Can Digital Speech Loosen the Gordian Knot of Reputation Law?

51 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2017 Last revised: 10 Sep 2019

See all articles by Elizabeth A Kirley

Elizabeth A Kirley

Osgoode Hall Law School York University; Deakin School of Business and Law

Date Written: January 11, 2016


This paper likens the current state of reputation law to a Gordian knot, entangled in complexities and calling for novel thinking to make it relevant to our public and private lives. Its central thesis is that digital speech is ontologically different from offline speech and so calls for a more informed response to the harms it can inflict in order to determine whether legal or extra-legal mechanisms are most restorative. In spite of a wealth of international norms that address the value of personal reputation, they have had minimal influences on regional and domestic laws of the European Union and the United States, reflecting the deeply rooted cultural differences on each side of the Atlantic that shape laws of privacy and free speech. In conclusion, implications for future methods of addressing online reputational harm outside of traditional legal systems are discussed.

Keywords: Digital Speech, Reputation Law, Internet Law, Free Speech, Comparative US and EU Law

Suggested Citation

Kirley, Elizabeth A, Can Digital Speech Loosen the Gordian Knot of Reputation Law? (January 11, 2016). 32 Santa Clara High Tech. L.J. 171 (2016), Deakin Law School Research Paper No. 17-15, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth A Kirley (Contact Author)

Osgoode Hall Law School York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
North York
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3


Deakin School of Business and Law ( email )

Waterfront Campus
Victoria, 3125

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