When Law Frees Us to Speak

21 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2019 Last revised: 26 Apr 2019

See all articles by Danielle Keats Citron

Danielle Keats Citron

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; Yale University - Yale Information Society Project; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Jon Penney

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute; Citizen Lab, University of Toronto; Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law

Date Written: January 2, 2019

Abstract

A central aim of online abuse is to silence victims. That effort is as regrettable as it is successful. In the face of cyber harassment and sexual privacy invasions, women and marginalized groups retreat from online engagement. These documented chilling effects, however, are not inevitable. Beyond its deterrent function, law has an equally important expressive role. In this article, we highlight law’s capacity to shape social norms and behavior through education. We focus on a neglected dimension of law’s expressive role—its capacity to empower victims to express their truths and engage with others. Our argument is theoretical and empirical. We present new empirical research showing cyber harassment law’s salutary effects on women’s online expression. We consider the implication of those findings for victims of sexual privacy invasions.

Keywords: online abuse, cyber harassment, expressive role of law, online engagement, sexual privacy, expressive theory, cyber civil rights,

Suggested Citation

Citron, Danielle Keats and Penney, Jonathon, When Law Frees Us to Speak (January 2, 2019). Fordham Law Review, Forthcoming; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3309227

Danielle Keats Citron (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

Yale University - Yale Information Society Project

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Palo Alto, CA
United States

Jonathon Penney

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

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

Citizen Lab, University of Toronto ( email )

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

Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy ( email )

C231A E-Quad
Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

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

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA Nova Scotia 02138
Canada

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law ( email )

6061 University Avenue
PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2
Canada

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