Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Freedom of expression on 'social media'

Do you have to be able to say everything on Twitter and Facebook? Is Instagram morally obliged to remove photos from attacks? Should we allow the terrorist group to recruit new members on the internet?

Michael Klos

The internet does not only bring democracy, freedom and equality. On 'social media', too, constitutional values are under pressure and democracy is not always the norm. Online media companies acknowledge that even extremist and terrorist anti-democratic groups use 'social media' to spread their message.

Various governments, including the European Union, have called online media companies to do something about such messages. But what can be done against discriminatory and xenophobic reports and the spreading of terrorist propaganda? Should online media companies themselves make these messages inaccessible or even remove them? Or is the intervention of a judge necessary for this? These questions are not easy to answer. It's not for nothing that the online media company Facebook calls these questions 'hard quests' themselves.

Not only asking states to intervene in the expression of expression on 'social media', but even non-state organisations and movements also influence online media companies, sometimes even under the threat of a boycott or violence. But what if online media companies admit this? Is censorship of an increasingly important medium for public debate?

In times of 'fake news', 'online terrorism' and 'online hatred', Michael Klos wants to critically review the existing legal, policy and ethical frameworks for regulation of online media. In this research project, he wants to deal with questions such as: how can we legitimise regulation of 'social media'? How do the existing laws work? Are the 'offline' laws that apply in the various countries suitable for enforcement on international social media? How can these legal frameworks be assessed in the light of democratic and constitutional values?

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