Chatting up a Storm

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Call it the lowercase “great experiment in democracy,” the electronic salons and chat rooms of the Internet. They are the post-modern melting pot of thoughts and ideas, the perfect haven for open conversations ranging from taxidermy to existentialism. But when the threads turn political, stand back or run for cover. Decorum goes out the window, along with reason and anything resembling insightful dialogue.

Instead, picture the online equivalent of a barroom brawl. With chatters hiding behind the virtual veil of a pseudonym, even the most rational topics can degenerate into vituperative verbal flame-throwing.

The great online experiment, a great failure? Free speech in cyberspace. You running dog, lickspittle, whinging whiner.


Nicholas Thompson, Markle Fellow at the New America Foundation

Mike Godwin, policy fellow at The Center for Democracy and Technology and moderator for The Well.