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Jon is a legal academic and social scientist who does research at the intersection of law, technology, and human rights, with strong interdisciplinary and empirical dimensions.

In addition to being an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, he is a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School; a long time Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy; and in Fall 2020, he will be joining the Faculty of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. 

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 holds a doctorate in Information, Communication, and the Social Sciences from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford (Balliol College, 2016). More recently, he spent time research disinformation and media manipulation as a Senior Research Fellow on the Technology and Social Change Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy and, before that, spent time as a Research Affiliate of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy. 

As an BKC affiliate, he will work on projects involving chilling effects theory and research, adversarial machine learning, and the role of emerging technologies in public and private sector surveillance, content moderation, disinformation, and other corporate and governmental processes. This includes, among other projects, research with Danielle Citron, funded by the Knight Foundation, exploring how laws and other measures taken to battle online abuse, including intimate privacy protections, can empower the online speech and engagement of victims. As well, he is completing a book on chilling effects, forthcoming in Cambridge University Press (2020), which explores the impact of surveillance, legal automation, and other digital/technological threats.


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


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.