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 are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as is in the public interest.

Timothy Garton Ash
A personal introduction

Imagine that everything you express to the person closest to you, in your most intimate moments, is immediately posted online for all the world to see. This would not just be a nightmare of embarrassment; it would also mean that you would express yourself less freely. As anyone who has lived in a police state knows, if you fear that someone else might be listening, you no longer speak your mind. (more...)

Do you agree with this principle? Yes No


  • FSD Privacy

    Privacy: Sample our intellectual buffet. Or make your own meal.

    Timothy Garton Ash introduces a sample tour of the content on our site

    August 31, 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    Sebastian Huempfer describes the difficulties in having outdated information removed from Google, and explains why this might be a good thing.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
  • U.S. President Bush signs FISA Amendments Act of 2008 in Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

    Can a law-abiding liberal democracy be Big Brother?

    Jeff Howard explores the legal basis on which the US is collecting vast amounts of data on foreign and US citizens, despite the Fourth Amendment.

    July 3, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • Burning newspaper (Photo by Punit Paranjpe / Reuters)

    Does India need its Leveson?

    India has its own fierce debate about media regulation. Arghya Sengupta discusses how the shadow of the 1970s “Emergency” hangs over proposed steps from failed self-regulation to statutory regulation.

    May 30, 2013 | Comments: 3
  • 6764585321_7a93286294_z

    Is privacy getting lost in Google’s “cracks and crevices”?

    A globally-effective privacy regime is a realistic goal, argues Ian Brown. But it needs giants like Google to get behind it.

    May 23, 2013 | Comments: 0
  • 4592915995_8d12eaefc8_z

    A right to privacy? Not at the expense of free speech!

    Our user argues with one of our draft principles challenging the idea that privacy is a condition for free speech.

    May 21, 2013 | Comments: 1
  • A news cameraman holds his camera aloft to film an inside view of corporate lobbyist Nira Radia's house in New Delhi

    The Nira Radia tapes controversy and the right to privacy

    Should government-initiated phone hacking be made public if the recordings are in the public interest? Shubhangi Bhadada exposes the thin line in India between the right to privacy and freedom of expression.

    January 23, 2013 | Comments: 2
  • Leveson Inquiry Parliamentary Debate

    Welcome to our live coverage of the Parliamentary debate on the Leveson Report, which was released last week. Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry focused on links between journalists, politicians, the police and newspaper owners, the regulatory framework under which the press operates, and issues relating to the ownership of the press. The Report, which can be read [...]

    December 3, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Rupert Murdoch Delivers Keynote At The National Summit On Education Reform

    Judge grills mogul: the uses of transparency

    The public nature of the Leveson Inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal has been exemplary, writes Timothy Garton Ash.

    May 21, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • Ryan Giggs

    Journalists do not have a divine right to invade privacy

    Leading free speech expert Eric Barendt defends a British parliamentary report on privacy against criticisms by campaigning journalist John Kampfner.

    April 19, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • computer monitoring

    UK law to extend cyber snooping powers

    The proposed law contradicts the ruling coalition's pledge to end the retention of internet and email data without good reason, writes Ian Brown.

    April 6, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Volunteers Aid Needy Families With Tax Preparation

    Why we need a right to be forgotten

    The right to be forgotten should give us greater control over the data we post about ourselves online, writes Sebastian Huempfer.

    February 22, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Social Networking Sites May Be Monitored By Security Services

    Facebook, Privacy and You

    Is the age of privacy over? Lord (Richard) Allan from Facebook and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, author of Delete, go head to head on privacy and the right to be forgotten in the internet era.

    February 21, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Max Mosley Wins Damages Against The News of The World

    Max Mosley on privacy

    The former head of Formula One racing's governing body talks about the difficulty of countering sensational claims made in a globally reported tabloid story, and draws a distinction between privacy and reputation.

    February 10, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • (Photo by William Andrew)

    Real names vs pseudonyms

    Are Google+ and Facebook right to ban pseudonyms? Voice your opinion here.

    February 10, 2012 | Comments: 13

More discussions

Case studies

  • 2416744097_3b23328c1e_b

    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.

    August 25, 2014 | Comments: 0
  • 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
  • Murder

    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?

    November 16, 2012 | Comments: 4
  • Facetag

    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.

    November 14, 2012 | 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.

    September 27, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Muslims Around The World Celebrate Eid al-Fitr

    The Iranian actress’s sex tape scandal

    A leaked sex video resulted in Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi fleeing the country to avoid prosecution, writes Fatemeh Shams Esmaeili.

    June 12, 2012 | Comments: 6
  • The Leveson Inquiry Continues Into Culture, Practices And Ethics Of The Press

    Celebrity privacy register

    Lord Justice Leveson's proposal for a celebrity privacy register that would allow famous individuals to opt out of the media limelight has divided magazine editors, writes Sebastian Huempfer.

    February 20, 2012 | Comments: 1
  • Camera of a German Google Street View car (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

    Google Street View in Germany

    In March 2011, a Berlin court ruled that Google Street View was not illegal after a private citizen filed a lawsuit, claiming the technology was an infringement of her property and privacy rights. Sebastian Huempfer looks at the case.

    February 20, 2012 | Comments: 2
  • IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrested on alleged sexual assault charges (Photo by Brian Harkin/Getty Images)

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s “perp walk”

    Was it right to make Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the IMF, do the "perp walk" after he was charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York? Clementine de Montjoye argues no.

    January 31, 2012 | Comments: 0
  • Royal Bank of Scotland (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    The bank executive & the super-injunction

    Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, came under public scrutiny when it emerged that he had allegedly had an affair at a time when the bank was heading for collapse. Maryam Omidi asks whether there was a genuine public interest in details of the alleged affair being revealed.

    January 13, 2012 | Comments: 1

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.