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"Chilling Effects": Insights on how laws and surveillance impact people online

"Chilling Effects": Insights on how laws and surveillance impact people online

with Jon Penney

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
23 Everett Street, Second Floor, Cambridge, MA


With Internet censorship and mass surveillance on the rise globally, understanding regulatory "chilling effects"— the idea that laws, regulations, or state surveillance can deter people from exercising their freedoms or engaging in entirely legal activities— has thus today, in our Post-Snowden world, taken on greater urgency and public importance.  Yet, the notion is not uncontroversial; commentators, scholars, and researchers, from a variety of fields, have long questioned such chilling effects claims, including their existence or extent of any "chill" and related harms, particularly so in online contexts, leading to recent calls for more systematic and interdisciplinary research on point. 

In this talk, Jon will draw on his doctoral research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, to help fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of chilling effects online.  Through discussion of three empirical legal case studies— one on surveillance-related chilling effects and Wikipedia, a second on the impact of the DMCA's copyright enforcement scheme, and a third survey-based study on "chilling effect scenarios"— Jon will offer insights on these and other questions:  What is the nature and scale of regulatory chilling effects online?  Do they persist or are they merely temporary? What factors may influence their impact?  Jon will also reflect on the importance of open data platforms like the Lumen Database and Wikimedia Foundation's data portals to future research in this, and related, areas.


About Jon

Jon Penney is a lawyer, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford (Balliol College), and a research fellow at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. A recent Berkman Fellow and then Affiliate, Jon’s doctoral research explores regulatory chilling effects online and is affiliated with the Takedown Project, a research collective studying “notice and takedown”, and related regulatory systems globally, based at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law.  Jon has also spent time as a Google Policy Fellow at the Citizen Lab—working on both transparency and online censorship issues— and was previously Project Coordinator for the Privacy Value Networks Project, a large scale, multi-university, multi-million dollar Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK) funded project on data privacy, led by the Oxford Internet Institute.

His research, more generally, concerns human rights, intellectual property, and information / digital media law and policy, particularly where these areas intersect with privacy, censorship, and security

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Past Event
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM