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


  • net neutrality_image

    US landmark ruling on net neutrality

    Dana Polatin-Reuben examines the fiercely contested 2015 FCC rules and their free speech implications.

    June 24, 2015 | Comments: 0
  • Supreme_Court_of_India_-_Central_Wing

    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.

    April 22, 2015 | Comments: 1
  • From-Gut-to-Zuck edit

    What is the internet?

    John Naughton discusses the state of the internet, net neutrality and private companies.

    March 31, 2015 | Comments: 0
  • pearlrb

    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.

    February 13, 2015 | Comments: 0
  • D114C655-022E-4B69-977F-F15332F6E7BE_mw1024_s_n

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

    by Timothy Garton Ash

    December 14, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • Weibo blocking

    How a Weibo post gets censored

    Jason Q Ng traces the path of a censored Weibo post and tracks keywords that trigger automatic review.

    December 5, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • 727px-Eric_Schmidt

    Google grapples with the ‘right to be forgotten’

    Katie Engelhart attends the public hearing of Google’s Advisory Council, set up in response to a European Court of Justice judgement.

    October 29, 2014 | Comments: 1
  • internet access

    How can you tell what’s banned on the Internet?

    Joss Wright describes the technical and ethical challenges in investigating online censorship.

    October 21, 2014 | Comments: 2
  • 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.

    August 29, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • Facebook2010

    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.

    August 29, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • 3469305764_3e732b4ca8_b-620x412

    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.

    August 29, 2014 | 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.

    August 21, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • technology_computer_surveillance_032014thinkstock

    Imported Repression in the Middle East

    A leaked document in June 2014 from Egypt’s ministry of the interior invited tenders for cyber-surveillance technology to combat blasphemy, sarcasm and ‘lack of morality’ - the technology would likely come from the west. Max Gallien reports.

    August 1, 2014 | 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.

    July 21, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • 11646712403_d59f515289_z

    Should ISPs be told to block “adult” content?

    Internet Service Providers do not merely route data packets from end-to-end, but are heavily involved in monitoring their customers’ online activities. Ian Brown discusses the implications of Britain's suggested “voluntary” opting out of “adult content”, with little parliamentary and court involvement.

    July 15, 2014 | Comments: 0

More discussions

Case studies

  • 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.

    June 25, 2014 | Comments: 7
  • 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: 7
  • 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: 3
  • 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: 0
  • 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
  • Social Networking And Blogging Website Twitter

    A Saudi blogger’s “blasphemous” tweets

    As of August 2012, Saudi Arabian writer Hamza Kashgari faced a trial for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter, writes Brian Pellot.

    February 27, 2012 | Comments: 3
  • 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
  • Wenzhou train collision

    Wenzhou train collision

    On July 23, 2011, two high-speed trains traveling on the Yongtaiwen railway line collided near the eastern coastal city of Wenzhou killing 40 people and injuring 191. A week later, all traces of the train accident had disappeared from newspaper and television programmes, writes Amy Qin.

    February 15, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • 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.