Harvard University

Posts by authors affiliated with Harvard University

19 February 2024

A Hobgoblin Comes for Internet Regulation

Recent laws in the US, along with the Digital Services Act (DSA), seek to provide “due process” for individual content moderation decisions. Due process, understandably enough, often contains a component of treating like cases alike. It seems to follow, then, that if two relevantly similar users are treated differently, there is a problem of inconsistency, and that problem might be addressed by requiring more “due process” in the forms of appeals and clear rules and explanations of those rules to offenders. But it is said that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. In internet regulation, it is a damaging goal if taken as a mandate to make individual decisions uniformly consistent with each other.

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05 December 2023
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The Belgian Climate Case

On November 30, the Brussels Court of Appeal rendered a landmark decision in the climate case brought by “Klimaatzaak” (“climate case” in Dutch) against Belgian public authorities (the federal and the three regional governments). In this decision, the court found the federal authority and the Brussels and Flemish regions’ climate action to be in violation of Articles 2 and 8 of the ECHR and of their duty of care, and imposed a minimal GHG reduction target to be reached by Belgian authorities for the future. In their blogpost, Alice Briegleb and Antoine De Spiegeleir provide a clear overview of the case, exploring its previous stages and insisting on the continuing failures of the Belgian climate governance and its complex federal structure. We focus on our part on how the decision makes it clear that the climate justice movement is now confronted with the tension between the legally required and the ethically desirable parameters of climate effort distribution.

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13 December 2022

Good Job, Move On

In early December, six political parties from the Turkish opposition have announced a joint and comprehensive constitutional reform proposal. If enacted, the proposal would amend a total of 84 articles of the Turkish Constitution, almost half of the nation’s governing charter. While this proposal deserves praise as a unique example of consensus building in Turkish political and constitutional history, the opposition should now focus on winning the upcoming elections instead of getting bogged down in the details of the proposal.

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11 October 2022

“Woman. Life. Freedom” and the Fate of Iran’s Constitutional Order

Streets of Tehran and other cities from Kurdistan to Zahedan are the scenes of unprecedented protests in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its fourth consecutive week. The protests initially erupted when Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by Morality Police in Tehran for what the government alleged to be improper hijab, shortly died in police custody. Her death was the latest and most tragic story of countless women whose bodies are policed and are subject to the state’s ideological homogenization on a daily basis.

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26 August 2022

What’s wrong with good “scholactivism”?

There is a fine line between suspicion based on the nature of the motivation (seeking direct material change), and the substance of the motivation (commitment to a particular normative position). Once the “scholactivist” label gets thrown around, it may be hard to maintain that distinction. And it is to normative positions which advocate new ideas or change – including those that are reflective or well-considered – to which the label is most likely to attach.

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23 August 2022

Integrity and Independence

Professor Khaitan has written a powerful analysis and defense of the role of scholars in pursuing knowledge; he raises many more important issues than I have space to address here. I write in full agreement with several of the attitudes towards scholarly work that Khaitan emphasizes, especially the need for independence of judgment and an openness to revision, but find his “scholactivism” category too broadly conceptualized. Universities and their scholars must focus primarily on knowledge – its production, preservation, and dissemination – but good scholarship can be directed to material change in the world as well as to changes in understanding.

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21 July 2022

On Osman Kavala and Turkish Judicial Failures

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in charge of monitoring compliance with ECtHR rulings, will now deliberate as to how to handle Turkey’s now judicially confirmed failure to release Kavala.  Suspension of Turkey’s membership in the Council of Europe, is an option that is on the table, at least theoretically. The Kavala case is larger than Kavala himself though. 

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10 May 2022

De-AKPification

Opinion polls by Turkey’s reputable polling firms consistently indicate that the governing AKP and its de facto coalition partner, the far-right nationalist MHP, are losing their popularity and heading to a potential defeat in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections of 2023. As an anti-AKP victory, or at least the real possibility thereof, draws near day by day, a vital question arises: how should opposition forces treat AKP operatives in the judiciary and bureaucracy? Is it possible to “de-AKPify” ex- or soon-to-be-ex-AKP operatives?

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25 March 2022

Indigenous Climate Litigation in Anglophone Settler-Colonial States

The legacy of colonialism suggests a shared affinity between climate litigation in the Global South, and climate litigation brought by Indigenous peoples in the settler-colonial states of the Global North. This blog post focuses on claims brought by Indigenous peoples in the Anglophone settler-colonial states of Australia, Canada, the United States and Aotearoa/New Zealand. I begin by setting out the disproportionate impact of climate change experienced by Indigenous peoples, as well as Indigenous movements of resistance and adaptation. In doing so, I draw on claims brought by various Indigenous groups and individuals in the course of climate litigation. Framing climate litigation as part of this response, I then survey Indigenous climate litigation across the four jurisdictions. I end with some notes of caution regarding the essentializing and exploitation of Indigenous peoples by the climate litigation movement, cautions which may be applicable to litigation in the Global South.

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09 March 2022
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Terror, Notfälle, drastische Bedingungen und demokratischer Konstitutionalismus

Verfassungen legen die Regierungsbefugnisse fest, aber sie verleihen an sich keine Legitimität, geschweige denn bilden sie die politische Körperschaft, die allein Legitimität verleihen kann. Liberal-demokratische Verfassungen verankern den Respekt vor dem Einzelnen auf unterschiedliche Weise, aber einige Grenzen sind fest und fast universell gezogen. Wenn jedoch eine Regierung, die ihre eigene, ordnungsgemäß konstituierte Rolle als Vertreter der Gesellschaft verrät, stößt sie an eine absolute Grenze der Moral, des Anstands und der Achtung der menschlichen Person und untergräbt sich selbst.

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11 January 2022

Restoration without the Constitution

After what is now almost a two-decade long rule by the governing party, there are strong indications that a strong reshuffling in Turkish politics is in the works. Support for President Erdogan and his party is declining. I argue, firstly, that it is a combination of factors that has led to this moment of changing fortunes in Turkish politics – a combination that sheds light on what tactics may successfully be employed by opposition forces who wish to put an end to autocracies. Secondly, I claim that constitutional restoration in Turkey does not require formal constitutional change.

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14 December 2021

Restoring Self-Governance

Sometimes, probably often, the new anti-authoritarian majority will not be large enough to satisfy the requirements of the nation’s amendment rule for constitutional change. What can be done under those circumstances? One possibility, of course, is simply to push through constitutional change without regard to the pre-existing amendment rule. Sometimes that will be enough. Sometimes it won’t – particularly where the idea of legality has powerful political support. Where simply bulling ahead with constitutional change seems unlikely to be productive, what can be done? The answer, I believe, combines foundational constitutional theory and practical political reality.

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04 November 2021

Editorial: Can a Pandemic Law-Making Exercise Promote Global Health Justice?

Amid the unfolding „moral catastrophe“ of COVID-19, and across the entries in this symposium, we see a clamor for any pandemic law-making exercise to promote more justice in global health. However, this universally-embraced imperative masks a wide array of divergent views about the nature and sources of inequalities in global health, and in turn what should be done if we were to think beyond a narrow pragmatism of the moment.

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30 September 2021

Limiting Human Rights during Pandemics

A pandemic instrument should recognize the changed landscape of the international community and enhance roles for and communication between regional and global governmental bodies and especially non-governmental actors. I recommend a new international instrument on pandemic response be explicit about reporting requirements when governments suspend rights during such emergencies.

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03 September 2021

Has the U.S. Supreme Court Effectively Overruled Roe v. Wade?

Late in the evening of September 1 the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order that many critics have described as effectively overruling Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision holding that the U.S. Constitution protected a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. That description, though technically inaccurate, does capture something important about the Court’s order: It made abortions unavailable as a practical matter for many women in Texas who would have had access to abortion services had the Court issued a different order.

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25 May 2017

Abusive comparativism: “Pseudo-comparativist” political discourse as a means to legitimizing constitutional change in Turkey

The constitutional amendment process has arguably weakened Turkey’s already-fragile constitutionalist system. This is well known. What is less known and pretty much overlooked is that comparativism and specifically comparative constitutionalism has suffered at the hands of Turkish political elites during the legal and political discussions that preceded the referendum.

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