The Soho Forum Debates

Regulate Social Media? Jonathan Haidt Debates Robby Soave

Professor Jonathan Haidt of NYU and Reason's Robby Soave debate the harms of social media and what the government should do about it.


Are platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram harming Americans in ways that government regulation could help correct?

On Thursday, February 17, Jonathan Haidt and Robby Soave had an Oxford-style debate on the role of government regarding social media before a capacity crowd at the Sheen Center in downtown Manhattan. It was hosted by the Soho Forum, a monthly debate series sponsored by Reason. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein served as moderator.

Haidt, professor of ethical leadership at New York University and co-founder of Heterodox Academy, defended the debate resolution, "The federal government should increase its efforts to reduce the harms caused by social media."

Soave, who took the negative, is a senior editor at Reason and author of the recently published Tech Panic: Why We Shouldn't Fear Facebook and the Future. He argued that widespread criticisms of social media stem from our innate—and misguided—distrust of new technology. Soave also contended that, for all its flaws, social media confers huge net benefits, and that the application of "government force" is likely to do far more harm than good.

Haidt, author of a recent article in The Atlantic on social media's harm to mental health, pointed out that while the platforms were not initially designed for people under 18, those individuals have arguably been its victims. Haidt likened the platforms to sugar—best taken in moderation.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by John Osterhoudt.

NEXT: Stephanie Slade: What Kind of Libertarian Are You?

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  1. I admire Haidt, and have read 2 of his books. However, he's wrong here! Narcissistic self-admiration and bragging (and keeping your faults totally private) predates FacePoooo etc. ... Think of "Cosmo" magazine, etc., where young girls are "sold" this crap about "be beautiful, be in with the in crowd", is what it's all about. Don't bother working and studying hard... That's for old fogies!

    This shit predates glossy magazines as well! Free speech rules! YOU make YOUR choices freely, as to what media and ideas to consume! Caveat Emptor, and Government Almighty fuck off!!!

  2. Regulation, perhaps not. Nuking the providers, both platforms & enablers, and a goodly amount of the more vociferous users from orbit? Absolutely.

  3. “ Haidt likened the platforms to sugar—best taken in moderation.”

    You could say the same about NYU.

  4. Professor Jonathan Haidt of NYU and Reason's Robby Soave debate the harms of social media and what the government should do about it.

    The libertarian answer is that the government should deregulate social media.

    Deregulation means repealing special legal protections like Section 230, eliminating any kind of network neutrality rules/standards/requirements, FTC and FCC interference, and any other government protections of the advertising revenue model. The free market would then quickly fragment and destroy monopolies like Facebook and Google.

    The irony is that "Libertarian" sites like Reason seriously argue that removing special government privileges amounts to "government regulation". I don't know whether that is out of sheer ignorance or whether it is deliberate propaganda.

    1. "...special legal protections like Section 230..."

      No matter HOW many times you tell your “Big Lie”, it is NOT true! You’re part of the mob, aren’t you, gangster? For a small fee, you tell small businesses that you will “protect” them… From you and your mob! Refute the below, ye greedy authoritarian who wants to shit all over the concept of private property!

      Look, I’ll make it pretty simple for simpletons. A prime argument of enemies of Section 230 is, since the government does such a HUGE favor for owners of web sites, by PROTECTING web site owners from being sued (in the courts of Government Almighty) as a “publisher”, then this is an unfair treatment of web site owners! Who SHOULD (lacking “unfair” section 230 provisions) be able to get SUED for the writings of OTHER PEOPLE! And punished by Government Almighty, for disobeying any and all decrees from Government Almighty’s courts, after getting sued!

      In a nutshell: Government Almighty should be able to boss around your uses of your web site, because, after all, Government Almighty is “protecting” you… From Government Almighty!!!

      Wow, just THINK of what we could do with this logic! Government Almighty is “protecting” you from getting sued in matters concerning who you chose to date or marry… In matters concerning what line of work you chose… What you eat and drink… What you read… What you think… Therefore, Government Almighty should be able to boss you around on ALL of these matters, and more! The only limits are the imaginations and power-lusts of politicians!

      "Special protections" my ass!!! S-230 applies to one and all, all the same!

      Section 230 …

      1. No matter HOW many times you tell your “Big Lie”

        Still using "Mein Kampf" as your propaganda playbook, I see.

        1. YOU are the Government Almighty-worshipping power pig, not me!

          You can't dispute my FACTS, so you resort to name-calling! SHAME on YOU for being brainless and unprincipled!

    2. I don't know whether that is out of sheer ignorance or whether it is deliberate propaganda.

      There's a middle ground between sheer ignorance and propaganda, the true believer. Though, given Reason's penchant for saying "The 1A of the internet" and then dropping it, I'm inclined to believe they're on the latter end of the spectrum.

  5. Social media is todays town square for free speech so what are you really talking about?

  6. If there was one unambiguous form of speech that was responsible for all corruption, all conflict and had no redeeming qualities, would you support criminalizing it?

    Criminalize lying.

    1. How about when the government orders these “free speech” platforms around?

      1. “Ordering around” is too vague a concept.

        Do you mean reducing crime?

      2. I’m going to guess that you perceive Jews as liars.

        1. I’ve demonstrated many times that Judaism is a religion that advocates lying, so yeah good guess.

          What’s that got to do with the fact that lying is responsible for all corruption, conflict and has no redeeming qualities?

          Criminalizing lying is good for everyone, including Jews who can find a better religion.

          1. So basically, you want to criminalize Judaism. Just like your Fuehrer did back 8n the day.

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