The Debate Over Free Speech, Disinformation and Censorship

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Credit…Nick Fancher for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Allies Are Winning War Over Disinformation” (front page, March 17):

The U.S. Supreme Court put limits on free speech, saying you can’t falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Fundamental to our democracy is an informed electorate. Yet our courts seem to be OK with a flood of lies and propaganda masquerading as news and aimed at burning down our democracy.

This should concern every American for several reasons, including the surge of social media sites that contain much misinformation, the closure of many local newspapers, a decline in the number of real journalists, and an increase in the amount of misinformation spread by adversaries like Russia and China in an attempt to affect the outcome of our elections.

Richard Dickinson
Richmond Hill, Ga.

To the Editor:

In the same way that semiautomatic guns and bump stocks were never foreseen by the founding fathers when establishing the Second Amendment, social media and A.I. escaped their prescience when it came to issues of free speech.

The commerce of ideas as they addressed it consisted primarily of public discourse via the printed or spoken word at social, political and religious gatherings. The idea that citizens would someday own portable electronic devices that facilitated both the easy manufacture and distribution of subjective realities certainly surpassed anything imagined in the Sedition Act.

America must now address two pressing questions that Madison, Hamilton and others were spared. How do we prevent the yelling of “fire” in a crowded theater when there is neither an actual theater nor an assembled crowd? And how do we stop domestic and foreign profiteers who would embrace the resultant turmoil?

Anthony Nannetti

To the Editor:

There is a difference between supporting the First Amendment and hiding behind it. A presidential campaign that uses disinformation to subvert a fair and legal election is undermining the very democracy for which free speech is a bulwark.

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