Can Cyber Harassment Laws Encourage Online Speech?

2 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018

See all articles by Jon Penney

Jon Penney

Harvard Law School; Harvard Kennedy School - Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Citizen Lab, University of Toronto

Date Written: December 1, 2017

Abstract

Do laws criminalizing online harassment and cyberbullying "chill" online speech? Critics often argue that they do. However, this article discusses findings from a new empirical legal study that suggests, counter-intuitively, that while such legal interventions likely have some dampening effect, they may also facilitate and encourage more speech, expression, and sharing by those who are most often the targets of online harassment: women. Relevant findings on this point from this first-of-its-kind study are set out and discussed along with their implications.

Keywords: chilling effects, online harassment, cyberbullying, free speech, first amendment, empirical legal research, cyberharassment, women's rights, gender studies

Suggested Citation

Penney, Jonathon, Can Cyber Harassment Laws Encourage Online Speech? (December 1, 2017). Urs Gasser, Robert Faris, Amar Ashar, and Nikki Bourassa. (eds.), Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online, Berkman Klein Center Research Publication No. 2017-08, Harvard University. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3147336 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3147336

Jonathon Penney (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Harvard Kennedy School - Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
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Cambridge, MA Nova Scotia 02138
Canada

Citizen Lab, University of Toronto ( email )

Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3K7
Canada

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