When Law Frees Us to Speak
21 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2019 Last revised: 4 Nov 2019
Date Written: January 2, 2019
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,
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