spread it willingly, so unless you curtail very basic rights to communication (e.g., invoke China-style control of the internet), it won’t be effective. This is a consequence of ubiquitous many-to-many communication.”

An anonymous North American research scientist said, “Economic incentives for fake and misleading information have to be curtailed.”

An anonymous business leader wrote, “Remove anonymity.”

A professor of information science at a large US state university wrote, “Yes. The rights to information may be compromised. Speaking of rights, the other way is not to reduce misleading information, but enhance people’s information literacy.”

An internet pioneer and principal architect in computing science replied, “The internet’s advertising oligopoly has profited greatly from the distribution of fake news, putting the rest of us at risk. Advertisers have started the counter-revolution by organizing a boycott. We do not need to curtail civil liberties for that boycott to succeed – all we need to do is to make distribution of fake news less profitable.”

A international internet policy expert said, “Yes it can be done while preserving them. Rights are fundamental and are the bulwark for everyday digital lives. Their evolution should ensure their preservation.”

An internet pioneer and rights activist based in the Asia/Pacific region said, “There should be quality control before launching services and apps, and due-diligence reviews about possible effects both positive and negative. Of course unexpected effects will most likely happen, but at the moment there are way too many services and applications that are launched without any consideration about what their impact might be. No rights will have to be curtailed. It is about education and being responsible internet users as well as being responsible content producers, apply investigative journalism best practices.”

A professor of law at a major US state university commented, “This doesn’t require curtailing civil liberties. We need to financially support production of non-partisan, not-for-profit journalism, and provide individuals, websites, and platforms with ways to protect themselves from abusive clickbait.”

A North American research scientist, wrote, “Freedom of speech is a value we are deeply committed to, so any constraints on what some view as fake or misleading information could be construed as violating this right.”

A vice president for an online information company commented, “If no one can speak anonymously, unvarnished truths may evaporate and be replaced with falsehood; people may be afraid to say what they think; freedom of expression suffers. On the other hand, unbridled freedom to speak may not solve the problem either because it may become harder and harder to distinguish truth from fiction. One has only to read President Trump’s tweets. Allowing only strongly-attributed speech will drive some truths underground.”

A North American research scientist replied, “We might need to strengthen laws regarding libel, making it easier to prosecute.”

A leading researcher studying the spread of misinformation observed, “This will be a difficult challenge, and possibly one of the defining regulatory and policymaking issues of the next 20 years. The underlying problem involves advanced machine technologies (i.e., machine learning, natural language processing, and sentiment analysis tech) that will be able to impersonate human speech. Does this technology, designed and maintained by humans, have the right to free speech? So far in the United States, the answer is ‘yes’” based on challenges to ‘speech’ such as Google’s search results. Can more-advanced technologies designed for speech (e.g., bots) be taken to task for libel and/or harassment? Our fundamental freedoms as individuals are beginning to converge with ‘smart’ technologies, and we’ll have to find solutions – both in terms of short-term fixes as well as long term policies – to deal with this problem.”

An independent systems integrator wrote, “Data is raw. How people tailor, shape and use it will be never-ending. Teaching people digital literacies and cognitive thinking will be the only way to sort through data inputs. This is all extraneous to civil liberties. There is no success to be found in panopticons.”

A researcher investigating information systems user behavior replied, “This is a global problem, and First Amendment rights are seen differently in different parts of the world. Without some kind of high-quality, difficult-to-spoof identification system it’s unclear that the amount of misleading information can be reduced. It is also unclear what impact this will have on civil liberties (mostly because it’s such a slippery concept).”

The technology editor for one of the world’s most-respected news organizations commented, “Free speech may have to be curtailed in some specific cases (in Germany Holocaust denial is illegal, for instance).”

A North American research scientist wrote, “We need systems to require more transparency. The right to anonymity will be collateral damage.”

A research scientist based in North America said, “Yes, it just takes more labor and paying for news creation and dissemination, as well as giving up on ideas that the most clicks is what counts.”

A doctoral candidate and fellow with a major international privacy rights organization said, “I don’t believe the solution to the problem of fake news is through censorship, specifically automated censorship through the use of opaque algorithms. That is because those solutions only get us closer to a ‘thought police’ and a curtailing of freedom of expression and privacy online. Instead we must realise that the problem will not be solved through technological means, as it is not a technological problem.”

An entrepreneur and investor replied, “Re-balancing ‘social norms’ or civil behaviour will likely require comprehensive changes to our education of children and young adults. Topics such as trust, privacy, social behaviour must be consistently defined and examined from grammar school onwards.”

A distinguished engineer for one of the world’s largest networking technologies companies commented, “There will still be the matter of choice. Users’ browsers will give them warnings when the source of information cannot be validated. I don’t think we can prevent it completely. One could envision laws to prosecute the perpetrators along the lines of what we have for child pornographers but I don’t see this ever happening.”

A longtime US government researcher and administrator in communications and technology sciences said, “Changes should not be made, because civil liberties would be curtailed.”

An assistant professor at a university in the US Midwest wrote, “I’d like to hear more about how reducing fake and misleading information compromises civil liberties?”

A research associate at MIT, said, “A system needs to be put in place to more easily hold fraudsters liable for damages they cause. Perhaps libel laws need to be strengthened. Some may view this as curtailing First Amendment rights. However, fraud is distinct from the right to be wrong. That is where law and society need to and will innovate. One more thought: calling an outlet ‘fake news’ should be considered slander or libel if the person using the phrase knows that the news is not actually fake.”

A media networking consultant noted, “We can eliminate or reduce fakery in reliable sources but we can’t force citizens to use these and we are limited in our ability to mute compelling but unreliable sources. Freedom of the press to report fake news would have to be curtailed. This is a slippery slope and it would be of uncertain effectiveness.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “I oppose anonymous and/or unattributed responses on the internet. Everyone’s participation should be identifiable as theirs.”

A retired politician and national consumer representative replied, “It depends who provides the filter. Democracies endeavour to allow free speech but in practice find they have to set some limits on advocates of violence. There must be room for wide debate and for unwelcome opinions to be heard. Today it can be difficult to test views that diverge from accepted norms in a closed community without those opinions leaking into the wider world without context. Twitter’s short messages exacerbate this problem.”

An associate professor at a major Canadian university wrote, “The right to knowingly disseminate false information for political or economic gain – a stronger legal framework to lay charges on this basis may be needed.”

A professor of law at a major California university noted, “We have existing legal models that deal with false information (fraud, defamation) and with other types of harmful information (e.g., harassment). What we do not yet have is a way to scale these rules to the internet. But if we can develop that, then yes, we can better reduce false information while leaving in place the current protections for civil liberties. It would be a bad idea to assume we have to curtail civil rights to address this problem. It seems unlikely that curtailing civil rights would work – see every authoritarian regime that struggles with activists’ commentary – and there would be a greater loss.”

A professor and author, editor, journalist based in the US wrote, “I see the most important interventions on the demand side – improving education about what’s real and what isn’t.”

A professor of media and communication based in Europe said, “Questions of freedom of speech versus the freedom to spread misinformation always needed to be weighed, in every context. Each digital society has to rearticulate its civil liberties in the face of new technologies; such recalibration requires a systematic rearticulation of legal frameworks that currently are not prepared for algorithmic-based clashes of values and norms.’

A professor at MIT observed, “This question raises a crucial implication: whatever we develop to ameliorate a problem can and will be turned against us. I have no problem with labeling, with debunking, with doing our best to maintain standards, but the emphasis should be on critical assessment and media literacy, not prohibition.”

An informatics and communication scientist based in Eastern Europe wrote, “Article 24 of the Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, 1948, must be respected.”

An anonymous principal technology architect and author replied, “The only real ‘thing’ that can be done is to eliminate monopolies of information and stop the collection of personal data, much like we once stopped the monopolies of rail, et cetera.”

An anonymous professor of media and communications based in Europe observed, “The law of rights does not adequately cover the losers in open social dialogue; not least since much of what is affected is not human – for example damage to natural systems (rivers, oceans…).”

An anonymous research scientist replied, “No.”

An anonymous CEO and consultant based in North America noted, “I don’t believe that this is really a civil liberties problem. It’s bigger than that.”

A principal network architect said, “No rights should be curtailed.”

A professor of media anthropology based in Europe wrote, “Freedom of expression and global mobility of messages will be affected by regulatory responses to fake and misinformation campaigns.”

An anonymous research scientist based in North America wrote, “If we have to curtail rights we aren’t doing it well.”

An anonymous software engineer based in Europe said, “I would hope so, free speech is an important right. I like some of the moves done by I think Facebook? Detect when people share articles without even reading them. Point out that sources or articles have poor fact-checking done. Likely also important to do this in a visible way to take away complaints on ‘the algorithm is ruining my bubble.’”

An anonymous respondent observed, “No.”

An anonymous respondent from the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University said, “No rights must be curtailed. The facts have to be verified by trusted sources.”

An anonymous internet pioneer and longtime leader in ICANN said, “The problem will be with anonymous responses, when the authenticity of information cannot be verified. The source of the information cannot be verified. The right to anonymity may suffer.”

An anonymous internet security expert based in Europe noted, “I am a subject, the queen can always make the call. That’s what it is to have a decent constitutional monarchy.”

A professor and researcher of American public affairs at a major university replied, “Yes. State pressure on foreign actors can help preempt attacks by bots. And media institutions can cooperate to ensure that fake information doesn’t overly influence the tone and coverage of political campaigns (as happened in France, for instance).”

A professor of law based in North America replied, “It would be very difficult. Who gets to decide what is fake and what is real? There are legitimate differences in viewpoints. If everyone who speaks has to verify her identify, many people will not be able to do so or will be afraid to do so.”

An anonymous research scientist based in North America wrote, “The solution is not to curb information, instead it’s to create a stronger democracy in which our bonds to each other do not rely solely on fragmented information communities but a stronger civic infrastructure that has relational bonds that counteract the power of online misinformation.”

An anonymous author, editor and journalist based in North America replied, “Rights need not be curtailed. The US Constitution is pretty clear.”

A media director and longtime journalist said, “Yes, blockchain tech associated with sources (NOT identities) would be extremely useful for source validation and chain of trust issues. Easier to automate and anonymise.”

An anonymous internet pioneer replied, “Yes, it ‘just’ requires better education and a focus on tolerance of other opinions. The only right to be curtailed is the ‘right not to be educated,’ if that even is a right.”

An associate professor at a US university, said, “The preservation of civil liberties is important and giving up rights to curtail the spread of fake and misleading information could prove just as dangerous (or perhaps more dangerous) than any impact of fake and misleading information.”

An anonymous respondent from the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University said, “No. We can institute penalties for people who knowingly spread false information to gain power, influence or wealth. But we also run the risk of quelling a free and fair exchange of ideas and information. The dangers to a population’s civil rights are too great to balance the potential gains of those laws.”

An anonymous user-experience and interaction designer said, “Information that is fictitious/creative/opinion-based in nature must be clearly labeled as such. Knowingly disseminating fictitious information as ‘true’ could have financial, or technological or even criminal penalties imposed (if consequences of the false information were serious enough).”

An anonymous North American program officer wrote, “I am not sure. I don’t think freedom of speech should be curtailed, as it would create a double standard. If you cannot stop people from making up facts, then perhaps you can educate the others to know the difference.”

A professor of law at a state university replied, “The two key ways to address this are technological (software that identifies, flags and counteracts false info) and personal (character and civics education).”

A researcher based in Europe said, “A notation system working on top of the current information-sharing system would not remove any right.”

A content manager and curator for a scientific research organization, commented, “Yes, we need to be mindful of First Amendment rights, but usually civil liberties are associated with law enforcement.”

A knowledge management and digital media consultant replied, “Yes, as currently, within a developing framework of legislation against various forms of hate speech and misinformation”

A head of systems and researcher working in Web science said, “Lies (alternate facts) will and should have basic protections under freedom of speech. Libel, defamation, obstruction and other laws will still apply for some of the more egregiously offensive falsehoods.”

A leader of internet policy based in South America noted, “It’s an e-structural problem that requires transdisciplinary focus.”

A lecturer at the University of Tripoli in Libya wrote, “Yes. It can be done by activating cyber-crimes law. By doing this, individuals or public will think twice before publishing things that may threaten others. It is hard to be honest to make a balance between free speech and banning it in someway.”

A principal network architect for a major edge cloud platform company replied, “None. Transparency and the availability of ‘abundant’ information is required.”

A technologist specializing in cloud computing said, “I don’t understand how this is a trade-off.”

A research scientist said, “I hope it can.”

A senior solutions architect for a global provider of software engineering and IT consulting services wrote, “There’s no tradeoff here. Journalists and correspondents have always acted as trusted intermediaries between the man on the street and media outlets. It was a major error on the part of online social media to cut human judgment out of the loop.”

A professor and researcher based in North America noted, “Civil liberties should be balanced with the potential damaging consequences of the spread of fake information.”

An institute director and university professor said, “If there was a way, the publishers of the National Enquirer would have been put out of business a long time ago. Instead, they’re dining at the White House.”

A professor at a major US state university wrote, “It is possible that privacy may be compromised.”

A professor at a major university replied, “Vigilance is very important.”

A dean of a major school of information science commented, “It is awful, it has always been awful, it will always be, pretty much, awful. We can improve the information literacy of citizens, and we can add various automated detection tools. But this is not a problem that will go away, ever.”

A professor based at a North American university noted, “The solution is the cultivation of wise judgment from early in the learning trajectory.”

An anonymous respondent based in North America wrote, “There could be distributed and duplicated repositories of orginal documents and data (and algorithms). Transcranial magnetic stimulation might be employed (whether it should be or not).”

An anonymous head of privacy commented, “I see no rights that would need to be impinged. People whose alleged fake news is rejected for publication or broadcast should have a way to protest or disprove, and their first amendment rights to self-publication and speech should not be thwarted.”

A technology analyst for one of the world’s leading technology networking companies replied, “I don’t know what changes would be effective.”

An assistant director for a digital media and learning center at a major university said, “The danger to undoing civil liberties is in thinking that by restricting them we are someone going to make the world a safer and trustworthy place.”

A chief executive officer wrote, “We have to be very careful about abridging rights. Preservation of rights must supersede attempts to reduce fake and misleading information.”

A principal consultant for product management and user experience said, “Yes, if it’s not a government regulation, but rather adjustments in how content is selected, presented and rated, worked out by the platforms hosting the information.”

A retired professor and research scientist said, “Hard if not impossible due to First Amendment – can’t see how could amend Constitution without dramatically changing the US and not in a good way.”

A retired senior IT engineer based in Europe wrote, “Freedom of expression is in danger, as well as confidentiality. There is a risk of dictatorship.”

A North American researcher replied, “DON’T CURTAIL CIVIL LIBERTIES!”

A political science and policy scholar and professor said, “As a practical matter, whatever steps Twitter, Facebook, et cetera, can take to limit the spread of fake stories would be relatively benign in terms of civil liberties concerns, though I worry that a broad brush would end up limiting satire as well as actual fake stories. As far as governmental involvement, I am deeply skeptical, particularly if the national security state becomes involved. If this becomes a ‘national security’ issue, there could be dire consequences for civil liberties.”

A policy analyst for the US Department of Defense wrote, “We lose the right to be left alone.”

An independent journalist and longtime Washington correspondent for leading news outlets noted, “People will find gatekeepers they trust. The idea of doing something at the government level, implied by the mention of civil liberties, is utterly abhorrent. And you shouldn’t curtail rights; you should expand them.”

A professor at a major US university replied, “I am not sanguine that governments, private actors, et cetera, can countervail the incentives to mine and exploit data. Google, et al., have made billions on data mining and they have no incentive to stop or to curtail the use of more intrusive technologies.”

An associate professor and journalist commented, “The two are not necessarily related.”

A senior research scholar at a top-ranked US law school said, “The current policies of social media companies curtail free expression as the First Amendment protects it because, as private entities, they are allowed to block hate speech, which the First Amendment doesn’t allow. So the reduction of fake and misleading information and, as a corollary, the increased attention to true and helpful information might well have the opposite effect, strengthening a core civil liberty.”

A post-doctoral fellow at a center for governance and innovation wrote, “Some rights would have to be curtailed – freedom of expression, political freedom and elements of religious freedom.”

An editor at large noted, “It’s doubtful; the right to privacy must be curtailed.”

A research scientist from Latin America replied, “It can be done, but people must be in the loop. Solving this problem by automatic systems will always have less common sense.”

A librarian based in North America said, “We are going to have to verify authorship and identity, which may put people at risk who have identities that may receive repercussions based on their activity.”

A director of research for data science based in Spain observed, “Reducing fake and misleading information through censorship is the opposite of what should be done. Fake news is being used to advance an agenda of reduction of free speech.”

An anonymous consultant said, “Curtailing rights is not a solution. It has to be social pressure and not law that demands better information. People must care about being emotionally hijacked by misleading information.”

A futurist based in North America wrote, “Impacts on freedom of speech. Mass censorship.”

A professor of rhetoric and communication commented, “Legally and technologically, we should do what we can to stop hacking by foreign governments and to ensure that scientific truths are accessible to the public.”

An anonymous futurist/consultant said, “Given that a lot of the efforts to spread fake and misleading information are connected to politics, we should curtail the rights of organizations with unlimited funding to co-opt political campaigns. A stronger focus on election reform and good governance would reduce a lot of the motivations to spread harmful information, without harming civil liberties.”

An anonymous MIT student wrote, “I imagine that free speech and the press would be curtailed.”

A CEO for a consulting firm said, “Yes, civil liberties can be preserved. The existing libel laws strike an adequate balance and can be used as a framework for sanctioning fake news. Machine-based correlation of news with perpetrators of fake news being outed also can be handled in a fashion that doesn’t impact civil liberties. Of course, this all starts from the premise that civil liberties do not include the right to knowingly or recklessly promulgate fake news.”

A research psychologist commented, “I don’t think it’s possible to reduce misleading information and still allow freedom of speech. Best case is an unbiased, nonpartisan site to verify information.”

A researcher/statistician consultant at a university observed, “Some privacy rights may have to be curtailed. It requires balancing of personal responsibility vs. personal privacy/rights.”

The president of a consultancy said, “Political biases plus free speech is a problematic combination. Philosopher kings once wisely decided when controversial issues arose. We don’t trust any leaders to be as fair as Walter Cronkite, and why is that?”

A partner in a services and development company based in Switzerland commented, “No rights need to be curtailed, but some rights need to be formulated more clearly and defended more vigourously. The key right is freedom, but it must be seen as including the right to understand the consequence of one’s actions. The trend in this respect must be reversed: free services provided on the internet come in exchange for users giving up the right to understand what they are doing. So here is where legal norms and social moral need updating: giving up one’s ability to understand one’s action is not a price anyone should be made to pay. This means in particular that internet intermediaries (especially search engines, social networks and advertising exchanges) will have to limit or stop certain problematic practices and/or support measures that mitigate the loss of freedom suffered by their users.”

A research manager and senior lecturer in new media based in New Zealand, noted, “Free speech may be threatened which is of concern – but how do you find the right balance between this and the dissemination of fake and misleading information?”

A data scientist with IBM wrote, “Free speech may need to be a little less free in some venues.”

A journalist who writes about science and technology said, “Yes. I don’t think any rights will have to be curtailed, unless you view hate speech or fraudulent information as free speech.”

An assistant professor based in Southeast Asia wrote, “It can be done. I don’t agree that rights should be curtailed because of this.”

A retired university professor commented, “There is no right to abuse public opinion.”

An anonymous mental health clinician wrote, “We will continue to run up against freedom of speech issues in so called first-world countries and dictated propaganda in third-world countries.”

A researcher at a university in New York responded, “I reject the premise that a reduction in civil liberties would reduce fake or misleading information. If civil liberties were reduced, misleading information would still be published. It would just be more centrally controlled.”

A senior fellow at a center focusing on democracy and the rule of law observed, “The rights that need to be curtailed – e.g., the right to troll, the right to publicly humiliate people, the right to deliberately manipulate others for personal or political gain – are not rights worth preserving. Since there will be contentious cases, we need an adjudication process to decide which cases have breached rules regarding the (re)circulation of news.”

A professor of information technology at a large public research university in the United States said, “Like all human rights, free speech is not an absolute right. Limits on inciting actions that would harm others, distribution of materials deemed obscene, and so on are examples. Preserving civil liberties does not mean the absence of restrictions on the exercise of those liberties, despite what second amendment absolutists contend.”

A retired educator observed, “Citizens need verifiable means. Without it rights will be curtailed, wittingly or unwittingly.”

An anonymous respondent said, “None should be curtailed. Rights are rights and not negotiable.”

A researcher at a European institute of tecnology replied, “Controlling information doesn´t appear as a promising solution. Instead we need to find strategies to cope with the new situation in a way that is compatible with our understanding of society (including the preservation of civil liberties). In the first place this means that the society needs to be educated, especially with regard to media literacy and critical thinking. However, very negative behavior should indeed be sanctioned without touching free speech too much (e.g., calls to harm human beings should be punished).”

An eLearning specialist noted, “Civil liberties do not have to be curtailed and people making choices do not have to believe biased information. For instance, if Mark Zuckerberg wants people to believe he curates news without bias, we don’t have to curtail his rights or the rights of his readers. By the information being proven wrong in outcomes over and over his methods will be proven uncredible.”

A vice president for stakeholder engagement said, “Anonymity on the Internet is a concept whose time has past.”

A professor at a major US university noted, “Yes. There should be sunshine and openness. No limits on civil liberties.”

An associate professor of sociology at a liberal arts university replied, “Curtailing civil liberties in the pursuit of more-accurate information would be a mistake of world-historical proportions. Doing so will not improve the quality of information available. And in any case it replaces one social harm with a much larger one.”

An anonymous journalist observed, “Privacy will be and has been curtailed, we’ve already seen this happening in many countries where politicians have attempted and often succeeded in passing electronic surveillance laws which enable the authorities to collect massive amounts of data from every citizens’ mobile phone use, internet use, et cetera – it seems logical that we will se this data and legislation attempted used to combat fake information as well, if it is felt that critical infrastructure and/or vital public information has been compromised, something made more likely by the fact that some (far from all) fake news is used as a ploy by groups close to terrorists and ‘rough states.’ But with the speed of technology development one can hope that such society-wide surveillance over time can become more targeted so that it’s certain actions that provoke/enable such surveillance rather than the whole society constantly being monitored.”

A director of a Europe-based journalism training program said, “Yes, civil liberties of democratic states do not need to be sacrificed on the altar of curtailing fake and misleading information. There is no need to burn down the house to kill a rat.”

A researcher based in Europe commented, “The point here is how to reduce these fake news and misleading information online without having an impact on the remaining information produced and distributed by common people aiming to reveal and denounce some situation. And, to be fair, by the time some system realizes that some information might be fake, there will probably be someone writing online that the content is fake. Nevertheless, I don´t see any rights or civil liberties associated with the production and dissemination of false information.”

A futurist based in North America said, “It is unrealistic to think that fake and misleading information can be reduced. A new civil contract might help, but it is unlikely that uninformed/misled citizens will be cooperating in generating reliable information. Most of them just prefer sensational information – real or not.”

A research scientist based in Europe observed, “Not only can it be done that way, it must be done that way. Otherwise there is no point in doing it. Some will argue that free speech has to be curtailed, but the right solution isn’t to suppress speech – rather, it’s to have *more* speech. So it’s not that it will suddenly become a crime to spread propaganda. But it also won’t be a crime to slap a clear label on it indicating that the information is false.”

A software engineer commented, “This question implies a link between limiting misleading information and reducing civil liberties. An educated public for example is much more immune to such information.”

A research scientist based in North America commented, “No changes will be made that will be effective. Nonetheless, civil liberties of all kinds will continue to be sacrificed.”

A professor of sociology with expertise in social policy, political economy and public policy, wrote, “Ideally, the reduction should be done to preserve civil liberties. Without knowing what technical improvements would be made, there is to way to assess consequences for civil liberties, let alone suggesting which liberties might be curtailed.”

A professor of communication replied, “People have to use an authentic name on social media. I could live with that.”

A fellow at the University of Leeds said, “The debate is only beginning and there are no clear answers yet. I do hope these issues will feature more prominently in public forums and in educational discussions in the coming years.”

An anonymous researcher observed, “No rights need to be curtailed. What’s needed isn’t a technological fix. It’s a cultural shift.”

A vice president of professional learning commented, “If it was 35 years ago and we prohibited corporations from profiting via news as entertainment, we would be in a less sensationalist, ad-driven situation.”

An anonymous activist replied, “We would need a completely new understanding of privacy, which would bear very little relation to the current one.”

A researcher at the University of Oregon commented, “What? There is no civil liberty that guarantees the right to spread misinformation – because that IS NOT a right. So yes, it can be done in a way the preserves civil liberties because civil liberties are not at risk.”

An associate professor at Brown University wrote, “The devil is in the details, and many issues will need to be negotiated in courts.”

An associate professor at a major university in Italy wrote, “Fake news always existed and there is no way to completely eliminate the whole phenomenon. Reducing the circulation of such content is the key.”

An internet pioneer/originator said, “That is the reverse dilemma. In essence, the right of free speech but that returns us to Middle Ages with a caste of ‘priests of truth’ dispensing what they belief to be true. It’s a human issue supported by beliefs and immune to demonstration, let alone proof.”

An analyst at Stanford University commented, “No rights need be curtailed. Let the First Amendment prevail. The answer is consumer education.”

A professor and respected public intellectual whose expertise is technology and society, replied, “No. Of course not.”

An author/editor/journalist wrote, “Critical thinking can be taught. It just requires the will of those with the power to communicate to be directed towards that goal. Education systems should be designed so students get authentic experience in rational decision making and seeking out a multitude of voices on any issue. The cultural norm of being a good thinker needs to be reestablished.”

A vice president for public policy for one of the world’s foremost entertainment and media companies commented, “Of course. I don’t see that clarifying curated vetted sources from other sources curtails anyone’s rights. For example, free speech doesn’t guarantee the right to be published in the newspaper. So we need to develop the analogy on these platforms. Newspapers distinguish between reporting, analysis and opinion. What is the analogy on the major platforms?”

An anonymous respondent observed, “Already there are laws regarding libelous speech, and some of the lies do concern people. The Pizzagate affair punished only the person who showed up in person: it should have targeted the sources as well, including (possibly?) the publishers if authorship can’t be ascertained.”

An anonymous respondent who works with non-profits and mission-based organizations said, “We need to have trusted, independent third parties provide fact-checking.”

A futurist and chief executive officer said, “Some ‘freedom of speech’ goes beyond hate taking the form of deliberate threats and damaging misinformation, and now such platforms at Facebook and Twitter are taking responsibilities and removing thousands of such sites, as well as propaganda from hostile governments.”

A project manager based in Europe commented, “Yes. Freedom of speech will be curtailed.”

An anonymous librarian replied, “Yes, this must be done while preserving civil liberties.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “I don’t think so. Verifying information and requiring accurate information will always impinge on free speech.”

A computer information systems researcher noted, “Freedom of speech would be curtailed.”

A futurist/consultant based in Europe said, “The source of the information must be known and subject to challenge. This has nothing to do with civil liberties.”

A professor of philosophy at one of the world’s foremost universities observed, “Even if civil liberties were curtailed it still wouldn’t fix the problem, unless the constraints were extreme.”

A futurist/consultant based in North America said, “I reject the premise of this question. Thought police don’t make things better.”

A professor of humanities noted, “It is the curtailment of civil liberties, especially First Amendment rights, that are the most threatened.”

A researcher based in Europe commented, “Spoken or written statements could be prefaced with an affirmation or oath (such as a promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth). Such an oath could be legally binding, with serious consequences for violation, but freedom of speech and of the press would not be curtailed because providing such an oath would be voluntary.”

A North American research scientist replied, “This whole question rests on what is meant by ‘fake and misleading information’ and who is the arbiter? Answer to these questions is a prerequisite. Depending on the answers, we may found out that civil liberties are best preserved by maintaining a space of free expression.”

A senior research fellow working for the positive evolution of the information environment said, “Finding ways to surface quality stuff won’t alter civil liberties.”

A small-press publisher based in North America commented, “Absolutely. Freedom of speech for individuals allows them to say whatever they want. Licensed broadcasters that knowingly spread false information and whip up the populace with misleading and incorrect information must be curtailed.”

A professor and researcher noted, “This seems to be infeasible with current technologies. To reduce disinformation with current techniques, we need to identify the source of every piece of information through the provenance chain to the beginning. There will be no privacy or anonymity in such a society.”

An anonymous respondent said, “In the US the First Amendment gives one the right air one’s views.”

A retired public official who was an internet pioneer replied, “The primary civil liberty in this context is the right to receive trusted and correct information.”

A principal with a major global consultancy observed, “Of course not. And rights can never be curtailed.”

An engineer based in North America replied, “Yes. Essentially, a given source gets assigned a credibility score. The more the source is trusted, the higher its score will be.”

A CEO based in Canada replied, “Openness and choice are what is needed not a Draconian Big Brother state.”

The president of a center for media literacy commented, “Freedom of expression should be preserved as a first priority. Why should we give up any rights? Who says? Who censors the censors?”

A senior research fellow based in Europe said, “This is not actually a rights issue, but we will need to confront conspiracy theorists and liars one way or the other. Now, that’s unlikely to happen when such people actually run the White House while sensationalist news media benefit from their craziness.”

A postdoctoral scholar at a major university’s center for science, technology and society said, “Currently, ‘civil liberties’ are overly broadly construed to protect the rights of companies, who may have a profit motive to peddle fake news and propaganda, and to stifle reasonable criticism. Recent work that teases apart the ‘right to speak’ and the ‘right to be heard’ (see, e.g., Morgan Weiland) shows ways to preserve civil liberties while working toward a more-truthful information landscape.”

A research scientist at a network science research group at a major US university, wrote, “Most changes will happen in education and literacy, not through any reduction of access to platforms.”

A professor at the University of Maryland wrote, “Raising the importance of an individual or organization’s reputation will help. Those with positive reputations will be granted greater privileges.”

A principal research scientist at a major US university replied, “The ability to publish new websites would curtail the spread of fake news. The false air of professionalism on fake news sites is part of what allows people to fully trust the contents.”

A researcher of online harassment working for a major internet information platform replied, “It can be, by working with spaces like the EFF, ACLU, and perhaps other initiatives focusing particularly on this. Maybe it’s thinking about the balance of ‘censorship’ vs. opinion. This could be a First Amendment issue.”

An anonymous respondent who works at a major US university said, “I’m not sure what standard for civil liberties we’re applying here – a libertarian standard? Absolutely not. These changes would dovetail with already eroding privacy. This is more a generational problem – Millennials and the new younger generation are already comfortable with their lives exposed – Gen Xers and older will have to ‘go off the grid’ even further if they want to protect their public selves. My big concern here is that this tends to curb people’s willingness to speak out about social ills they observe.”

A journalist and user-experience expert at one of the world’s top five technology companies said, “Yes, the blockchain will preserve civil liberties. This method provides a way to trace information. It does not censor information, but adds metadata that can help consumers discern real from ‘fake’ information. However, readers may still decide whether they want to consumer this information.”

A professor of political economy at a US university wrote, “No.”

A faculty member at a research university noted, “If you are willing to ‘curtail’ civil rights, then there is no point in even worrying about fake/misleading information. Many of us already don’t have/have never had/lost civil liberties, so the only option is to figure out how to change the ecosystem itself. By the time we get to the ‘information’ it is too late.”

A director of research said, “I don’t know. I mean, people have always lied, that’s not new, and we don’t penalize people for lying unless there’s significant monetary loss involved.”

An anonymous research scientist commented, “I don’t see this problem is related in any way to civil liberties. For instance, the First Amendment surely does not grant citizens and organizations the right to spread false statements of fact.”

A North American politician/lawyer wrote, “The right to be anonymous online may have to be curtailed. Transparency and requiring more information is a better alternative than censorship. This has to be balanced with privacy and freedom of expression rights.”

A vice president for a company based in North America replied, “Do not curtail rights. There’s no need to impose a solution from the top and there is no way to do so without infringing civil liberties (or forfeiting trust in the system).”

An anonymous respondent replied, “Civil liberties are essential and rooted in the notion of accountability. Tying accountability to information sources isn’t a new idea.”

A former journalism professor and author of a book on the future of news commented, “There have always been rumors, lies, misinformation. Thinker, beware. In the marketplace, there are protections for buyers from misleading or false product claims and substantial fines if violated. Fines for flat-out lies? Would that work? These would have to be for lies for which there is a verifiable truth (Obama was indeed a US citizen – $50 fine if you say he wasn’t.) But ideological ‘truth’ or spin or perspective or interpretation – who would determine that?”

A North American research scientist observed, “In the US, the only safeguards are organizations and pressure groups that will challenge attacks on civil liberties. I would prefer this more-open system rather than imposing standards that might curtail free speech.”

A chief operating officer replied, “The issue is more about the disseminator and their ability to provide reliable service via the internet. A source is trusted because it has a reputation for the integrity and reliability of both its service and its content. Civil liberties have little or nothing to do with this.”

A chief operating officer of a global nonprofit focused on children’s issues wrote, “Privacy is lost.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “First Amendment rights are very important, but if information is slanderous or libel it should be removed (without legal repercussion). The issue is misleading information. For sites that are known to be purveyors of misleading information, providing disclaimers or ratings based on information accuracy still allows sites to publish but provides context to the reliability and trustworthiness of content.”

A professor emeritus said, “No short answer to this question seems possible.”

An assistant professor of political science wrote, “Private companies (either content providers like CNN & Fox, or internet platforms like Google and Facebook) can change their products to reduce fake and misleading information without curtailing civil liberties. Any government intervention would be a First Amendment violation, and I don’t think the consequences of fake information are severe enough to warrant curtailing free speech.”

A senior staff attorney for a major online civil rights organization said, “Even this phrasing sends chills up my spine. I don’t know what changes you mean, and this is too vague a basis to suggest any curtailment of rights. People always want to clamp down on online anonymity whenever online speech gets messy. But anonymity isn’t the problem – our very own president repeatedly misleads in public – it’s not an attribution problem.”

A researcher based in Europe replied, “There can be no reduction of misleading information at the expense of civic liberties. That would be tragic.”

A lecturer in artificial intelligence at a UK-based university commented, “Yes. No need to access or store personal data. Transparency and accountability are paramount for any viable solution.”

A CEO and research director noted, “Why do rights need to be curtailed? That’s the wrong premise to start from.”

An associate professor at a US university wrote, “It must be done in a way that preserves civil liberties. No rights may be curtailed.”

A vice president for global engineering noted, “Yes, identify a rating system for reports, writers and media outlets.”

An internet pioneer in cybersecurity commented, “We need methods of holding those who spread hateful and seriously false information accountable for their actions. This does not remove the right to speak/post, but increases accountability.”

A senior researcher at a US-based nonprofit research center replied, “No rights have to be curtailed. Information should always be allowed. It’s a matter of education and ultimate discernment to be able to filter out the misinformation. We cannot start treating people like children. Sure, there has to be training, but once people know what to look for, they should be able to spot the difference between real and fake news (or news and opinion for that matter).”

A senior lecturer in communications at a UK university said, “I don’t see any reason to fear the end of civil liberties. Free speech hasn’t died because of regulations against deceptive advertising, and it isn’t going to die because of regulations against deceptive journalism.”

A research scientist based in Europe wrote, “Yes, it can be done with open debate in a correctly educated population. However, threatening women who want abortions or claiming the Holocaust did not happen should not be (and are not in many nations) considered ‘rights.’ When similar so-called ‘rights’ are permitted, their consequences are systematically violence against others – that is, ‘depriving others of their rights to peace, happiness their way of life’ – and should not be considered ‘rights’ at all.”

A senior copywriter said, “Quite the contrary, rights are curtailed if fake and misleading information is not reduced or neutralized. It’s comparable to trash in nature. We cannot stop its creation. But we can educate people to reduce its spread and collect it where it aggregates, to dispose of it safely. We don’t reduce people’s right to create it; we try to discourage them.”

A professor of journalism and public policy at a US university commented, “Totally. The information marketplace has changed, but the internet has been good for free speech.”

An anonymous respondent from North America wrote, “We can’t curtail the free press just to ensure quality information. Not worth it.”

A longtime leader of the Internet Engineering Task Force commented, “Probably not. The starting point needs to be, or at least include, the official arbiters of truth.”

A researcher affiliated with a company and with a major US university noted, “Institutions can provide trusted news feeds. I see little conflict with civil liberties.”

A futurist suggested, “Use new and better versions of online tools, like browsers and social media that are instrumented with AI-derived meta-information about content, but other than that our ‘rights’ will not need to be curtailed. But that won’t stop some governments from constraining them.”

A distinguished professor of information systems at a US university replied, “Perhaps the algorithms could attach a ‘warning’ sign to postings that have been determined to be unfounded, incorrect information. Like warnings of possible scams, it could be a warning that the information appears to be incorrect. People could still share their opinions but they would be tagged as suspect.”

A business owner wrote, “First, the argument of trading personal liberties for a more secure America was perpetrated by the Right and its mythology continues. Second, to the question, no; to reduce the veracity hence effect of propaganda and lies (fake news) one must work on depolarizing US society. Driving propaganda out of our society is best undertaken not by attacking ‘fake news’ directly but by decreasing the susceptibility of everyday people to hyperbole, lies and innuendo.”

A global business leader said, “Yes. More background information should be provided on the source of the news, and the journalists and the poster of the information.”

A senior policy researcher with an American nonprofit global policy think tank said, “Anonymity will have to be curtailed, but that is not a right.”

A researcher based in North America wrote, “Depends on who is on the court when the case is tried.”

The dean of one of the top 10 journalism and communications schools in the US replied, “Sure. But is the goal to reduce vs. challenge/counter? If it is to reduce, then you must work within civil liberties rather than curtail. Tech is essentially unregulated today vs. traditional libel and privacy laws for other media. That’s not a curtailment, but rather inclusion under current law.”

A research scientist at Oxford University commented, “Freedom of speech is no defence to hate speech and lies, e.g., Holocaust denial.”

A longtime technology writer, personality and conference and events creator commented, “The laws that exist – defamation of character, free speech work. We just need some data points to help us decipher the info.”

The president of a public policy research and advocacy group said, “Various Good Housekeeping-type filters (Snopes, et cetera) should be able to do this outside of government involvement. The right to lie is not absolute, however, and we curtail it in commercial speech, plus damages from posting of a falsehood of any kind are litigable.”

An associate professor of urban studies wrote, “It has to. No rights can be curtailed.”

A research scientist based in Europe noted, “Recognizing fake and misleading information is not a novel problem. Any piece of potentially harmful information should be considered false as long as it is not proved using current legal means. Civil liberties and rights do not have to be modified in any way.”

A retired consultant and strategist for US government organizations replied, “I would think a level of civil unrest would be so destructive of the Republic that civil liberties would go on the chopping block to preserve whatever leadership emerged.”

A senior research scientist who develops electronic publishing, media and technology for learning, wrote, “I don’t think any potential solutions have anything to do with civil liberties. We can try to curtail speech, but who curtails what? Or we can try to provide mechanisms to foster more opportunities to understand and contextualize what we are consuming. The latter is presumably agnostic about civil liberties.”

A research scientist for the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT said, “Fake and misleading news threaten civil liberties already. There are no perfect solutions. Anonymity in wider range of contexts may need to be given up on.”

A professor of journalism at New York University observed, “Perhaps the Lanham Act might be invoked, but within US, remedies are limited.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “No civil liberties include the right to make statements others consider wrong. The issue is political rather than technical. Only by building new social institutions can this be changed.”

A senior political scientist wrote, “People have First Amendment rights, and this would have to be curtailed in order for fake and misleading information to be regulated.”

A senior researcher and distinguished fellow for a major futures consultancy observed, “Perhaps we’ll lose the ability to anonymously propagate our opinions, (e.g., on Twitter pseudonyms), but perhaps these discussions can somehow be quarantined to their own platforms, and heavily fact checked as they enter the mainstream information flow.”

A chief marketing officer wrote, “The only way is for people to ask key questions all the time. Who is telling you this information? Do they have an agenda? Do they clearly cite names and sources? Do I know them and do they have a history of quality information? Doe their information pass ‘the smell test’? Is the writing biased or inflammatory? What do other opposing views say and are they based on evidence or just opinion and emotional appeals?”

A director for freedom of expression of a major global citizen advocacy organization said, “Yes, I believe that empowering independent bodies to verify and approve information – without censoring unapproved/unverified info – is a way that we can reduce misleading info without curtailing civil liberties.”

An anonymous professor of economics based in North America noted, “I can see a verified/certified designation. And then some penalties for ‘faking’ verification/certification.”

The co-founder of a nonprofit broadband policy research organization commented, “Fake news is as old as newspapers. Where fake news is concerned, it has historically most often been in the service of curtailing civil liberties: aka, propaganda. Transparency and freedom of access to information remain the only cures, though they ask much of us as a people.”

A research scientist with IBM noted, “Probably. We would need to make sure people still have the freedom to express their opinions, but maybe those opinions need to be labeled as such.”

An associate professor of communication studies at a Washington DC-based university said, “There is no functional way that I know of to limit the spread of fake news without also limiting free expression and an open public sphere.”

A town council member based in the southeastern US commented, “This question doesn’t make sense to me. The reduction of fake news and the curtailment of civil liberties are incompatible.”

A principal architect wrote, “There may have to be some compromises to civil liberties.”

A professor emeritus of history at a California university replied, “Yes, but reducing the incidence of fake stories will require a robust system of edited or curated websites.”

A senior global policy analyst for a major online citizen advocacy group said, “Voluntary moderation of fake news does not require any curtailment of civil liberties. It is not necessary to make fake news dissemination illegal in a way that would implicate civil liberties concerns.”

An anonymous research scientist based in North America wrote, “Such changes can be made. We don’t think of restaurant reviews as curtailing civil liberties; comparable reviews of public utterances could be the same.”

An anonymous internet pioneer/originator commented, “The response to bad information should be more information – Google News’s new ‘Fact Check’ area is an example. This question presupposes that freedom of the press must be curtailed to prevent ‘fake news’ – every dictator agrees, for his/her definition of ‘fake news.’”

A senior analyst for marketing insights for a major media measurement company replied, “Yes, we must rely on trusted institutions to reduce fake and misleading information. Private companies and organizations must be the ones who decide how false information is to be filtered out of the public sphere. As long as it’s not the government itself that is blocking the spread of information, private institutions such as the press and technology platforms have no legal or ethical obligation to allow all information to be treated equally. They are counted on by the public to ensure people can identify accurate and truthful information.”

An anonymous research scientist based in North America said, “The issue here is what you think the solution is. If the solution is making it possible to verify that news is from a reliable source – that doesn’t undermine civil liberties. If it is that the private sector seeks to suppress news it considers unreliable, that’s a concern (though not civil liberties, which is usually an issue of what the government does). If governments intervene, yes, civil liberties are a big concern.”

A North American research scientist said, “Perhaps the right to spread knowingly false information – but, there may be a technological solution, rather than a criminal justice solution.”

An anonymous survey participant replied, “Perhaps, but not in a way that preserves privacy. That ship has sailed.”

An editor and translator commented, “All the systems and measures to prevent misinformation will be used by corporations and governments to suppress any type of undesired voices. Even now anti-hate speech measures of major social media platforms are mainly used to remove content by certain minorities or dissidents. Freedom of expression, right to information are the first rights to go.”

A consultant based in North America noted, “In theory, you could create a surveillance system built on AI that spots, exposes, and penalizes intentional disinformation. This would likely require some degree of invasive data collection that attaches real identity (or some other form of source attribution) to online publishers. That said, I think this is not likely to work. The most pernicious form of disinformation is not the outright falsehood, it is the blend of truth and propaganda that reinforces prejudice and political fantasies that drive polarizing social movements. Those types of information flows cannot be restrained in a society that respects freedom of speech.”

An adjunct senior lecturer in computing noted, “Most rights have been curtailed but not by enforcement. The young likely to protest have been diverted by social media pulp. Older dissidents protest through social media but are drowned out by the “buzz” of inconsequential pulp. Any popular movement that has significant general exposure in the media is soon forgotten, replaced by something horrible occurring around the world.”

A professor of information systems at a major technological university in Germany commented, “In the grey areas, freedom of speech might be endangered.”

An instructor of political science based in North America wrote, “Yes, because the reduction – if effective – will not occur through official censorship but by people becoming more discerning consumers of information.”

A principal consultant said, “I don’t see ‘rights’ as entering into it. We are free to say almost anything in this society, but we then face consequences from fellow citizens if we are found to be lying or serving our own purposes. We all need to get better and holding people and organizations accountable for what they say. And we need to be more attentive to the reputations various sources develop for being truthful.”

A professor based in North America observed, “Yes, this can be done. It will not be perfect, however. We will need to be better consumers of information.”

A North American research scientist commented, “Yes. It is not about rights but about ease of spreading false information and/or having it appear credible.”

A technical writer said, “There may be limits to freedom of expression, but who decides what is OK?”

A professor and researcher based in North America noted, “That’s the balance, isn’t it?”

A research scientist said, “Yes. Education, public trust and increased government expertise in hacker tracking are required to do this in a way that preserves privacy and civil liberties.”

An author and journalist said, “Perhaps.”

An executive director for a civil rights organization based in Africa commented, “The right to freedom of expression might be curtailed.”

A professor of sociology based in North America said, “Powerful media companies can help filter valid content. If trust is restored to news sources, I don’t expect personal liberties to suffer as a result. Social media will continue to allow people to share ideas, whether true or false.”

A data scientist based in Europe who is also affiliated with a program at Harvard University wrote, “No.”

A senior vice president for government relations noted, “Yes. Freedom of speech is not without responsibility. The key is to require platforms to assume more responsibility for content posted on their services. If they can organise all of the world’s information they can better police their services.”

A professor based in Europe commented, “Can it? Yes. Will it? I doubt it. The way to do it is to have transparent oversight that can promote trustworthy information to be more prominent than propaganda, and to deconstruct propaganda. But that will require a better-educated public.”

An anonymous research scientist based in Asia/Southeast Asia wrote, “Yes.”

A professor of sociology based in Europe observed, “Transparent governance models, information about who publishes the information and sources of information, right to free speech is not affected and could use something like DOI to protect individual named identity if necessary.”

An anonymous business leader wrote, “The problem is who decides what is ’fake?’”

An anonymous professor of cybersecurity at a major US university commented, “It might be possible to prevent the spread of blatantly false information, but that would seem to require sensors monitoring the world – which in some sense is scarier than fake news.”

An anonymous educator noted, “None hopefully, but most likely a continued loss of privacy.”

A professor of new-media education asked, “In which country? These are not absolute universal rights.”

A professor and expert in technology law at a West Coast-based US university said, “No. Intermediaries will figure this out, consistent with their rights to free speech and press.”

An anonymous researcher based in North America replied, “I’m not sure that communicating misleading information necessarily equates to freedom of expression, a civil liberty. Citizens have responsibilities as well. My focus is on the education of young people. Young people need to learn about their digital rights AND their digital responsibilities – a balanced approach. These lessons should be a central part of the civics curriculum, not reserved just for ICT class.”

An anonymous researcher based in North America observed, “No rights can or should be curtailed.”

A North American research scientist said, “Yes, false news can be given their own site, blockaded from those who do not wish it.”

An associate professor of business at a major university in Australia wrote, “Search and seizure: We already happily give away most of our civil liberties to companies. We get upset when Government has our information. So Government can just buy the information from the companies that we gave it to. Movement: Location is easily tracked already so not a problem for most. Speech: It may be a good thing to limit the right to deliberately lie about the (un)ethical conduct of others.”

A university professor based in Asia/Southeast Asia said, “Yes, civil liberties can be preserved if we have more political efficacy to the extent fake news will not survive in.”

A postdoctoral associate at MIT noted, “I think there are many ways to address the problem of fake information without damaging civil liberties.”

A leading internet pioneer who has worked with the FCC, ITU, GE, Sprint and VeriSign commented, “Privacy is not possible.”

A professor based in New York observed, “This would depend on how the changes are made. Currently, fake information may be flagged as fake but that doesn’t quite stop their spread. The best way to deal with this is through education, with heavy emphasis on critical thinking and rhetoric.”

An author and journalist based in North America said, “I don’t think reducing fake information necessarily means curtailing civil liberties.”

A research scientist based in North America wrote, “This would be goal. Transparency as new benchmark value.”

A professor of education policy commented, “I don’t actually think this is that difficult. Many people read nonsense on the internet, and there are few ways indeed to police this space. But the vast majority of fake news is widely spread through a few key RADIO, TV, and SOCIAL MEDIA sources. So, those sources need to be overseen by a commission with the ability to pull funding or levy fines for blatant lies – about which there is no real disagreement in the country (e.g., that millions of illegal voters voted in the last election). But as most issues are not quite so clear-cut, and as we deeply value our civil rights, much of this work will need to be done through other means, that simply make ideological fake news sources unprofitable. I really think that in many cases, that is all it would take.”

An anonymous survey participant noted, “We have legal systems in place already to deal with this. We do not need to re-invent the wheel.”

A distinguished engineer for a major provider of IT solutions and hardware commented, “This is the crux of the problem: It is not possible to censor sources or articles of news without fundamentally infringing on the right to freedom of expression. My truth may not match yours, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. Because of my genetic makeup, I can get a muscular build with a half hour of exercise a day and eating a poor diet. That you cannot replicate the result because of your genetic makeup doesn’t make my report fake. It goes the same way for any story. Human senses are imperfect and what I perceive when looking at something may be very different from what you perceive. That doesn’t make either of us wrong.”

A North American research scientist said, “Not only is law likely to be ineffective at reducing misleading information, but any law attempting that is likely to be used by bad actors to censor good information.”

A researcher based in North America observed, “It is crucial to deal with fake information while also preserving civil liberties.”

An anonymous internet activist/user based in Europe commented, “There is no easy way to reduce so-called fake and misleading information without violating freedom of speech.”

A business leader based in North America noted, “This is unknown: the math is tricky, e.g., differential privacy”

An anonymous consultant based in North America commented, “Yes. Suppose Koch and Soros jointly funded an institute that provided an honest rating of news stories.”

An academic based in North America replied, “No.”

An emeritus professor of communication for a US Ivy League university noted, “Ideally, we might be able to reduce fake and misleading information with something akin to public punishment – immediate, and widespread distribution of informed criticism of the information, and its source, including, to the best extent possible, the purposes or goals behind delivering ‘fake’ or misleading information. Punishment through authoritative critique. I don’t see any curtailment in such a response.”

A former software systems architect replied, “The only way to preserve civil liberties is to preserve civil liberties. Curtailing rights works to the advantage of those who wish to disrupt liberal democracy.”

A copyright and free speech artist-advocate observed, “I’m not sure. Perhaps the FCC can regulate the internet, but I’m not sure how it can accomplish the goals without violating our right to free speech.”

A North American futurist/consultant commented, “Yes, no rights should have to be curtailed. We need a distributed system to mitigate the lack of trust from unverified and in reputable sources. If the ledger certifies stories from a proof of work model, human spin and biases are mitigated while maintaining free speech.”

A consultant based in North America replied, “Yes, it should be possible to reduce fake/misleading/propaganda in public discourse without impacting civil liberties. Looking back at decades-old propaganda, it is embarrassing to think anybody was swayed by the heavy-handed rhetoric. Educators will teach the next generation of students the critical thinking skills they need to recognize and discount these newer forms of manipulative communication.”

A political economist and columnist commented, “I am not sure despite my undergraduate work at Georgetown, master’s of public administration at Harvard and Ph.D. in economics at The New School. With my age (84) and experience (20 years) with the United States International Trade Commission, and as FSO, DOL, and with US Trade Office and 20 years as an economics professor, if anyone could guess the future, it would be me. I have a fair idea of what happened over the past 60 years, and it is not the Washington Consensus. What happened could never have been predicted with the information that was available at any time. We have to try, but we should realize that the confidence interval is very small.”

A consultant based in Africa commented, “In this case, internet users might have to give up some level of privacy.”

An anonymous author and journalist wrote, “Identified information will be more trusted than unidentified.”

A chief executive officer commented, “At issue is freedom of speech. We will need to have better laws and mores that are enforced by courts and public opinion, otherwise we would end up as Orwell’s “1984.””

An anonymous author and journalist based in North America wrote, “One acceptable item might be to say that if a satire is to be protected as broadly it is today it must be labeled as such. That prevents propaganda from hiding behind the satire defense.”

A founder and research scientist commented, “Of course it can. No system should stop a message, but it can be evaluated and labelled.”

A policymaker based in North America said, “It should, and rights should not be curtailed – it shouldn’t be a zero-sum game.”

The founder of one of the internet’s longest-running information-sharing platforms commented, “I don’t think any rights need to be curtailed, if presented as optional on social media platforms.”

A professor and institute director said, “Civil liberties require free access to accurate information – so the opposite is true: misleading and fake information infringes our civil liberties, our ability to vote in an informed manner.”

A professor based in North America noted, “Private ownership of the media.”

An anonymous respondent said, “I do not believe anyone’s rights should be taken away Everyone can help each other by informing gullible people that they are reading fake items – perhaps we can offer sticky type notes for people to put on posts that they think are fake? But then others may think they are true! Maybe a propaganda campaign could be undertaken to tarnish the reading and sharing of such fake info.”

A marketing consultant for an innovations company said, “Yes. By requiring attribution.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Bad information is in the eye/mind of the perceiver. Curtailing of production gives away power to the curtailer. If information receiver stops paying attention, bad news shrivels. Education!”

A professor of sociology at a major university in the US Midwest commented, “I do not think we should curtail civil liberties to reduce fake or misleading information. The cure would be worse then the disease.”

A department leader at a nonprofit organization based in North America commented, “I do not think so. Imagine for example when the US government, Democrats and Republicans both, falsely and knowingly circulated information that helped the entry of US troops into Iraq. Dissenting voices that called out the highest powers would have been curtailed. It is so important to allow for a free exchange of ideas.”

An anonymous activist/user wrote, “If power will be applied to protect some version of official truth, the only result you/we will get is greater repression not greater truth. In other words, this survey is looking for a solution that does not exist, the path ahead is one where technology cannot help, it merely magnifies our choices, it cannot guide them to the right direction.”

The executive director of a major global privacy advocacy organization said, “Yes it can but it won’t be done in that way. Identity-obsessed policy makers will ensure that the solutions are staid and overly-regulated. Industry will choose their own winners as they continue to commodity our data.”

An anonymous research scientist noted, “No, it cannot. Also, specifically *who* gets to decide whether information is ‘fake’ or not? The best answer is a more educated and discerning society.”

A US-based associate professor of political science commented, “It can be done in a way such civil liberties are preserved.”

An educational technology broker replied, “It’s always a balancing act. However, we need to make sure we never reduce our civil liberties for the sake of a country or a ruler.”

A professor emerita and adjunct lecturer at two major US universities commented, “It may depend on the professionalism of the news organizations. If ‘real’ journalists committed to the ethical values of their profession were employed, and the editors, managers and owners of these institutions shared those values, then we might not have so much misleading information available. Perhaps we need to use a certification process for those who supply the news to the public – something journalists have always resisted. But the time for that may have come, given the amount of crap that is released. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about civil liberties of the consumers – they would be advised that those providing fake news had not been certified. Just a thought.”

A chief technology officer observed, “Yes. Education is important for this. As is promoting diversity and diverse opinions in society.”

A research assistant at MIT commented, “I believe this can be done while maintaining civil liberties such as free speech. The ideal solution is to foster connections between narratives and quantified facts, along with their sources.”

A journalist based in North America said, “It is impossible to curtail rights. Freedom of speech by definition includes a wide array of speakers with different motives. Any curtailment of rights means the end of democracy and our Republic.”

A librarian based in North America noted, “This is the hard question. I don’t think people’s rights have to be curtailed, but people must be willing to challenge unsubstantiated information.”

A professor and associate dean commented, “Our most important tool for the preservation of civil liberties is anonymity, and it is also our most destructive. We need a barrier between anonymity and identification whose porosity can be turned on and off. The legal system can do this: I post something terrible anonymously. A legal action is brought against me to determine who I am and investigate my claims. The courts will need to adjudicate such actions. Imperfect, of course, and likely to jam the courts, of course, but there is a way.”

A technical evangelist based in Southern California said, “The best we can do is to flag/annotate possible problems with issues/reasons, not filter.”

A doctoral candidate and internet researcher at the University of Southern California, said, “The only way to stop bad speech is with more good speech.”

A data scientist and blockchain expert based in Europe wrote, “Blockchains would be effective to reduce false/fake information. Some privacy rights may need to be foregone.”

A sociology Ph.D. wrote, “Changes focused on producers of misleading information will not be very effective. We need to focus on the people who want to be misled and who want to buy in to the fake information. Any attempt to quash producers is more likely to do harm (curtailing civil liberties) than do good.”

An historian and writer said, “It’s hard to imagine that we would be willing to curtail free speech in any way. I would prefer to find marketplace solutions.”

A retired university professor noted, “No. In order to have a common culture people must agree on some basic truths. People have the freedom to have their own opinions but not their own truth. Some freedoms to act out religious intolerance and brandish weapons at their neighbors must be curtailed if we are going to rebuild a common culture.”

A professor based in North America replied, “Yet again our best hope is public skepticism. ‘Fake news’ may turn out to be a fad, like MySpace or pet rocks, though with far more damaging consequences.”

An author/editor/journalist based in North America observed, “Depends on what those changes are. I’d frame the question differently by inserting the words ‘the impact of’ fake and misleading information. Misinformation will always be with us.”

An author/editor/journalist based in Europe commented, “None. The changes should occur at the consumer end, not the producer.”

A professor and researcher based in North America responded, “Yes. I don’t know why civil liberties would need to be curtailed. Most of the misinformation I see is circulated by exploiting the affordances of social media systems with the tacit support of private industry. For-profit corporations such as platform providers should be regulated and held accountable but the free-speech rights of individuals need not be curtailed.”

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If you wish to read the full survey report with analysis, click here.

To read credited survey participants’ responses with no analysis, click here.