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.

Home | Archives | Net neutrality

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.

Published on: October 29, 2014 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

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

Published on: August 31, 2014 | Principle 8 | Comments: 0


Vote for Hong Kong – on the streets and online

In 2014, the citizens of Hong Kong staged an unofficial civil referendum in protest against the Beijing authorities’ attempts to undermine its independence. As Rebecca Wong reports, the majority of the votes were cast via a voting app on mobile phones.

Published on: August 11, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


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.

Published on: August 1, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


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.

Published on: July 15, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

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National security and privacy: striking the balance

Anthony Lester and Zoe McCallum discuss the need to balance national security and privacy in the age of internet surveillance.

Published on: May 21, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Social media in China

The way Xi moves: free speech under assault in China

Shi Yige examines different approaches to censorship in China, and argues that while internet controls might avail the leadership in the short term, they are unsustainable.

Published on: March 21, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1


Germans are not especially concerned about privacy and sovereignty

Nazi past? Stasi past? Sebastian Huempfer challenges the conventional explanations for Germany’s strong reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA snooping.

Published on: January 30, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Whistle-blower Snowden

Internet access in the age of the surveillance state

Oxford University’s Ian Brown asks what Europe can do to protect our digital rights and privacy.

Published on: November 12, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1


Who is tracking the trackers? Use “Collusion” to find out.

The debate raised by revelations of NSA surveillance has drawn our attention to how we are being tracked online. Sebastian Huempfer describes a new tool to show us how those electronic cookies crumble.

Published on: July 18, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

A computer used for registering voters is seen in a makeshift registration centre along a road in Lagos

Why ramp up internet surveillance in Nigeria?

The Nigerian government is rumoured to have sealed a $40m dollar contract for internet surveillance technology. There is no clear justification for this “secret” deal, and no assurance that the technology would be used fairly, given Nigeria’s lack of established rights for citizen privacy. By Nwachukwu Egbunike and Dominic Burbidge.

Published on: July 17, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Twitter, free speech, and sexism – an #outcry from Germany

Sarah Glatte explores the potential and pitfalls of social media in combating sexism.

Published on: June 26, 2013 | Principle 4 | Comments: 0


The bizarre story of how lippy librarians faced down a silly publisher

A university librarian faced a lawsuit over a critical blog post about the publishing house Edwin Mellen Press but online solidarity won out. By Dominic Burbidge.

Published on: May 27, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


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.

Published on: May 23, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Demonstrators wearing Fawkes masks protest against Spain's Culture Minister Gonzalez-Sinde in Madrid

The Copyright Alert System: coming to a home near you?

The question of how best to respond to the unauthorised dissemination of copyright-protected expression over the internet has long troubled copyright owners. But the proposed solution of a Copyright Alert could potentially erode free speech, writes Graham Reynolds.

Published on: April 10, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question

The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions has released guidelines on when social media users should be prosecuted. But there are still not adequate guarantees for freedom of expression, writes Dominic Burbidge.

Published on: March 27, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1


Mustn’t ask, mustn’t tell

Data protection laws now touch everyone’s lives and those living within the EU are about to have their regulations updated, writes David Erdos. These proposed laws are overly restrictive: the time has come to take a stand for those working in research.

Published on: March 25, 2013 | Principle 5 | Comments: 0

Workers are pictured beneath clocks displaying time zones in various parts of the world at an outsourcing centre in Bangalore

Seen from India: is freedom of expression under threat in the digital age?

At the invitation of Index of Censorship and the Editors Guild of India, Timothy Garton Ash joins Kirsty Hughes at a panel discussion in Delhi with Shri Ajit Balakrishnan, Shri Sunil Abraham and Ramajit Singh Chima.

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

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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

Netizens rally against the anti-cybercrime act in front of the Supreme Court in Manila

In the Philippines, be careful of what you retweet

A new cybercrime law in the Philippines would give unfettered powers to the state to monitor internet users, take down websites and imprison citizens writes Purple S. Romero

Published on: January 28, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

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In India, too, people say self-regulation of the media is not enough.

In a panel John Lloyd, T.R. Andhyarujina, Harish Salve and Daya Thussu discussed whether self-regulation can continue to remain a viable way forward for the Indian media.

Published on: January 18, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 1

The future of free speech

The Future of Free Speech

Aryeh Neier, human rights lawyer and president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations speaks about the future of free speech.

Published on: January 11, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3


A sticky WCIT and the battle for control of the internet

At the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), authoritarian governments staked worrying claims. But the US-dominated model of non-governmental internet governance brings its own problems, writes Alison Powell. Beware of the Clinton Paradox.

Published on: December 20, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 3


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: 4

Neelie Kroes

What’s a nice UN Internet Governance Forum doing in a place like this?

The Oxford Internet Institute’s Ian Brown writes from Azerbaijan, asking whether a country that suppresses online freedom should be allowed to host a gathering devoted to discussing it.

Published on: November 8, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

What's WCIT and why WCITLeaks? thumbnail

What’s WCIT and why WCITLeaks?

Eli Dourado provides an overview of what WCIT is and what's at stake. He co-founded WCITLeaks to bring transparency to the ITU's proceedings.

Published on: September 14, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

The ITU's murky transparency thumbnail

The ITU’s murky transparency

In July the ITU Governing Council released one summary document of proposed ITR amendments. Dourado says this move did not represent real transparency.

Published on: September 14, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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The politics of transparency

Dourado suspects only the most egregious proposals have been uploaded to WCITLeaks for fear that a mass upload could bring diplomatic backlash.

Published on: September 14, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

Internet protest Turkey

Eli Dourado on WCITLeaks’ moral approach to transparency

The co-founder discusses how anonymous uploads to his website are shedding light on the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications.

Published on: September 14, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

Indian protesters

Censoring a billion voices to save a nation

Manav Bhushan, an Indian member of the Free Speech Debate team, makes the case for blocking hate-filled websites in his country.

Published on: September 6, 2012 | Principle 5 | Comments: 3

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Communication should not be an act of “rebelism”

Published on: September 5, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

WCIT: Another four-letter concern thumbnail

WCIT: The net’s next four-letter foe

Published on: September 5, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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ACTA’s second act?

Published on: September 5, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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Why ACTA failed

Published on: September 5, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

Amelia Andersdotter

Amelia Andersdotter on ACTA’s demise and the internet’s future

The Swedish Pirate Party's outspoken MEP explains why the European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in July and discusses WCIT, the internet's next four-letter foe.

Published on: September 5, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Tom Daley

Even malicious tweets need protection

A 17-year-old was arrested under the 1988 Malicious Communications Act for sending offensive tweets to Olympic diver Tom Daley. Brian Pellot explores the law and the case.

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

Hamadoun Toure

UN agency threatens internet’s future

An upcoming International Telecommunication Union meeting in Dubai could forever change the internet as we know it, writes Brian Pellot.

Published on: July 31, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Net neutrality by the man who coined the phrase thumbnail

Wu on his phrase ‘net neutrality’

Published on: July 13, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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What is net neutrality?

Published on: July 12, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


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.

Published on: July 9, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

13th Annual Webby Awards - Inside

Tim Berners-Lee on ‘stretch friends’ & open data

"Stretch friends" - individuals who are outside of your social circle online - will help break down cultural barriers.

Published on: June 22, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Netflix Launch

Moving towards the zettabyte era

According to a new report, annual global internet traffic will increase nearly fourfold between 2011 and 2016, moving us into the zettabyte era, writes Maryam Omidi.

Published on: June 1, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1

serendipity engine

Eric Schmidt & The Serendipity Engine

Google's executive chairman believes online connectivity benefits everyone; social psychologist Aleks Krotoski tries to introduce a little more serendipity into the equation, writes Maryam Omidi.

Published on: May 24, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Media Companies Draw Takeover Interest

Keeping the internet open

Punishing internet intermediaries for their content will have a chilling effect on free speech, says Kevin Bankston of the Centre for Democracy and Technology.

Published on: May 18, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 2

An illustration picture shows a projection of text on the face of a woman in Berlin

The tension between data protection & freedom of expression

EU member states should reform the data protection framework to address the realities of life in the Web 2.0 age, writes David Erdos

Published on: May 9, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1


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.

Published on: May 3, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 7

Activists Protest Internet Copyright Restrictions

ACTA & the internet: freedom of expression & privacy

Join Free Speech Debate and ARTICLE 19 in London on Thursday 3 May for a panel discussion on the impact of ACTA on global free expression

Published on: May 2, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

Arab Students Rally At UC Irvine

Why hate speech should not be banned

Restrictions on hate speech are not a means of tackling bigotry but of rebranding often obnoxious ideas or arguments are immoral, argues writer Kenan Malik.

Published on: April 30, 2012 | Principle 4 | Comments: 15

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.

Published on: April 20, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 27

A student-run facebook page shows an image depicting the Tunisian national flag smeared in red on a computer screen in Paris

Tunisian Internet Agency defends net neutrality

Online censorship is futile as it can almost always be circumvented, says Moez Chakchouk, the head of the Tunisian Internet Agency.

Published on: April 12, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Demonstrations Continue In Cairo After The First Anniversary Of The Revolution

Free speech at the heart of the Arab Spring – part two

In the second part of this panel discussion just off Tahrir Square in Cairo, a panel of bloggers, journalists and human rights experts ask what are - and what should be - the limits to freedom of expression in Egypt today.

Published on: March 21, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3

Cairo Tense For Anniversary Of Mubarak Resignation

Free speech at the heart of the Arab Spring – part one

In this panel discussion just off Tahrir Square in Cairo, a panel of bloggers, journalists and human rights experts ask what are - and what should be - the limits to freedom of expression in Egypt today.

Published on: March 21, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Rebecca MacKinnon: Consent of the Networked

The co-founder of Global Voices discusses the nexus between governments, internet companies and citizens.

Published on: March 16, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


The enemies of the internet

Belarus and Bahrain are the latest additions to the Reporters Without Borders’ “Enemies of the Internet” 2012 list while France and Australia are "under surveillance".

Published on: March 14, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


World map of social networks

The number of social networking sites around the world has fallen from 17 in June 2009 to six in December 2011, according to the latest Vincos map.

Published on: March 13, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

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.

Published on: February 27, 2012 | Principle 2 | 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.

Published on: February 23, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 6

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.

Published on: February 22, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Tim Wu on the right to be forgotten

The author of the Master Switch says that while the right to be forgotten is a good idea in theory, the reality is that it may hamper entrepreneurship in Europe.

Published on: February 20, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


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.

Published on: February 15, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

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Tim Wu on Twitter, Facebook & net neutrality

The author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires tells us why Facebook should not go into China and why Twitter's new take-down policy may harm the microblog.

Published on: February 15, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

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Ian Brown on internet freedom

In part one of this interview with Timothy Garton Ash, Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute talks about the internet and freedom of expression, net neutrality, internet service providers and censorship by both democratic and autocratic governments.

Published on: February 10, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Free Speech Debate launch with Jimmy Wales

For those of you who missed it first time round, here's Timothy Garton Ash, director of Free Speech Debate, speaking to the Wikipedia co-founder, a day after the encyclopedia's English pages were blacked out in protest against two anti-piracy bills in the US. They talk about SOPA and PIPA, the controversial Muhammad cartoons and Wikipedia's decision to go dark.

Published on: February 10, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Ezra Levant: public powers are the real threat to internet freedom

Private powers are not a "large threat" to free speech, the Canadian lawyer and publisher tells Katie Engelhart.

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

(Photo by William Andrew)

Real names vs pseudonyms

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

Published on: February 10, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 13

Social Networking And Blogging Website Twitter

Twitter’s new censorship policy

Twitter's plans to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis led to an angry backlash by users. Judith Bruhn looks at the microblog's policy in more detail.

Published on: February 1, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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.