Global Freedom of Expression

Special Collection of the Case Law on Freedom of Expression

The Global Freedom of Expression Special Collection of the case law on freedom of expression is a series of publications, which aims to provide a global outlook of some of the most significant legal decisions adopted by national and international tribunals on relevant topics regarding freedom of expression. The collection is based on judgments incorporated into the Global Freedom of Expression Case Law Database. Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, an initiative of Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, seeks to contribute to the development of an integrated and progressive jurisprudence and to advance understanding of the norms and institutions that best protect the free flow of information and expression.

 

Special Collection on the Case Law on Freedom of Expression: Introducing the Collection

The first three publications showcase the case law of the regional human rights tribunals. Indeed, in these publications, the readership will find systematized summaries of decisions on freedom of expression of the Inter-American System of Human Rights, the African System of Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The remaining documents focus on case law from courts and other non-judicial actors regarding some of today’s most challenging or emblematic freedom of expression issues. The topics have been selected as a result of global and regional trends identified by the experts of the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression initiative. In the collection, the reader will find, on the one hand, the systematization of decisions on classic tensions that continue to raise complex problems for judicial operators, such as the tension between the right to privacy and freedom of expression. On the other hand, the collection seeks to systematize the most emblematic cases on issues that present new challenges for judicial and extrajudicial operators, such as online content moderation.

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Special Collection on the Case Law on Freedom of Expression: Inter-American System of Human Rights

This publication aims to provide an overview of the case law on freedom of expression in the Inter-American System of Human Rights by creating an access tool for anyone interested in consulting the case law. In this paper, the reader will be able to find a general introduction of the structure of the regional system and a systematized description of all the decisions to date of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding freedom of expression, as well as the most relevant cases decided by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights that did not reach the Court. This paper provides a topical classification of the Inter-American case law on freedom of expression, highlighting the main issues being discussed in the region. The complete analysis of the systematized cases can be found in the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression database in English, accessible directly through this publication. We hope that the collection provides judges, lawyers, academics, civil society, and all key actors with a useful tool for the defense of freedom of expression around the world.

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Special Collection on the Case Law on Freedom of Expression: African System of Human and Peoples’ Rights

The current publication provides an overview of the valuable case law developed in the African System of Human and Peoples’ Rights regarding freedom of expression. The paper commences with a brief explanation of the African System of Human and Peoples’ Rights and a concise reference to how the AfCHPR and the ACHPR engage with other decisions of national and International Courts. Finally, the document encompasses both the case law of the African Commission and the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. The summary of the decisions are classified under different themes within freedom of expression to make consultations friendly to all the public. The complete analysis of each case can be found in the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression database in English. The main purpose of the publication is to serve as a tool for everyone working for the defense of freedom of expression by facilitating the access to the cases of the African System of Human and Peoples’ Rights that foster the debate around this fundamental right in the region. We invite readers to use this paper as a tool to access the database and benefit from the analysis therein.

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Special Collection on the Case Law on Freedom of Expression: Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights

During the last four decades, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has developed a nurtured case law on freedom of expression. This publication aims to provide an overview of said case law and create a research tool for anyone working for the defense of freedom of expression. The paper commences with a brief explanation of the European Court of Human Rights and concisely references how its jurisprudence engages with the decisions of other national and international Courts. Finally, the document presents the summary of decisions reached by the Grand Chamber, classified under different themes within freedom of expression to make consultations friendly to all the public. The complete analysis of each case can be found in the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression database in English. The main purpose of the publication is to serve as a tool for everyone working for the defense of freedom of expression by facilitating access to the cases of the European System of Human Rights.  It is our hope that this paper will be useful for anyone working in the field of freedom of expression.

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Special Collection on the Case Law on Freedom of Expression: The Decisions of the Oversight Board from the Perspective of International Human Rights Law

The Oversight Board (OSB) started its operations in 2020, as an initiative of the technology company Meta. Characteristics of the Board include the capacity to have a final say on whether material will be restored to the platform or not, or whether to confirm a decision to leave up a piece of content. The main task of the Board is to assess consistency between content decisions taken by Meta’s platforms, Facebook and Instagram, and their own internal (private) principles and rules. The Board can also make policy recommendations for changes in the way that the company implements its community standards and practices. The paper presents a general overview of the decisions adopted by the OSB since its creation, particularly regarding the use of international human rights to interpret the meaning and scope of Meta’s products’ values and community standards. It provides some critical insights regarding the way that the Board uses international human rights standards originally created to govern the relationship of the individual and the State and reflects on the nuances and adaptations introduced by the OSB when examining selected content moderation decisions. The complete analysis of each case will soon be uploaded to the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression database in English. The main purpose of the publication is to serve as a tool for everyone interested in the challenges associated to the growing phenomenon of respect and application of human rights by private technological companies. It is our hope that this paper will be useful for anyone working in the field of freedom of expression.

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Meta’s Oversight Board Cases

This publication is a companion paper to the above paper on The Decisions of the Oversight Board from the Perspective of International Human Rights Law as part of its Special Collection of Case Law on Freedom of Expression series. The companion paper systematizes all the summaries of the cases from the Oversight Board published before October 31, 2022 and provides a quick reference to the scope of the cases and the relevant findings of the board. The cases are ordered by the relevant Meta’s Community Standard and sub-standard discussed in each decision. The dominant standards at issue in the cases thus far are Hate Speech, Dangerous Individuals and Organizations, and Violence and Incitement. They include a variety of cases including some that address necessary limitations on political speech by politicians, such as in the well-publicized case of Former US President Donald Trump’s suspension, but also cases that recognize the need for consistency in content moderation policies for conflict zones, as well as the need for exceptions to policies in order to uphold international human rights standards, depending on the unique context of each case.  At the end of each case summary, there is a link to the database entry of the case which includes a more detailed description of the facts of the case and the Oversight Board’s arguments, a list of references of the international standards and relevant sources cited in the decision, an evaluation of the decision and the link to the original document, among other information.

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Does our past have a right to be forgotten by the Internet? Case-law on the So-Called Right to be Forgotten

This latest paper in the Special Collection of Case on Freedom of Expression series shows how judges around the globe are dealing with the challenges posed to the social processes of memory and forgetting on the Internet, by the easy availability of information in perpetuity that was unknown in the previous non-digital era. The report highlights the constitutional challenges of these new rights-claims from the standpoint of freedom of expression, the new grounds that rights-claimants have sought to open and the basis found by judges around the world to dismiss or to accept the petitions based on the so-called right to be forgotten. The paper explores a broad range of court decisions to illustrate the jurisdictional complexities of de-indexing and its transnational impact, as well as courts’ legal reasoning when balancing freedom of expression with privacy, intermediary liability, reputation and the special duties of public figures.

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Violence Against Journalists Around the World: An Inquiry Through Case-Law

This Special Collection Paper by Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte documents the findings of a global research project which sought to identify judicial trends in the adjudication of cases involving violence against journalists and human rights defenders. The paper provides an in-depth analysis of 43 court decisions, most handed down over the last five years, that have been added to the Case Law Database relating to this particular form of harm against freedom of expression. The project defined violence against journalists and human rights defenders broadly, including murder, physical aggression, incarceration, threats and other forms of harassment. However, the research also included new forms of violence, such as online harassment and surveillance, especially against women. The first section discusses the conceptual and methodological approach to the research, and the challenges and lessons gathered in the process. The second section introduces the international human rights standards against which judicial trends are, or should be, bench-marked. The third section presents the main findings from the different regions covered, with a focus on the trends identified based on the decisions reviewed. The fourth and final section offers a brief conclusion.

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Privacy and Freedom of Expression

The border between a robust exercise of freedom of expression and proper protection of the right to privacy has been a matter of intense judicial scrutiny by numerous courts around the world. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to present, in a systematic manner, the summaries of some of the landmark decisions from different regional and national jurisdictions that are found in the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression database. It is not meant to be a comprehensive or exhaustive list, nor a comparative study: rather it aims to present the diverse case law of different legal systems about privacy and freedom of expression, their mutually reinforcing relationship, and the tensions that have arisen when these rights collide. The selection of cases was based on whether they conform clearly to global standards and trends; they show the complexity of the tensions to be resolved; or, given their degree of arbitrariness, it is important to highlight them by way of contrast. Cases are further presented in thematic subsections, featuring the broad scope of issues discussed under the privacy/freedom of expression paradigm. The paper serves as an illustrative summary of emblematic decisions that may be of interest to judges, lawyers, and activists.

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Transparency in the Spotlight: Global Case-law on Access to Public Information

This paper analyzes the best available case-law on access to public information. We selected more than 100 emblematic cases where judges or specialized bodies granted access to the requested information and applied international human rights standards. Full summaries of these decisions are now available in Columbia Global Freedom of Expression’s database. The paper delves into the specifics of each case while offering a comparative and reasoned perspective of its relevance, in the hope that future legal practitioners can apply these standards when facing similar cases. The second section briefly presents a land-mark case delivered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2006: Claude Reyes et al. v. Chile, which has set standards in the region. The third section expands on some of the basic human rights standards concerning access to public information and comments on different cases that exemplify each of them. In the fourth section we present how global courts and specialized bodies have balanced the right to access public information with other human rights—such as privacy—or have granted access to information concerning certain topics—such as the environment or Covid-19..

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