Free Speech Debate

Thirteen languages. Ten principles. One conversation.

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1We – all human beings – must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.»
2We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachments by both public and private powers.»
3We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life.»
4We speak openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.»
5We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.»
6We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.»
7We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.»
8We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as is in the public interest.»
9We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.»
10We must be free to challenge all limits to freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality and the protection of intellectual property.»

What’s missing?

Is there a vital area we have not addressed? A principle 11? An illuminating case study? Read other people's suggestions and add your own here. Or start the debate in your own language.

Home | Archives | Team Blog

Oh no, evil goes viral!

Reader of Free Speech Debate “jagracie” asked us to write on the “appalling article written in Zimbabwe” and respond with something that could help readers hold hate speech to account. Dominic Burbidge gives his best suggestion.

Published on: February 27, 2014 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0


What really threatens free expression in India

Faisal Devji explores the deeper lessons from the forced withdrawal of an ‘alternative history’ of the Hindus.

Published on: February 26, 2014 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0

Image by Austronesian Expeditions under this license

Is it a crime to offend bread?

For one taxi company in the Russian town of Kostroma, the answer turned out to be yes. Sergey Fadeev explains.

Published on: February 19, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Law restricting online speech struck down in India

Max Harris examines a historic judgment by India’s Supreme Court and its lessons for other countries.

Published on: April 22, 2015 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1

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Italy and the law on denialism

Luigi Cajani explains how Italy’s draft law on the denial of international crimes minimises the impact on intellectual freedom.

Published on: April 14, 2015 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0

steak and custard

Roast beef with custard

We regularly highlight comments left by our users. Chris discusses the interpretation of roast beef with custard.

Published on: March 2, 2015 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


No pearls of free speech in Bahrain

Katie Engelhart spoke to Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab hours before he was sentenced to six months in jail for a Tweet.

Published on: February 13, 2015 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Fear, farce and tragedy: how Turkey reacted to the Charlie Hebdo murders

Kerem Oktem describes the narrowing room for satire and free expression in Islamist-ruled Turkey.

Published on: January 26, 2015 | Principle 7 | Comments: 0


Does Charlie Hebdo drift into racist caricatures?

The first edition of the magazine since the attack in which 12 people were killed featured a cartoon of Muhammad on its cover. Myriam Francois-Cerrah objects.

Published on: January 21, 2015 | Principle 7 | Comments: 2

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Charlie Hebdo is still alive – and kicking

Timothy Garton Ash on the first issue since the assassinations, and its Muhammad cartoon cover

Published on: January 13, 2015 | Principle 6 | Comments: 2


Against the assassin’s veto

Timothy Garton Ash suggests a European media week of solidarity, including republication of Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Published on: January 8, 2015 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Google evaluates more than 670,000 URLs following ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

by Timothy Garton Ash

Published on: December 14, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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How Russia’s media pluralism was eroded under Vladimir Putin

Maryam Omidi describes a mapping of the Russian media landscape in 2014.

Published on: November 17, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Religion. Privacy. National Security. What limits to free speech do they justify?

Timothy Garton Ash presents ‘sample tours’ of our content: three for the general reader, and three specifically for schools.

Published on: October 21, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Vinco 2014

Facebook: the empire on which the sun never sets

The world is blue. Compare 2014 to 2009 and you see how Facebook has strengthened its global predominance among social networks, with just a few big hold-out countries.

Published on: August 29, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


A short history of disappearing privacy on Facebook

Since Facebook launched in 2005 its default privacy settings have undergone radical changes, giving more access to personal data than many are aware of.

Published on: August 29, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Your comments highlighted

We regularly highlight comments from our users. In the last six months we have had quite a few insightful comments, contributing to our online debate.

Published on: August 29, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Google sets up data removal webform

Getting Google to forget you is harder than it seems

Sebastian Huempfer describes the difficulties in having outdated information removed from Google, and explains why this might be a good thing.

Published on: August 21, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


“That Jew died for you”

The group Jews for Jesus published a video entitled “That Jew died for you“, depicting Jesus as a victim of the Holocaust. Rabbi Laura Janner –Klausner called for the offensive video to be removed from YouTube. Brian Pellot discusses the free speech implications.

Published on: July 21, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

Russia swearing

Profanity, purity and politics — the battle for the Russian language

A law banning swear words in the arts in Russia has come into effect in July 2014. Maryam Omidi discusses the implications.

Published on: July 7, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Al Jazeera

Egypt: will the United States stand up for free speech abroad?

Not if John Kerry’s visit to Cairo and the next day’s verdict in the Al-Jazeera trial are anything to go by, writes Max Gallien.

Published on: June 30, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

FSD pic Dominic

Canada champions tolerance abroad. But what about chez nous in Quebec?

Charles Taylor asks what motivates practices of exclusion on the basis of religious identity and expression. Dominic Burbidge reports.

Published on: May 29, 2014 | Principle 7 | Comments: 0


In Ecuador, cartoonist gets the last laugh

Kim Wilkinson looks at an unusual order to ‘correct’ a cartoon, and the cartoonist’s clever reply.

Published on: April 20, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

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How to make counter-speech sexy: on combating online hate speech and extremism

Kim Wilkinson reports on a counter-speech event held at Google London on creating the positive online.

Published on: March 31, 2014 | Principle 4 | Comments: 1


Europe’s common tongue: bad English

Sebastian Huempfer reviews a new dictionary that may help native speakers better understand the European Union’s weird brand of the English language.

Published on: March 14, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Homage to Catalan

Timothy Garton Ash introduces a translation of our ten principles into Catalan and a reflection on having Catalan as your native language.

Published on: March 6, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

presenting Babble at the WordPress Conference

From Babel to Babble

Free Speech Debate web developer Simon Dickson describes the new open source code developed for our – or any other – multi-language Word Press site.

Published on: November 11, 2013 | Comments: 0

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Connected world, fragmented world

Is internet access a human right? What are the limits of free speech online and what should they be? By Judith Bruhn.

Published on: October 18, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 4

Protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks participate in demonstration against ACTA in Berlin

Blackout: why Russian internet sites are going dark over anti-piracy laws

2,000 websites blacked out their pages for a day to protest against the "Russian SOPA", an anti-piracy law lobbied for by the film industry. By Maryam Omidi.

Published on: August 1, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Who is tracking the trackers? Use “Collusion” to find out.

The debate raised by revelations of NSA surveillance has drawn our attention to how we are being tracked online. Sebastian Huempfer describes a new tool to show us how those electronic cookies crumble.

Published on: July 18, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

A computer used for registering voters is seen in a makeshift registration centre along a road in Lagos

Why ramp up internet surveillance in Nigeria?

The Nigerian government is rumoured to have sealed a $40m dollar contract for internet surveillance technology. There is no clear justification for this “secret” deal, and no assurance that the technology would be used fairly, given Nigeria’s lack of established rights for citizen privacy. By Nwachukwu Egbunike and Dominic Burbidge.

Published on: July 17, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Vona, chairman of Jobbik party, delivers a speech to hundreds of far-right supporters during a rally against the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest

Why shouldn’t a Hungarian historian call Jobbik “neo-nazi”?

Tamás Szigeti explores the asymmetric narrowing of free speech in Hungary.

Published on: July 10, 2013 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0

Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.