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


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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: 3
  • 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: 5
  • 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.