Oxford University

Posts by authors affiliated with Oxford University

20 November 2023
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Supreme Judgecraft

In R (on the application of AAA (Syria) and others) the UK Supreme Court held that the Secretary of State’s policy to remove protection seekers to Rwanda was unlawful. Rwanda is not, at present, a safe third country. There are, the Supreme Court found, “substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that asylum claims will not be determined properly, and that asylum seekers will in consequence be at risk of being returned directly or indirectly to their country of origin.” Should this occur “refugees will face a real risk of ill-treatment in circumstances where they should not have been returned at all.” We argue that the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning and evidential assessment are both impeccable, applying legal principles that are well-embedded in international and domestic law to very clear evidence. However, the UK government’s responses are deeply troubling, from the perspectives of refugee protection, international legality, and the rule of law in the UK.

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17 October 2023
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What is Permissible in the War against Hamas?

What is permissible for the Israeli government to do in response to the murderous attack by Hamas? The answer to this is difficult, not only because blood is boiling and hearts are broken, but also because there is a complex moral dilemma here. In this blog, we hope to offer some guidelines to clarify the issue. We do not claim to provide definitive answers. The required analysis is complex, and it is incumbent upon the Israeli government and the IDF to ensure that the various steps taken are morally justified.

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05 October 2023
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Automated Decision-Making and the Challenge of Implementing Existing Laws

Who loves the latest shiny thing? Children maybe? Depends on the kid. Cats and dogs perhaps? Again, probably depends. What about funders, publishers, and researchers? Now that is an easier question to answer. Whether in talks provided by the tax-exempt ‘cult of TED’, or in open letters calling for a moratorium, the attention digital technologies receive today is extensive, especially those that are labelled ‘artificial intelligence’. This noise comes with calls for a new ad hoc human right against being subject to automated decision-making (ADM). While there is merit in adopting new laws dedicated to so-called AI, the procedural mechanisms that can implement existing law require strengthening. The perceived need for new substantive rules to govern new technology is questionable at best, and distracting at worst. Here we would like to emphasise the importance of implementing existing law more effectively in order to better regulate ADM. Improving procedural capacities across the legal frameworks on data protection, non-discrimination, and human rights is imperative in this regard.

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18 July 2023

The Definition of ‘Digital Labour Platform’ in the Proposed Platform Work Directive

On 9 December 2021, the European Commission announced its proposal for a Directive on improving working conditions in platform work—the ‘Platform Work Directive.’ The Directive’s main goals are to reduce false self-employment among persons performing platform work, to regulate algorithmic management on digital labour platforms, and to provide legal certainty for platforms. This blog post focuses on an element of the proposed Directive that has gone relatively unremarked in the scholarly and policy debates so far: the definition of ‘digital labour platform.’

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08 June 2023

YouTube Updates its Policy on Election Misinformation

Last Friday, YouTube announced that it ‘will stop removing content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US Presidential elections’. This development has upsides and downsides, a few of which are worth sketching out, and all of which further accentuate why the US constitutional framework regarding online platform regulation requires updating. The nature of this update requires transcending a governance approach of overreliance on expecting good faith self-regulation by companies providing these intermediaries.  

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24 May 2023

Monetising Harmful Content on Social Media

The possibility to profit from the dissemination of harmful content triggering views, engagement, and ultimately monetisation does not only concern the contractual relationship between social media and  influencers, but also affects how other users enjoy digital spaces. The monetisation of harmful content by influencers should be a trigger, first, to expand the role of consumer law as a form of content regulation fostering transparency and, second, to propose a new regulatory approach to mitigate the imbalance of powers between influencers and users in social media spaces.

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23 May 2023

Rethinking the Regulation of Financial Influencers

The growth of social media has led to an unprecedented rise in financial influencers, so-called finfluencers, who share investment ideas and opinions with a global audience, even if they are not qualified or licensed to provide financial advice. This can be particularly dangerous for retail investors with low levels of financial literacy. The regulation of financial influencers is a complex and multifaceted issue that demands a comprehensive approach; the current regulatory framework may not be adequate.

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22 May 2023

The Shape of Personalisation to Come

While targeted advertising is still a money-making machine for social media platforms, its motor has begun to sputter. However, with artificial intelligence, the potential is even greater for companies to discover and exploit biases and vulnerabilities in consumers that they themselves may not be aware of. The point of this dive into economic engineering of personalised environments on digital platforms is to highlight the intentional creation of algorithmically curated choice sets for consumers. How can the law ensure their fairness?

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06 April 2023

Constitutional Change in the UK – People or Party?

The UK’s membership of, and later exit from, the EU has had a dramatic effect on the UK constitution. It also provided a catalyst for further change. These demonstrate the relative ease with which the UK constitution can be modified, reinforcing the UK’s characterisation as a predominantly political, flexible constitution. This post will argue that these transformations illustrate something more fundamental that applies to all constitutions – be they predominantly codified or uncodified, with or without the ability of the courts to strike down unconstitutional legislation.

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27 March 2023

The Quality of Sovereignty

It can generally be agreed that the purpose of sovereignty is to enable a government to protect the best interests of its citizens. To what extent did UK membership of the EU preclude this? In the context of the EU, the discussion on sovereignty tends to focus on quantity – the greater the scope of action of the EU and its institutions, the lower the sovereignty of the member states. From this perspective, sovereignty is a zero-sum affair – less means less. However, sovereignty can also be assessed from a qualitative perspective, with a focus on its quality, or character, rather than its scope.

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11 December 2022

Klimanotstand über Gewaltenteilung?

Bereits vor einigen Wochen wurde bekannt, dass das Amtsgericht Flensburg einen Klimaaktivisten freigesprochen hatte, der einen Baum auf einem Privatgrundstück besetzt hatte. Der Baum sollte auf Grundlage einer Baugenehmigung gerodet werden, gegen die auch eine verwaltungsgerichtliche Klage eingereicht worden war. Nun ist die Urteilbegründung veröffentlicht: Das Gericht sah § 123 StGB – Hausfriedensbruch – zwar tatbestandlich erfüllt, jedoch aufgrund von § 34 StGB in einer Art „Klimanotstand“ gerechtfertigt. Die vom Gericht bemühte „verfassungskonforme“ Auslegung ist jedoch weder überzeugend noch verallgemeinerungsfähig, schadet dem Ansehen der Judikative und schafft einen Anreiz für zukünftiges rechtswidriges Verhalten.

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06 September 2022

Facing Up: Impact-Motivated Research Endangers not only Truth, but also Justice

All (but one) responses to my reflections on the ethics of activism as scholars in this blog symposium have been thoughtful, engaged, and charitable. For them, I am very grateful. If my rule-consequentialist worries have any truth to them, we should worry more rather than less about having the relevant motivation I castigate. When the moral stakes are higher (such as in vast areas of the Global South), one has to be even more careful about not making moral mistakes. The debate is not about whether one should be moral (by definition, we should be). It is about what is the most effective means in which the constitutional studies academy can contribute to a more just world. 

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24 August 2022

‘Activism’ Is Not the Problem

My claim and critique of Khaitan’s position is that constitutional law scholars must produce actual answers to questions of legality, constitutionality or feasibility. Scholars may differ in whether or not they start their inquiry with a ‘material outcome’ as their hypothesis but the quality of work by both ‘activist’ and ‘non-activist’ scholars is to be assessed on the basis of the outcome and their academic integrity.

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11 August 2022
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Narrow Rules are not Enough

With continuing proliferation of increasingly capable AI systems, we will need regulation to address the associated risks. Since our ability to foresee such future risks is very limited, our best bet is to base such regulation on relatively general principles, rather than narrow rules. We think that negative human rights with their existing broad international support could form a suitable foundation both for flexible regulation and for the associated technical solutions.

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10 July 2022

Is Finland Joining the Backsliding Trend in Europe?

New laws have just been adopted by the Finnish parliament that would be extremely dangerous tools in the hands of a cynical government with a right-wing-populist and/or kleptocratic agenda. As the composition of the current Government is left-green-centre, some people will dismiss my concerns. The plain facts, however, give rise to worries: parliamentary elections will be held in April 2023, both large opposition parties, the populist True Finns and the Conservatives, effectively took ownership of the parliamentary consideration of the Bills in question, and the prevailing political rhetoric now is full of slogans that echo Donald Trump rather than the voices of human rights. There is good reason to be on high alert.

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21 April 2022
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Shareholder Power as a Constitutionalising Force: Elon Musk’s Bid to Buy Twitter

On 14 April 2022, billionaire Elon Musk came with one of his extravagant ideas: he offered to buy Twitter. According to Musk, who is already majority shareholder, the bid was motivated by his will to fully “unlock” the online platform’s potential as a space for free speech across the globe. This episode calls for a reflection on the future of online platforms as digital spaces for the flourishing of public debate and democracy.

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04 February 2022

Terrorism law and the erosion of free speech in the UK

The horrifying nature and unpredictability of terrorist attacks in the past two decades meant that in the UK, the extensions of state power had considerable public support in the years following 9/11. While useful to authorities dealing with an unpredictable threat, there are several factors in the laws that provide a potent recipe to erode expression rights.

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14 December 2021
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The EU’s Proposed Platform Work Directive

On 8 December 2021, the European Commission published its long-awaited draft of a Directive aimed at improving working conditions in the platform (or ‘gig’) economy. Our tentative first assessment is positive: while there is some room for improvement during the legislative process, the framework laid down promises to tackle some of the most salient problems arising from platform work.

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