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Chilling Effects: How Laws and Surveillance Impact Us Online

Date & Time:
11:00 - 12:30,
Thursday 7 September, 2017


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 recent research– including his doctoral work at the Oxford Internet Institute– to help fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of chilling effects online. Through discussion of surveillance/regulatory related empirical case studies— including one on involving Wikipedia traffic, one “comparative” survey-based study, and another more recent based on legal threats online, Jon will offer insights on these and other questions:  What is the nature and scale of regulatory and surveillance  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.

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  • Jon Penney
  • Name: Jon Penney
  • Affiliation: Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
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  • Bio: Jon is an Assistant Professor at Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, a Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, and, starting this fall, a Research Affiliate at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. A recent Fellow and Research Affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Jon’s interdisciplinary research focuses, among other things, on privacy, surveillance, censorship, and security, especially where these areas intersect with information technology law and policy. Follow him on Twitter at: @jon_penney.