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Freedom of Connection - Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet

W.H. Dutton, A. Dopaka, M. Hills, G. Law, V. Nash, FREEDOM OF CONNECTION - FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, Paris: UNESCO, 2011

104 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2010 Last revised: 3 Dec 2015

William H. Dutton

Michigan State University - Quello Center

Anna Dopatka

The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany

Michael Hills

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Ginette Law

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Victoria Nash

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: November 29, 2010

Abstract

Over the first decade of the 21st Century, the Internet and its convergence with mobile communications has enabled greater access to information and communication resources. In 2010, nearly 2 billion people worldwide – over one-quarter of the world’s population – use the Internet. However, during the same period, defenders of digital rights have raised growing concerns over how legal and regulatory trends might be constraining online freedom of expression. Anecdotal accounts of the arrests of bloggers, the filtering of content, and the disconnection of users have sparked these concerns. However, they are reinforced by more systematic studies that provide empirical evidence of encroachments on freedom of expression, such as through the increased use of content filtering.

This report provides a new perspective on the social and political dynamics behind these threats to expression. It develops a conceptual framework on the ‘ecology of freedom of expression’ for discussing the broad context of policy and practice that should be taken into consideration in discussions of this issue. This framework structures an original synthesis of empirical research and case studies of selected technical, legal and regulatory trends. These include developments in six inter-related arenas that focus on: technical initiatives, related to connection and disconnection, such as content filtering; digital rights, including those tied directly to freedom of expression and censorship, but also indirectly, through freedom of information, and privacy and data protection; industrial policy and regulation, including copyright and intellectual property, industrial strategies, and ICTs for development; users, such as focused on fraud, child protection, decency, libel and control of hate speech; network policy and practices, including standards, such as around identity, and regulation of Internet Service Providers; and security, ranging from controlling spam and viruses to protecting national security.

By placing developments in these arenas into a broad ecology of choices, it is more apparent how freedom can be eroded unintentionally as various actors strategically pursue a more diverse array of objectives. The findings reinforce the significance of concerns over freedom of expression and connection, while acknowledging countervailing trends and the open future of technology, policy and practice. Freedom of expression is not an inevitable outcome of technological innovation. It can be diminished or reinforced by the design of technologies, policies and practices – sometimes far removed from freedom of expression. This synthesis points out the need to focus systematic research on this wider ecology shaping the future of expression in the digital age.

Keywords: freedom, expression, Internet, policy, regulation, ecology of games, online

Suggested Citation

Dutton, William H. and Dopatka, Anna and Hills, Michael and Law, Ginette and Nash, Victoria, Freedom of Connection - Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet (November 29, 2010). W.H. Dutton, A. Dopaka, M. Hills, G. Law, V. Nash, FREEDOM OF CONNECTION - FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, Paris: UNESCO, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1654464

William Dutton (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

HOME PAGE: http://quello.msu.edu

Anna Dopatka

The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany ( email )

Bremen
Germany

Michael Hills

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Ginette Law

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Victoria Nash

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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