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 | Social media
Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg’s speech: a political statement about the future of Facebook?

Evelyn Walls explores how Facebook may navigate Chinese free speech restrictions as it seeks to enter the market.

Published on: September 15, 2015 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0


Should ‘revenge porn’ be illegal?

Max Harris explains how Britain legislated against it and compares this with the position in other common law countries

Published on: April 3, 2015 | Principle 8 | Comments: 0

From-Gut-to-Zuck edit

What is the internet?

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

Published on: March 31, 2015 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0


Has Demotix democratised journalism?

Demotix founder Turi Munthe discusses the role of citizen journalism and Demotix in today's media environment.

Published on: March 18, 2015 | Principle 3 | 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.

Published on: December 5, 2014 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

internet access

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

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

Published on: October 21, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

FSD religion

Religion: 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 7 | 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

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.

Published on: June 25, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 7

Cheetahs in Tanzania (Photo by Ward Graham under a Creative Commons License)

How an attempt at ‘libel tourism’ rebounded on a Tanzanian tycoon

A British citizen blogged about a Tanzanian media magnate involved in throwing her and her husband off their Tanzanian farm. He sued for libel in a British court. Dominic Burbidge explains.

Published on: June 5, 2014 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

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


Assessing the state of free speech in Norway

University of Oslo professor Tore Slaatta describes a pioneering project to evaluate freedom of expression in a whole country.

Published on: December 22, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Quote by Benjamin Franklin (Photo by k_donovan11 under a Creative Commons  Attribution 2.0 Licence)

Is Facebook just the new chamber of commerce and Twitter the new telegraph?

Political theorist Rob Reich discusses what adaptations we need as freedom of speech and association move increasingly from the offline to the online world. Can the old principles still apply in new circumstances?

Published on: September 17, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks participate in demonstration against ACTA in Berlin

Blackout: why Russian internet sites are going dark over anti-piracy laws

2,000 websites blacked out their pages for a day to protest against the "Russian SOPA", an anti-piracy law lobbied for by the film industry. By Maryam Omidi.

Published on: August 1, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 1

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

Ray McGovern, a former CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) agent, appears during an unofficial forum o..

In defence of whistleblowing

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has been an outspoken defender of whistleblowers and alternative media sources.

Published on: June 27, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 3


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


Free Speech Bites

Nigel Warburton spoke with Timothy Garton Ash for Index on Censorship's Free Speech Bites about the Free Speech Debate Project and global free speech standards.

Published on: May 1, 2013 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3

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.

Published on: February 27, 2013 | Principle 2 | Comments: 3

A supporter of Southern Weekly in a wheelchair demonstrates outside the office of the liberal newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou

The Southern Weekly affair: No closer to the Chinese dream?

2013 began dramatically in China with a standoff between journalists and state propaganda authorities over a drastically rewritten New Year editorial. Timothy Garton Ash introduces English translations of the original and finally published versions.

Published on: February 20, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


Can the treatment of animals be compared to Nazi concentration camps?

Not in Germany, said the German courts. And the European Court of Human Rights agreed.

Published on: February 13, 2013 | Principle 4 | 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

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.

Published on: January 23, 2013 | Principle 10 | Comments: 2

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


Why Rwanda and Libya need free speech – and media regulation

Jerry Timmins describes a new report on media in two post-conflict societies, and argues that countries like Britain should do more to support them.

Published on: January 9, 2013 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


Does freedom of expression give us a right to show videos of animals being crushed?

In 2010 president Barack Obama signed a law banning videos that depict animal cruelty. Judith Bruhn explores whether this is a justified restriction to freedom of expression.

Published on: November 30, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 8

A cameraman's shadow is reflected on a poster of names of journalists who were slain in Philippines, during a prayer rally in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day in Manila

Libel and cybercrime laws in the Philippines

Filippino journalist Marites Vitug speaks about her experience being charged with libel for her investigative journalism, freedom of the press in the Philippines and the new cybercrime law.

Published on: November 21, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0


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.

Published on: November 14, 2012 | Principle 8 | Comments: 0


How Ushahidi maps the voices of those in need

Dominic Burbidge discusses how Ushahidi’s transformative crowdsourcing techniques have alleviated crises in Kenya and beyond.

Published on: November 12, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1

I like Facebook, just not the "face" part of it

A separate social network for Muslims

More than 1.3 million people apparently ‘like’ Islam on Facebook. Salamworld aims to provide Muslims a halal alternative. Dominic Burbidge explores its potential and pitfalls.

Published on: November 5, 2012 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0


The Kremlin’s grip tightens on Russia’s answer to Facebook

Russian social network VK launched six years ago and has since attracted 122 million users. But as Olga Shvarova explains, political and copyright crackdowns are limiting the free flow of information and ideas its users once enjoyed.

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


Reader’s comment

We regularly highlight comments that have made an impression on us. Today's comes from user Martinned responding to Brian Pellot's discussion piece on the Innocence of Muslims controversy.

Published on: October 5, 2012 | Principle 11 | Comments: 10

Indonesian protesters

Defending Islam and free speech

FSD's Katie Engelhart sat in on this Frontline Club debate to discuss controversy surrounding the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims.

Published on: October 4, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Libya US consulate

Has Innocence of Muslims ended the innocence of YouTube?

Join us to debate the role internet platforms like YouTube should play in setting free speech agendas in your country, your language and across the world. Online editor Brian Pellot kicks off the discussion.

Published on: September 26, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 18

The negative net effect thumbnail

The negative net effect

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

Avoiding a lawless net thumbnail

Avoiding a lawless net

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

Netizens must pressure governments thumbnail

Netizens must pressure governments

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

Net both liberates and suppresses thumbnail

Net both liberates and suppresses

Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion: the Dark Side of Internet Freedom, says that the internet has a liberating effect but has also boosted the power of governments to spy on citizens, spread propaganda and engage in cyberattacks.

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

Evgeny Morozov

Evgeny Morozov on the dark side of internet freedom

Author Evgeny Morozov highlights the dangers that sometimes emerge when governments and corporations harness the internet to serve their own objectives.

Published on: August 13, 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

The empirical vs Habermasian public sphere thumbnail

The empirical vs Habermasian public sphere

Published on: July 30, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 0

Social media's unequal representations thumbnail

Social media’s unequal representations

Published on: July 30, 2012 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0

Sina Weibo

Chinese journalists test free speech limits

Former investigative journalist Haiyan Wang describes the ways in which Chinese reporters push the boundaries of press freedom. Interview by Judith Bruhn.

Published on: July 27, 2012 | Principle 3 | Comments: 1

The rise of the 'smart blogger' thumbnail

The rise of the ‘smart blogger’

Published on: July 12, 2012 | Principle 3 | Comments: 0

Egyptian demonstrators demanding the ous

How impartial was the the BBC’s coverage of the Arab Spring?

A new report from former UN director of communications Edward Mortimer says the BBC's coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings was "reasonably impartial".

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


China’s human flesh search engines

While China's human flesh search engines can help reveal government corruption they can also be used to humiliate ordinary citizens, writes Judith Bruhn.

Published on: July 3, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 1

Facebook Holds Its Fourth f8 Developer Conference

David Kirkpatrick talks Facebook

The author of The Facebook Effect talks to FSD about privacy, anonymity whether the social network plans to go into China.

Published on: June 29, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

People take photos with their camera phones as steam erupts from the site of an explosion at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 41st street in New York

Storyful: verifying citizen journalism

Malachy Browne, news editor at Storyful, explains how the social media news agency validates news content sourced from the real-time web.

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

Indias LGBT Community Celebrates 4th Queer Pride March

Fighting for free speech in an unjust world

A society in which free speech marginalises, rather than empowers, vulnerable citizens is a society in which our moral vision of universal free speech has not actually been achieved, writes Jeff Howard.

Published on: June 8, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 4

Citizen journalism

Al-Jazeera and the rise of citizen journalism

Since the beginning of the Arab uprising, more than 70,000 videos have been uploaded to Al-Jazeera's portal Sharek.

Published on: May 25, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 0

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

Facebook Hosts Conference On Future Of Social Technologies

Facebook, privacy and you

Lord Allan of Facebook and author Viktor Mayer-Schönberger wrangle over the social networking site's real name policy, its claim to transparency and its use of personal data.

Published on: April 3, 2012 | Principle 2 | Comments: 5


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


On Free Speech: China, India & the art of “Zuckering”

The second episode of FSD's monthly podcast looks at free speech in India, internet censorship in China and Facebook's attitude towards privacy.

Published on: March 8, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 3


Paolo Mancini on media polarisation

The professor of political science says that while new technologies offer opportunities, they also lead to political and social polarisation.

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


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.

Published on: March 1, 2012 | Principle 10 | 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.

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

We are all Khaled Said

We are all journalists now

Citizen journalism has transformed the media landscape. Suggest examples of good citizen journalism here.

Published on: February 2, 2012 | Principle 3 | Comments: 4

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

Han Han

Han Han, the Chinese blogger

With a readership of over 300 million, Han Han is one of China's most influential online personalities. Judith Bruhn looks at his blog as an example of an individual citizen creating more open and diverse media in difficult circumstances.

Published on: January 25, 2012 | Principle 10 | Comments: 0

Shirin Ebadi on free speech in Iran thumbnail

Shirin Ebadi on free speech in Iran

The Iranian lawyer and Nobel peace prize winner talks to Free Speech Debate about freedom of expression in Iran and whether insults to religious and non-religious beliefs should be criminalised.

Published on: January 20, 2012 | Principle 1 | Comments: 1

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.