The “Views on First” podcast begins with arguably the most famous Twitter handle of all—@realdonaldtrump—and the Knight Institute’s groundbreaking lawsuit establishing that the First Amendment bars public officials from blocking critics from their social media accounts. Over the course of five episodes, host Evelyn Douek—legal scholar and a self-described content-moderation nerd—talks to guests from the tech industry, legal practice, and academia about some of the thorniest questions that arise when social media collides with the First Amendment.
“Views on First” won a 2023 Signal Listener’s Choice Award and a Silver Medal in the Limited Series & Specials: News & Politics category. It also won a 2024 Anthem Award Silver Medal in the Responsible Technology: Podcast or Audio category.
Subscribe to the five-episode series wherever you get podcasts.
What is Twitter? Yes, it’s where you find the latest news and commentary, read about celebrities you love (or hate), and have a nice, civilized discussion with fellow users (read: sarcasm). But is it the public square? Nothing but a private platform? And what are social media platforms’ rights and obligations under First Amendment law?
Episode One: What is Twitter?
What is Twitter (or any social media platform) as a matter of First Amendment law? Host Evelyn Douek begins to crack open this question, starting with perhaps the most famous Twitter handle of all—@realdonaldtrump. As president, Trump used his account to hire and fire government officials, butt heads with North Korea, and block his critics, a practice that one group of lawyers started to question.
Guests Jameel Jaffer and Katie Fallow—executive director and senior counsel at the Knight Institute, respectively—discuss the Institute’s landmark case—Knight v. Trump—establishing that the First Amendment bars public officials from blocking critics from their social media accounts. They are joined by some of the plaintiffs from that lawsuit—comedy writer Nick Jack Pappas, chocolatier and political consultant Holly Figueroa O’Reilly, and sociologist Philip Cohen, who recount their experiences of being blocked (and then unblocked) by Trump.
Transcript: Ep. 1.
Episode Two: A Slippery Slope?
Thanks to the ruling in Knight v. Trump, then-president Trump could no longer block critics on social media. Hooray! But the ruling was only the start of the story, and quickly new questions arose. How would it affect other government officials? What might it mean for the development of the law more generally? Could the ruling be used in ways that the Knight Institute team didn't expect and doesn’t agree with? In this episode, host Evelyn Douek is joined by Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman and former Twitter head of integrity Yoel Roth. Together they explore the ramifications of Knight v. Trump, and ask: Did the case establish much-needed guardrails around free speech online, or is it starting us on a slippery slope that could fundamentally change how the First Amendment applies to social media platforms?
Transcript: Ep. 2.
Episode Three: Old Doctrine, New Tricks
Over time, the First Amendment has meant lots of different things to a lot of different people. In this episode, with University of Chicago law professor Genevieve Lakier by her side, host Evelyn Douek travels back to the time when modern free speech doctrine first started to emerge. Together they consider the values that have influenced how America thinks about free speech and how these values came to shape the way American law approached regulating the internet back when very few people even knew what the internet was. We hear from someone who was there—Sen. Ron Wyden—now one of the most famous names in internet regulation—about Section 230—one of the most (in)famous online speech regulations out there. But things have been changing in the politics of online speech regulation, and things are really starting to get weird now.
Transcript: Ep. 3.
Episode Four: Our Corporate Speech Overlords
Social media platforms make more decisions about free speech every minute than the Supreme Court has made in more than 200 years. So the values and systems adopted by these corporate speech overlords matter a lot. Guests Nicole Wong—former Google VP and Twitter exec—and Alex Stamos—director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and former Facebook chief security officer—tell the story of how Big Tech stumbled its way through developing systems of speech regulation, from the early laissez-faire days to the controversies of today. Turns out that speech regulation is hard.
Transcript: Ep. 4.
Episode Five: The 1A A-Bomb
Social media platforms have evaded heavy regulation on their content moderation practices so far, but the jig may very well be up. Many U.S. states are considering enacting laws to rein in platforms. To date, two states—Florida and Texas—have passed laws that significantly limit social media companies’ ability to moderate their platforms, and the measures look very likely to be up for Supreme Court review soon. Guests Alex Abdo—litigation director of the Knight Institute—and Brian Willen—one of the lawyers representing platforms challenging these laws—discuss these immensely important Supreme Court cases. The debate around if and how to regulate social media grows increasingly fierce, and the future of the internet hangs in the balance.
Transcript: Ep. 5.
Host and writer—Evelyn Douek
Co-writer, producer, editor—Merrin Lazyan
Executive producer—Candace White
Production assistant and fact-checker—Kushal Dev
Sound design, Eps. 1-4—Matt Boynton
Sound design, Ep. 5—David Boman
Audio and production services—Ultraviolet Audio