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Spring 2021 Seminar

Freedom of Speech Frontiers: Comparative and Global Perspectives

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Students will write one short and one longer paper.

The interconnected and frictionless world of the internet means speech has unprecedented speed and reach. But the last few years has seen a turn against unmitigated openness, and governance of online speech now stands at an inflection point. Countries—and companies—are creating new laws and rules to address perceived pathologies in the current speech environment. The global nature of the internet and tech platforms mean these rules have consequences not only in individual jurisdictions but around the world, and it is impossible to understand any single jurisdiction’s approach to regulating speech in isolation.

This course will explore the new challenges of—and to—freedom of expression in the era of the internet and platforms, and some of the many proposals for meeting those challenges. The course will examine broader issues around rationales for free speech and how they may or may not need updating for the platform era, as well as specific topics, including hate speech, disinformation and various regulatory and institutional models emerging as possible solutions. Case studies may include section 230 reform proposals, Facebook’s Oversight Board, Europe’s proposed Digital Services Act, Singapore’s Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, and other topical examples that arise.