Massey College Press Club

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Massey College Press Club

November 14, 2018 at 7:45 pm - 9:00 pm EST


Podiums, Platforms and the Freedom to Hate

How extreme ideas spread online and into the real world and what editors, platforms and everyone else should do about it

Massey College Press Club

November 14 @ 7:45 pm – 9:00 pm EST

Upper Library, 4 Devonshire Place

Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E1 Canada

At some point in the last decade, our collective, cultural sense of what’s bounded began to fray. Ideas long considered extreme were suddenly not. Figures—like Steve Bannon, Faith Goldy, and Alex Jones—long dismissed as fringe began shuffling toward the mainstream.  And suddenly everywhere online, everyone was yelling — about free speech and hate, rights and responsibilities and all kinds of things that seemed to be written in some kind of sophomoric code: “Cucks,” “globalists,” “incels.”

In last year, the actual impact of all this online furor has become painfully, violently clear. The Toronto van attack, the Pittsburgh synagogue murders, the crude bombs mailed to American liberals: all of these allegedly had roots in fringe communities online. And yet, it isn’t just the fringe anymore. Mainstream politicians spout and spread conspiracy theories ad nauseam. Some supposedly fringe characters have platforms on social media larger than any but the largest of the mainstream press.

All of this leaves anyone with a role in curating and producing information with an endless dilemma. How do you treat ideas and people that seem extreme but are suddenly common? Do you ignore them? Do you let them speak? If you’re a platform, do you ban them? If you’re an editor, do you cover them? If you’re a producer, do you book them for your show?

“(T)he problem of how to balance free speech and its sometimes violent consequences is not a niche idea,” tech thinker Navneet Alang wrote recently in the Globe and Mail. “It is a fundamental issue of our time.”  On Nov. 14, at Massey College, some of Canada’s leading journalists and thinkersdissect this issue in depth. They’ll explain the ways extreme ideas spread online and debate the responsibilities editors, platforms and governments have to let it go or make it stop.

The Panel

Moderated by Tessa Sproule is the co-founder and CEO of Vubble, and a former head of digital at the CBC

  • Sam Tanenhaus is a visiting professor at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, where he’s teaching a class on Donald Trump and the Media. He is a former editor at the New York Times and his work has appeared in Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, the New Republic, The New York Review of Books and many others.
  • Shree Paradkar is a race and gender columnist at the Toronto Star and recipient of the 2018-2019 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. 
  • Robyn Urback is an opinion columnist with CBC News and a producer with the CBC’s opinion section. She previously worked as a columnist and editorial board member at the National Post.


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November 14, 2018
7:45 pm - 9:00 pm


Upper Library
4 Devonshire Place
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E1 Canada