Freedom of expression

To balance freedom of expression with other human rights is, at times, a difficult and delicate task. From hate speech to intermediary liability, we tease out and shed greater light on the various challenges that make this task particularly complicated, proposing ways forward that can further strengthen and promote the right to freedom of expression, in India and beyond, as well.

As the Internet has provided states (and corporates) with evergrowing surveillance capacities, it is crucial that this power is balanced by strong protections of the right to freedom of expression of Internet users. The balance between state powers and citizens rights has, after all, always been the hallmark of a democracy. But the Internet has also thrown up its own share of challenges for free speech: hate speech, the verbal online abuse of women and the use of the Internet to spread rumours of violence all have emerged as important concerns in India. When, then, is it justified for the government to intervene? When can and should the law play a role? What can be expected from Internet intermediaries, such as social networks and ISPs — if anything at all? And what can people do to protect the right to free speech — their own and that of others?

To balance freedom of expression with other human rights at times is a difficult and delicate task. We investigate challenges that make this task particularly complicated, and by shedding greater light on these and their internal mechanics, aim to contribute to further promoting and strengthening the right to freedom of expression, in India and beyond.

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  • Gender, free speech, censorship

    Censorship on the Internet is frequently justified by concerns to safeguard morality or protect women. But do existing laws and initiatives support women in actual practice in confronting the considerable challenges that they face online? We investigate. 

  • Hate speech

    Online speech that is offensive, abusive or hateful has attracted great attention in India and elsewhere, and often leads to calls for its criminalisation. But while the right to freedom of expression is subject to reasonable restrictions both under Indian law and international law, these are fairly narrowly defined, and much of what might be considered hate speech socially is not necessarily so legally. How, then, to deal with and move forward on this difficult and sensitive issue? 

  • The impact of criminal law

    Be it online or offline, the illegitimate criminalisation of freedom of expression is one of the biggest threats to the right to freedom of expression. We analyse its impact on on freedom of expression online and the free and open Internet in general. We also look at the particular consequences criminal law in India in particular has had in this regard, examining not only Internet-specific laws, such as those regarding intermediate liability, but laws that predate the Internet as well. 

    Want to learn more about what intermediary liability is specifically? Read on to find out more.