Freedom of Expression on Social Media

A project in the Human Rights in the Digital World research progamme

Read more about Research at the Bonavero Institute

Social media platforms

Social media platforms have revolutionised our ability to connect across historic social, political and geographic divides. Where previously gatekeepers mitigated and negotiated access to mass media platforms, today potentially anyone – and any content – can reach millions of individuals in an instant. This development bears great opportunities for the democratisation of expression and the diversification of public discourse but has likewise broadened the impact and harm done through disinformation and hate speech.

As regulators across Europe and the United States weigh responses to the legal novelties and challenges that social media represents, the project will seek to frame and advance the debate on core issues. Should the scope of protections be broader and allow more free speech online, or instead recalibrate to address increases in hateful, violent and discriminatory content? More generally, how can human rights law be asserted and enforced in an online environment where corporations like facebook and twitter seem to hold all the cards?

Related Publications

Stefan Theil Germany - Federal Constitutional Court on the horizontal effect of equality rights between private parties [2020] Public Law 181 [Case Note]

Stefan Theil The Online Harms White Paper: Comparing the UK and German Approaches to Regulation [2019] Journal of Media Law 1

Stefan Theil Germany - Federal Constitutional Court qualifies the distinction between fundamental rights obligations of the state and private actors [2019] Public Law 790 [Case Note]

Stefan Theil and others Response to the Online Harms White Paper, Bonavero Report 3/2019

Stefan Theil Nadine Strossen, Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (Oxford University Press 2018) (2019) 69 University of Toronto Law Journal 404 [Book Review]

Stefan Theil and Kate O'Regan Comments on Facebook's draft Charter, Bonavero Report 2/2019

Stefan Theil Germany’s legal crackdown on social media: four misconceptions dispelled, The Conversation

Stefan Theil The German NetzDG: A Risk Worth Taking?, Verfassungsblog

Public Talks

BBC World Service: World Business Report on freedom of expression and social media in Myanmar, August 2020

Addressing Hate Speech and Disinformation Online, Chatham House: Invited panellist for roundtable discussion with stakeholders, July 2020

Facebook Oversight Board Charter Roundtable, Menlo Park, CA: Invited to workshop discussing the independent oversight board and charter, August 2019

AI Frontier Conference, Rhodes Artificial Intelligence Lab, Oxford: Invited speaker on panel discussion: AI x Public Discourse, June 2019

Hate Speech Online: What is being done about it?, Panel Discussion 12th Annual Price Media Law Moot, April 2019