The National Conference on the First Amendment at Duquesne University, Oct. 21 and 22. Photo by Melissa Rayworth.

When autocrats attempt to control a nation, free speech and freedom of the press are the first to go, Maxwell King told the assembled crowd at the opening of the National Conference on the First Amendment on Sunday.

As president of The Pittsburgh Foundation, King was among the organizers of the conference, held at Duquesne University on Sunday and Monday. The impressive roster of speakers at the event included some of the country’s most influential executive editors (Dean Baquet of The New York Times, Martin Baron of The Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s David Shribman), as well as former Homeland Security secretary and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who mentioned his roots in McKees Rocks, appeared in a prerecorded video interview with Duquesne University President Ken Gormley, a law scholar who was instrumental in organizing the conference. And Harvard professor and famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz participated via Skype.

During two days of passionate discussion, the audience heard about everything from deep fakes and doxxing to the debate over abolishing online anonymity and the importance of fighting to protect the free speech of all people — even those who oppose or offend us.

Here is The Associated Press’ feature on the conference, and stay tuned for our next On Media column, which will offer an inside view from Andrew Conte, a conference panel moderator and our public editor.

Melissa Rayworth

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The...