Rebalancing Regulation of Speech: Hyper-Local Content on Global Web- Based Platforms

Public and private discourse online is mediated through global web-based platforms. The platforms hold, enable and carry local and hyper-local conversations between local actors with local consequences. Although online harmful speech has local dimensions, the usual local modes of intervention for harmful speech are no longer viable. Global intervention is difficult since context is often a significant factor in identifying harmful speech. The internet has disrupted regulation of harmful speech and regulators are pushing back. This has an unfortunate effect on freedom of expression while failing to address the problem of harmful speech adequately. This essay highlights the problems that arise from companies' knee jerk responses to the consequences of harmful speech. It offers a way forward.