Laws addressing online harassment and cyberbullying are often criticized as stifling speech; but can they actually encourage online speech and sharing?

Image CC0 1.0 by Arieth via Pixabay.

Do laws criminalizing online harassment and cyberbullying “chill” online speech? My new study suggests, perhaps counter-intuitively, that such legal interventions may actually facilitate and encourage more speech, expression, and sharing by those who are most often the targets of online harassment: women [1].

The study involves a first-of-its-kind online survey administered to 1,212 U.S.-based adult internet users that examines multiple dimensions of chilling effects online. It does so by comparing and analyzing responses to hypothetical scenarios that involve different…


Warrant canaries have emerged as an intriguing tool for Internet companies to provide some measure of transparency for users while also complying with national security laws, or so the argument goes.[1] How do they work? A warrant canary is a statement that an Internet company regularly publishes indicating it has not yet received a legal process that, if received, the company would be prohibited from disclosing.[2] Once such a legal process is received, the Internet company removes the statement, providing a kind of silent signal or warning.[3]


Jonathon Penney

Overreaching laws are increasingly subjugating important social and ethics questions raised by code to the domain of law.

In late July 2014, the information security world was on edge. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University — who work “closely with the (US) Department of Homeland Security” — were scheduled to give a talk at the Black Hat USA information security conference on a simple method to “de-anonymize” Tor users. Many were skeptical. Tor, after all, was a respected and widely used tool for online anonymity, employed by activists, dissidents, journalists, and yes, criminals too, to cloak…

Jon Penney

Law Prof/Social Scientist | PhD @OiiOxford | Fellow/Affiliate @CitizenLab, @BKCHarvard, @ShorensteinCtr | @BalliolOxford alum | law, technology, & human rights

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