A photo of the US Constitution

Free Speech and Social Media

September 22, 2021
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Old Capitol Senate Chambers

The first event in this series featured a variety of perspectives on the challenges related to free speech in the ecosystem of social media, by a diverse panel of first amendment, industry and political perspectives. The speakers for this event were:

Todd Pettys, H. Blair and Joan V. White Professor, UI College of Law. Professor Pettys provided an overview of the first amendment as it relates to social media and regulation and moderated the discussion for the evening.

Keynote speakers:

  • Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel at NetChoice. Mr. Szabo provided a perspective on behalf of the social media industry.
  • Mike Davis, Founder and President, Internet Accountability Project. Mr Davis is a UI Alum and provided a conservative perspective on the regulation of speech on social media.
  • Traci Griffith, Associate Professor, Simmons University. Professor Griffith provided the perspective of a former AP journalist, an academic and lawyer who is on the executive committee of the national board of the ACLU.

Reactors for the discussion:

Two leaders of the Iowa Legislature provided an Iowa political perspective of free speech and social media.

  • Sen. Amy Sinclair, represents District 14th (Wayne County-based) and Chairs the Senate Education Committee.
  • Sen. Zach Wahls, represents District 37 (Johnson County-based) and is the Senate Minority Leader.

Topics discussed included:

  • Who, if anyone, should control what’s allowed online?
  • Should there be more regulation around how tech companies operate? Specifically, should the regulations associated with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act be modified, and if so, how and by whom?
  • If not by regulation, how should we consider misinformation or other activities contrary to the public good that arise on social media?

This event was free and open to the public, and was made available on livestream. You can view the recording below, and also read articles about the event in the Daily Iowan and the Press-Citizen.



H. Blair and Joan V. White Professor UI College of Law, University of Iowa College of Law
Vice President & General Counsel NetChoice
Founder and President Internet Accountability Project
Associate Professor Simmons University
Secretary National ACLU Board
Iowa Senate District 14
State Senator Iowa District 37
The Forkenbrock Series provides a forum for dialogue about policy areas from applied, academic, and interdisciplinary perspectives. The series was established in honor of David Forkenbrock, a nationally recognized transportation researcher. Dr. Forkenbrock established the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa in 1987 and directed the Center until 2007. His vision was to enable public and private sector decision makers to work with faculty, staff, and student researchers to explore solutions to complex problems related to the public interest.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Dragana Petic at dragana-petic@uiowa.edu.