The Atlantic Begins “The Speech Wars” Reporting Project

Year-long series will explore questions of free expression, beginning with an event in San Francisco December 5.

Today The Atlantic begins a year-long reporting project, “The Speech Wars,” exploring questions of American free expression and public discourse. The project will unfold across, in video, and through live events, beginning with an event next week in San Francisco looking at the debate about free speech on campuses, on tech platforms, and in politics.

“The Speech Wars” is born out of The Atlantic’s legacy of covering threats to free expression, freedom, and justice—beginning with the magazine’s founding in 1857 as a nonpartisan journal that argued for the cause of abolition—and more urgently by the public’s increasing sectarianism and declining tolerance for challenging points of view.

The Atlantic is, and always has been, a marketplace for competing ideas,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic. “We need to understand why so many factions and individuals across America have traded dissent and useful argument for intolerance and illiberalism.”

“The Speech Wars” will seek to understand where free speech is in danger and where it has been abused. With social media and the internet enlivening the marketplace of ideas—and giving every citizen access to the public square—we should be living in a golden age of free expression. The opposite is now true: over the past two decades, liberals and conservatives have increasingly come to believe their ideological opposites aren’t just misguided, but dangerous. The Atlantic’s reporting will explore all of these complicated realities, offering a range of reports and essays from staff writers and contributors.

The project kicks off with a national summit, “Free Speech (Un)Limited,” next Wednesday, December 5, in San Francisco, where The Atlantic will discuss consequential debates around free speech and the free press; the weaponization of the First Amendment; the struggle for open dialogue on campus; and the struggle by tech companies to balance a commitment to an open platform against the real threats of fake news, election interference, and violence. Speakers include:

  • Michael Abramowitz, President of Freedom House;
  • Noam Dworman, owner of the Comedy Cellar;
  • Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit;
  • Elliot Schrage, Facebook Vice President of Communications and Public Policy;
  • Nicole Wong, former Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama administration;
  • and Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago.

“The Speech Wars” project is underwritten by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Fetzer Institute.

About The Atlantic
Founded in 1857 and today one of the fastest growing media platforms in the industry, The Atlantic has throughout its history championed the power of big ideas and continues to shape global debate across print, digital, events, and video platforms. With its award-winning digital presence and on cities around the world, The Atlantic is a multimedia forum on the most critical issues of our times—from politics, business, urban affairs, and the economy, to technology, arts, and culture. Bob Cohn is president of The Atlantic and Jeffrey Goldberg is editor in chief. Emerson Collective is majority owner; Atlantic Media is the minority operating owner of The Atlantic.

Media Contact:
Anna Bross