Freedom of Expression

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Some Scenarios of False Speech and Academic Freedom

A few weeks ago, Oxford University Press published a new book edited by Amal Clooney and Lord David Neuberger on Freedom of Speech in International Law. The book, as readers can imagine, covers a lot of ground. Philippa Webb and I were happy to contribute a chapter on the regulation of false speech (‘fake news,’ mis/disinformation). Our main focus was on whether states can justifiably limit speech in line with international human rights standards on freedom of expression, at least partly on the basis of the falsity of the speech in question, and do so by means of criminal punishment. We argue that such criminal proscription of false speech can only very exceptionally be justified under the legality, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality test for justified limitations in human rights law. In particular, we argue that criminal punishment of false speech can generally be justified only if: (1) the false speech in question is causally linked to serious harms, such as harms to public health or the integrity of democratic elections; (2) the speaker…

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Cossacks, Pussy Riot, and the Attribution of Conduct: A Comment on Verzilov v. Russia

On 29 August, a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in Verzilov and others v. Russia (no. 25276/15). This is the second case before the Court to concern the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, after Mariya Alekhina and Others v. Russia (no. 38004/12). Verzilov concerned an incident during the…

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Twitter as Enforcer of the Geneva Conventions

Yesterday Twitter announced a change in its content moderation policies regarding the war in Ukraine. In response to the widespread dissemination of videos and images on the platform of Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine – a reasonably straightforward violation of Article 13(2) of Geneva Convention III, which prohibits exposing PoWs to…

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The EU Ban of RT and Sputnik: Concerns Regarding Freedom of Expression

On 2 March, the EU imposed sanctions against RT and Sputnik (Russian state-owned media outlets) because ‘RT and Sputnik are essential and instrumental in bringing forward and supporting Russia’s aggression against Ukraine’ In this essay, I wish to discuss whether the ban of these outlets in the EU is…

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The Legal Death of Free Speech in Russia

‘[W]hat made me particularly happy was to see that the Committee’s decision [to award him the Nobel Peace Prize] stressed the link between defense of peace and defense of human rights, emphasising that the defense of human rights guarantees a solid ground for genuine long-term international cooperation. … Granting the award to a person who defends political…

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