Free Speech Debate
Free Speech Debate is a global, multilingual website based at the University of Oxford, UK, for the discussion of freedom of expression in the age of the Internet and mass migration.
Ten draft principles for global free speech are laid out, together with explanations and case studies – all for debate. Prominent figures from diverse cultures, faiths and political tendencies are interviewed and asked to comment through video, audio and text.
Individual users from across the world are strongly encouraged to take part in the online discussion. They can propose new case studies and suggest revised or entirely new principles. The project is programmatically dedicated to taking the free speech debate beyond the west and global north, into the east and south.
The entire editorial content is translated into 13 languages, covering more than 80 percent of the world’s internet users, by native-speakers of those languages. The website is actively moderated by, and the original content generated by, an international team at Oxford University, working under the leadership of historian and journalist Timothy Garton Ash.
The legal regulation of historical discourse poses significant risks. But there are two, exceptional cases in which memory laws protect free speech, argue Grażyna Baranowska and Anna Wójcik.
Even the mainstreams of democratic societies are vulnerable to destructive and dangerous sentiments in the midst of crisis, writes Jonathan Leader Maynard. But with radicalising calls to extremism at the forefront of public debate, what impact might speech have on violent behaviour?
Self-censorship is even more harmful than censorship by the state, argues British writer and philosopher Roger Scruton, for it shuts down conversation completely. The damage done to public discussion of the most pressing issues of the day can be seen on both sides of the Atlantic.
A win for Team Internet?
On US net neutrality
Given its global impact on the free speech rights of citizens versus those of corporations, the regulation of the Internet cannot be left to chance, writes Dana Polatin-Reuben. Hence the importance of recent efforts by the US Federal Communications Commission to effect net neutrality.
Claiming free speech as a “Republican”, “French” or “western” value by conjuring a mythical pantheon of canonical Enlightenment figures will not help us build more inclusive societies. So says Arthur Asseraf, in reconsidering France’s track record as a beacon of press freedom.
To some, writes Sebastian Huempfer, a republication of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” symbolizes a triumph of liberty over hatred. To others, it demonstrates how much forbearance liberal democracies demand from their most vulnerable citizens and how much space they give to their own enemies.
The devout cannot have it both ways, writes Ian McEwan. Free speech is hard, it’s noisy and bruising sometimes, but the only alternative when so many world-views must cohabit is intimidation, violence and bitter conflict between communities.
Despite evidence that western companies sell surveillance software to repressive regimes like Egypt, there have been few attempts to restrict the export of such technologies. After all, the cyber surveillance industry is big business, writes Max Gallien.
Rejecting the classical liberal defences of free speech, Eric Heinze insists that the strongest case for free speech is grounded on specifically democratic principles. And that hate speech bans can never claim a legitimate role in fully fledged democracies.
Beyond the Islamist-secularist divide
Free speech in post-revolutionary Tunisia
Disputing the limits of free speech has played a defining role in Tunisia’s transition to democracy since the country’s first free elections in 2011. But, as Rory McCarthy reveals, there is more to the process than the polarized Islamist-secularist battle it is often presumed to be.
The right to basic connectivity
Freedom of speech and association in a digital world
Basic connectivity, defined as the capacity to speak and associate online, should be considered as something approaching a civic entitlement rather than a service available to consumers in the marketplace, argues Robert Reich.
Participatory democracy or bust!
Message from the "heartbeat" city
Ayse Kadioglu reads the protests in Istanbul as a sign that people demand more than representative democracy. Indeed, it is the citizens’ search for participatory democracy that, for the first time in years, may mean Turkey really does become a model in its region.
The Southern Weekly affair
No closer to the Chinese dream?
The first week of 2013 saw a standoff between editors of the Chinese newspaper “Southern Weekly” and state propaganda authorities over a drastically rewritten new year’s editorial. Timothy Garton Ash introduces English translations of the original and published versions.
Lloyd Newson tackles issues of free speech, Islam and multiculturalism in his recent verbatim theatre production, which combines text drawn from interviews with movement. This is the point of departure for an interview with Maryam Omidi.
Memory laws are the wrong way for Europeans to remember and debate their difficult pasts, argues Claus Leggewie and Horst Meier. Europe needs a pluralism of memory policies. That is why 23 August is a good candidate for a truly pan-European day of remembrance.
“Erinnerungsgesetze” hindern eher als helfen Europäer daran, ihre vielfältige, schwierige Geschichte aufzuarbeiten. Ein Beitrag von Claus Leggewie und Horst Meier.