Forum on Free Speech and Content Moderation

Location | The Morrison House (116 S Alfred St, Alexandria, VA 22314)

Co-Hosted by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression


Should social media companies moderate content on their platforms and to what extent? Is there a free speech breaking point where controversial speech loses protection under the First Amendment? How should we understand differences between censorship by public versus private actors, and what, if anything, should be done when public actors use their soft power to influence private actors to moderate speech in ways public actors desire? In today’s politically polarized society, it is more important than ever to aim to understand those with whom we disagree. This forum will bring together students representing diverse viewpoints to discuss their perspectives on free speech and content moderation. During the event, students will engage with the speakers and other students during panel discussions, large and small group sessions, and reading and writing exercises with the aim to understand a diverse set of viewpoints while engaging in respectful dialogue across political and ideological divides.

This forum is part of the Mercatus Center's Pluralist Lab, an effort to foster open mindedness while actively demonstrating how we can exchange ideas and coexist with our fellow citizens across deep divides. The Pluralist Lab hosts forums like this one to encourage experimentation and development of new tools for improving civil discourse in professional and everyday life. 
FIRE’s mission is to defend and sustain the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought—the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.

There is no cost to attend this event. Meals will be provided throughout. Travel and lodging will be arranged and provided as needed.

Eligibility: Students of all majors at the graduate or undergraduate level at institutions within the United States.

Event Date: April 13-15, 2023

Location: The Morrison House (116 S Alfred St, Alexandria, VA 22314)

Application Deadline: March 1, 2023

The final section of this application consists of several short response questions. You will have a max of 1,500 characters (~250 words) to respond to each.

  1. Please describe your interest in attending this event. What interests you about the topic of free speech and content moderation?
  2. What has shaped your worldview and why? 
  3. What is something that you used to firmly believe, but have since changed your mind about? What changed your mind, or influenced you to change your beliefs?
  4. What activities are you involved with on or off campus?

You will be given the option to upload a current resume.

Students will be updated on their application status by March 10, 2023.

Please reach out to Sarah Wright ([email protected]) with any questions.