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Regulating Extreme Speech in the Digital Age: A Comparative Analysis of European and American Approaches

BECHTOLD, ELISABETH,VIRGINIA (2021) Regulating Extreme Speech in the Digital Age: A Comparative Analysis of European and American Approaches. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 09 December 2024.


While the notion that freedom of speech is a well-established and valuable right is uncontested in liberal democracies, significant disagreements exist with respect to how it is conceptualised in legal frameworks and the extent to which government restrictions on the message or content of expression are considered legitimate. These differences raise significant challenges that are the subject of longstanding debates. In the digital age, advances in technology have transformed these debates by, among other things, profoundly altering the ways in which people communicate with one another and how governments communicate with the public. These advances have opened new pathways for communicating in public discourse while presenting new challenges and opportunities for speech regulation.

This thesis critically examines the most challenging and significant contemporary free speech questions raised by three types of extreme speech - ‘hate speech’, terrorist-related expression, and disinformation from state actors - through a comparative constitutional inquiry of the regulatory approaches of Europe and the United States. While the problems confronting the Europe and the United States relating to the causes and consequences of online extreme speech are similar, the approaches vary in significant and meaningful ways. Thus, situating such an inquiry within a broader comparative analysis provides for richer and more nuanced observations than result from inquiries focusing on a single jurisdiction. Additionally, engaging in an analysis of these types of extreme speech in a single volume highlights the unique harms and regulatory challenges flowing from each type of speech while illuminating interrelated issues from which broader themes, lessons, and connections emerge. In so doing, this thesis offers an original contribution to the broader discourse concerning the appropriate limits on freedom of expression in liberal democracies in the digital age.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Freedom of expression, comparative constitutional law, Europe, the United States
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Law, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Dec 2021 11:55

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