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Jon is a legal scholar and social scientist based at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, in Toronto. He is also a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and a long time Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

A native of Halifax, Canada, he studied law at Columbia Law School as a Fulbright Scholar and at Oxford University as a Mackenzie King Scholar. He also holds a doctorate in Information, Communication, and the Social Sciences from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford (Balliol College, 2016).

Last year, he was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard's Institute for Rebooting Social Media, based at the Berkman Klein Center, and in recent years has also spent time as a Senior Research Fellow on the Technology and Social Change Project (TaSC) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy and, before that, was a Research Affiliate of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

Jon’s research and teaching expertise lies at the intersection of law, technology, and human rights, with strong interdisciplinary and empirical dimensions. From established technologies like the internet and social media to emerging ones like artificial intelligence and machine learning, he aims to understand the legal, ethical, and human rights implications of technology and its role in public and private sector practices such as surveillance, privacy/data protection, cybersecurity, disinformation/manipulation, online abuse, and automated legal enforcement. His award winning work has received national and international attention, including coverage in the Washington Post, Reuters International, New York Times, TIME Magazine, NBC News, Le Monde, and The Guardian, among others.

Beyond research and teaching, Jon serves on Advisory Boards for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), a non-profit whose mission is to combat online abuse that threatens civil rights and civil liberties, and the Law Commission of Ontario’s AI and Administrative Decision-Making Project. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors for The Canadian Technology Law Association and the Steering Committee for the Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI) workshop, which is co-located at the annual USENIX Security Symposium.


Aug 14, 2017

Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online

This collection of short essays and opinion pieces on harmful speech online covers a broad spectrum of thought and ideas from the Berkman Klein community.


Minnesota Law Review

Understanding Chilling Effects

Jon Penney outlines a new framework for understanding "chilling effects" on speech.

Jun 7, 2021
BKC Medium Collection

Legal Risks of Adversarial Machine Learning Research

Studying or testing the security of any operational system potentially runs afoul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Jul 15, 2020

Politics of Adversarial Machine Learning

Adversarial machine-learning attacks and defenses have political dimensions

Apr 23, 2020
Centre for International Governance Innovation

Protecting Information Consumers

Jonathon Penney proposes a new comprehensive regulatory framework to hold social media platforms accountable

Oct 28, 2019

Trudeau’s Blackface: The Chilling Effects of Disinformation on Political Engagement

During election season, journalists should be ready for even more sophisticated attempts to plant false narratives and to spin disinformation via legitimate news stories

Oct 3, 2019


Nov 29, 2023 @ 12:00 PM

Platforms, Privacy, and Power

Why Intimate Privacy Protections Matter (RSM Speaker Series)

The Institute for Rebooting Social welcomes Jon Penney and Alexis Shore for a discussion of their research on platform intimate privacy protections, coauthored with Danielle…

Mar 29, 2023 @ 12:30 PM

March 29: Technology and the Public Interest

Haochen Sun will discuss his new book with Jon Penney and Yong Jin Park...

Apr 27, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

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

with Jon Penney

In this talk, Jon will draw on his doctoral research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of chilling effects…

Feb 26, 2013 @ 12:30 PM

Internet Censorship and the Remembrance of Infowars Past

Jon Penney, Berkman Center Fellow

Jon Penney will explore the international law and politics of information wars past for lessons in Internet censorship resistance today.