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.


We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachments by both public and private powers.

Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction

The internet has made many of us dramatically more free and able to express ourselves, and to receive and impart information and ideas. That freedom is neither perfect nor secure. Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles abuse it. (more...)

Do you agree with this principle? Yes No


More discussions

Case studies

  • 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.

    December 18, 2013 | Comments: 2
  • 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.

    February 27, 2013 | Comments: 1
  • 6125014507_831e1cc19e_z

    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.

    November 1, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Binnenhof

    Netherlands passes Europe’s first net neutrality legislation

    Amendments approved by the senate of the Netherlands limit the ability of internet service providers to block or slow down applications and services on the internet, writes Graham Reynolds.

    July 9, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • scorpions1

    Censoring The Scorpions

    In 2008, six British ISPs blocked access to a Wikipedia page featuring an album cover with an image of a prepubescent naked girl, writes Maryam Omidi.

    July 2, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • To match feature FRANCE-ELECTION / INTERNET

    Punishing users of extremist websites

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a law to punish readers of websites promoting terrorism and violence, writes Clementine de Montjoye.

    May 3, 2012 | Comments: 7
  • Social Networking And Blogging Website Twitter

    A student’s racist tweets

    Liam Stacey, a 21-year-old student, was sentenced to 56 days in prison for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter, writes Maryam Omidi.

    April 20, 2012 | Comments: 27
  • German 'Niiu' Is Europe's First Personalised Paper

    German legislation could hinder free flow of information

    Germany's draft ancillary copyright bill would force news aggregators such as Google News to pay German publishing houses when linking to news items produced by their newspapers, writes Maximilian Ruhenstroth-Bauer.

    March 28, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • 223242838_37bb2ca611_b

    The Berlin Twitter Wall v the Great Firewall of China

    In 2009, the Chinese authorities blocked access to the Berlin Twitter Wall from within China following a flood of tweets calling for an end to internet censorship, writes Judith Bruhn.

    March 1, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • 2012 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Technology Innovations

    YouTube in Turkey

    YouTube was banned for three years in Turkey on the grounds that certain videos were insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the modern republic's founder, or to "Turkishness", write Funda Ustek and Irem Kok.

    February 23, 2012 | Comments: 6
  • GMH

    The Grass Mud Horse Lexicon

    The Grass Mud Horse Lexicon, a catalogue of subversive online witticisms in China, is an example of the unflagging creativity of the human spirit, writes Amy Qin.

    February 15, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • The Stop Online Piracy Act

    The Stop Online Piracy Act

    The Stop Online Piracy Act is currently being debated in the US house of representatives. Brian Pellot considers the potential consequences of the bill.

    February 10, 2012 | Comments: 4

More case studies

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.