The Internet was once seen as a democratizing force, but today social media platforms have become exploitable intermediaries of political discourse. The velocity of online information and viral communication can easily create dysfunction in campaigns and within democracy. And for a relatively small investment in resources, a country’s media can be infiltrated by bots, trolls, hackers and leakers, without leaving much evidence of who sponsored the attack. In addition, through the use of algorithms that create “filter bubbles” and echo chambers, the Internet is further polarizing public opinion. How should governments, institutions, tech companies, communities, and individuals respond? How do we repair polarization created by the Internet?
Nathaniel Persily is the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and co-director of the Stanford Project on Democracy and the Internet. A nationally recognized constitutional law expert, frequent media commentator, as well as award-winning educator, he is the editor of Solutions to Political Polarization in America, a contributor to The Washington Post and The New York Times, and the author of a work-in-progress that explores the Internet’s impact on U.S. democracy. A sought-after nonpartisan voice on voting rights, Persily has served as a special master or court-appointed expert to craft congressional or legislative districting plans for Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from Yale; a J.D. from Stanford where he was President of the Stanford Law Review, and a Ph.D. in political science from UC Berkeley.