Free Speech Debate

Thirteen languages. Ten principles. One conversation.

Log in | Register | Mailing list

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 | Case studies
Lee Kuan Yew 2

“Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!” blogger prosecuted

Julian Simmons examines a Singaporean’s expletive-laden video on the recently deceased leader and his conviction for wounding religious feelings.

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

Flag of the Organization of American States

Is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights setting regional standards?

Laura Bernal-Bermudez examines a judgement that actually led to a change in the Chilean constitution

Published on: July 5, 2015 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0


US Supreme Court strikes down law creating ‘buffer zone’ around abortion clinics

In the case of McCullen v Coakley, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling about restrictions on speech around abortion clinics. Max Harris explains.

Published on: August 25, 2014 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0


A landmark Canadian hate speech case: Her Majesty the Queen v Keegstra

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a famous ruling in a case involving a high school teacher and alleged anti-Semitism. Max Harris explains.

Published on: July 26, 2014 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

FSD CS Twitter

14 year-old’s Twitter prank leads to arrest in the Netherlands

A prank by a 14 year-old Dutch girl on Twitter prompted both her arrest – and broader questions about free speech, as Max Harris discusses.

Published on: June 25, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 7

Cheetahs in Tanzania (Photo by Ward Graham under a Creative Commons License)

How an attempt at ‘libel tourism’ rebounded on a Tanzanian tycoon

A British citizen blogged about a Tanzanian media magnate involved in throwing her and her husband off their Tanzanian farm. He sued for libel in a British court. Dominic Burbidge explains.

Published on: June 5, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Image by Amirul Hilmi Ariffin (no changes made) under a Creative Commons License.

Eatock v Bolt: a controversial Australian hate speech case

Max Harris explains why journalist Andrew Bolt was found in breach of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act for articles about “fair-skinned Aboriginal people”.

Published on: May 9, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1

David Cameron

Britain’s proposed online porn filters

How do we strike the right balance between freedom of expression and child protection? Sarah Glatte explores a proposal by the British government.

Published on: December 18, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 7

Members of the English Defence League march in Luton

When and where should extremists be allowed to march?

Protests held by far right groups in ethnically diverse areas are provocation, but banning them can have undesired effects. Josh Black looks at a ban on the English Defence League in East London.

Published on: May 29, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2


The ‘Brandenburg test’ for incitement to violence

In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court made history by ruling that, to merit conviction, the violence advocated must be intended, likely and imminent. By Jeff Howard.

Published on: April 29, 2013 | Principle 6 | Comments: 0


Brigitte Bardot’s repeated convictions for inciting racial hatred

Should a world famous actress be allowed to denounce an ‘overpopulation’ by foreigners? By Michèle Finck.

Published on: April 17, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 8


Is the European Court of Human Rights merely defending the uncontroversial?

A famous case of state censorship in Austria highlights the tendency of governments to pander to the majority, leaving controversial views unprotected. By Michele Finck.

Published on: April 9, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 2

General view of the European Court of Human Rights hearing room in Strasbourg

Has the Strasbourg court allowed too much for local taboos?

At the European Court of Human Rights, the case of I.A. against Turkey in 2005 acted as a controversial precedent for limiting Article 10’s definition of freedom of expression in the name of religion, explains Michele Finck.

Published on: March 8, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0

A Kenyan reads a burnt copy of the Standard newspaper at the printing press in the Kenyan capital Nairobi

“If you rattle a snake…” The Kenyan government bites its media

In 2006 the Kenyan police violently raided the offices and printing press of the Standard Group media organisation. What was the government afraid of seeing reported? Dominic Burbidge explores a revealing case.

Published on: March 5, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Screen Shot 2012-11-20 at 15.40.38

Cyber-bullying that led to suicide

On 10 October 2012 the Canadian teenager Amanda Todd committed suicide after years of cyber-bullying and harassment. Judith Bruhn describes a shocking case.

Published on: February 27, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 3

First Amendment US Constitution

A right to lie about government?

In the landmark case of New York Times v Sullivan, in 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that criticism of public officials must be protected, even if some of the claims were inaccurate. Jeff Howard explains.

Published on: February 6, 2013 | Principle 9 | Comments: 0


Does a murderer have the right to be forgotten?

In 2008 two convicted murderers asked for their names to be removed from Wikipedia and other online media outlets, in accordance with German law. Does the individual’s right to be forgotten take priority over the public’s right to know?

Published on: November 16, 2012 | Principle 8 | Comments: 5


Facebook’s over-zealous face tagging

Should Facebook automatically suggest who is in a photo? Sebastian Huempfer asks whether Facebook’s photo tagging software infringes the privacy of its users.

Published on: November 14, 2012 | Principle 8 | Comments: 0


Brazil confronts Google – and it’s personal

A top Google executive was arrested in Brazil when the company refused to remove YouTube videos that made accusations against a local mayoral candidate. Felipe Correa discusses the case.

Published on: November 1, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

Bettina Wulff

Can Google’s algorithm slander a politician’s wife?

Type 'Bettina Wulff', the name of a former German president’s wife, into Google and the autocomplete function will add 'escort'. Is this algorithmic addition a form of defamation? Sebastian Huempfer explores the case.

Published on: October 26, 2012 | Principle 4 | Comments: 3

Students in Singapore

A university of less-than-liberal arts?

Should Yale University refuse to operate in Singapore where human rights and free expression face significant restrictions? Katie Engelhart weighs the arguments for and against.

Published on: October 14, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Cows in India

What’s your beef with my freedom to eat it?

Bans on eating beef and pork are contested in India. Manav Bhuhshan discusses why this is an issue of caste discrimination and can be seen as a restriction on freedom of expression.

Published on: October 8, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 4

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi

Satire or sedition? Political cartoons in India

Indian Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was recently arrested on sedition charges. Manav Bhushan discusses how an archaic section of India's penal code has been used to silence government critics.

Published on: October 3, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Wang Xiaoning

Yahoo, free speech and anonymity in China

In 2002 Wang Xiaoning was sent to prison for 10 years after Yahoo passed on personal information Chinese authorities used to identify him. Judith Bruhn explores a case of conflicting laws and moral expectations.

Published on: October 1, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Duchess of Cambridge

The topless duchess

Judith Bruhn explores the theory and practice of privacy in Europe and whether a court injunction was enough to salvage the Duchess of Cambridge's privacy.

Published on: September 27, 2012 | Principle 8 | Comments: 1

Orlando Figes

Orlando Figes and the anonymous poison pen

What exactly was wrong with a historian publishing caustic anonymous reviews of his competitors' books on Amazon? Katie Engelhart explores the issues raised by a tragic-comic case.

Published on: August 30, 2012 | Principle 5 | Comments: 2

Brazilian journalists

Should journalists need a diploma?

Brazil’s Supreme Court renewed a law that requires journalists to hold a university degree in journalism. A currently discussed Amendment to the Constitution could further restrict the country’s media writes Felipe Correa.

Published on: August 16, 2012 | Principle 3 | Comments: 1

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot, Putin’s Russia and the Orthodox Church

Was punk band Pussy Riot’s anti-Putin performance in a Moscow church 'religious hatred hooliganism' or an artistic form of political dissent? Olga Shvarova considers the case.

Published on: August 9, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 9

Julius Malema Appears In Court For Hate Speech

Shoot the Boer: hate music?

In 2011, a South African court banned the anti-apartheid song "Shoot the Boer" after ruling it hate speech, writes Nimi Hoffmann.

Published on: July 26, 2012 | Principle 4 | Comments: 1

'Hitler and the Germans Nation and Crime' Exhibition In Berlin

Hitler’s Mein Kampf as satire

The German comedian Serdar Somuncu recites extracts from Mein Kampf to highlight the absurdity of Hitler’s propaganda, writes Sebastian Huempfer.

Published on: July 13, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 4

TO GO WITH AFP STORY "Japan-NKorea-educa

The Japanese New History Textbook controversy

A history textbook underplaying Japanese imperialism caused controversy domestically and internationally, write Ayako Komine and Naoko Hosokawa.

Published on: July 13, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Russian weapons specialist Igor Sutyagin

The case of the Russian ‘spy’

Igor Sutyagin, the Russian nuclear researcher sentenced to 15 years for espionage, found himself at the centre of a spy-swap deal in 2010, writes Olga Shvarova.

Published on: July 10, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

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.