The Conviction of Maria Ressa and the Unequal Enforcement of the Truth

The cyber libel conviction of Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. by a regional trial court in Manila last week threw into sharp relief the manifestly different standards of accuracy enforced against citizens and the government. In a country presently governed by an administration that has allegedly been the source of widespread disinformation, private media and citizen reporters are subjected to ever stricter anti-falsehood laws. The case provokes to rethink private and state accountability for the spreading of falsehoods.

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Repression of Freedom of Expression in Poland: Renewing support for Wojciech Sadurski

In pre-COVID19 times we drew attention (here and here) to the fact that our colleague, Professor Wojciech Sadurski, faces multiple civil and criminal cases in Poland resulting from his tweets which were critical of the ruling party. The cases were brought against him by the current government and its associates. Unfortunately, COVID19 has evidently not changed their priorities

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Cracks in India’s Constitutional Framework

India’s constitutional system was conceptualized to share power (although not equally) between the Union and the 29 states alongside an institutionally grounded system of checks and balances between the parliament, the executive and the judiciary. As the world’s largest democracy proceeds into the sixth week of the nation-wide lockdown to address the outbreak of Covid-19, certain cracks in its constitutional framework have been exacerbated that have the potential to structurally alter the constitutional framework of checks and balances in the aftermath of the pandemic.

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State of Emergency Through the Back Door

One of the problems for Indonesia’s government when dealing with the coronavirus crisis was its non-transparent approach towards the public. Not least because of that, many people in Indonesia do not trust the government when it comes to handling the pandemic. The government’s attempt to declare the civilian emergency status which would have enabled it to control the flow of information has failed due to public opposition. A move by its police chief, however, is now trying to introduce emergency powers through the back door and in blatant disregard of a Constitutional Court ruling.

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Don’t Call a Spade a Shovel

Such concerns are, not only but to a large extent, fueled by the apparent indeterminacy of the terms employed to regulate fake news. This is true for Hungary, but also for France, Russia and several Asian countries, which have already passed fake news legislation. Uncertainties concerning the definition may have discouraged other states from passing similar laws, out of legitimate worries over freedom of expression. In fact, however, many scholars and institutions actually agree on the characteristics of the phenomenon.

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Abstract panic: On fake news, fear and freedom in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, which is the world’s most dynamic laboratory of fake news legislation, the corona crisis has put previously created laws to practice and sparked additional legislative activity. The professed goal is to prevent public panic. Recent enforcement actions, however, demonstrate the complete irrelevance of any panic indicators. A falsehood’s panic potential is simply assumed. In short, an abstract panic threat is fought with very concrete measures: Arrests and criminal prosecutions. Cases from across Southeast Asia prove the trend, whereas two decisions in Singapore deserve particular attention.

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Private (Transnational) Power without Authority

On 9 September 2019 Facebook banned from its platforms all pages and profiles related to the Italian far-right organization “CasaPound”, for the violation of its Community Standard no. 12 (hate speech and incitement to violence). On 11 December 2019, the Tribunal of Rome (ToR) adopted the precautionary measure ordering Facebook Ireland Ltd. to restore the pages and their content and to pay the losses. The decision raises significant issues in several respects and might serve as a model to courts beyond Italy.

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Why the Turkish Constitutional Court’s Wikipedia Decision is No Reason to Celebrate

The Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) recently lifted the ban on Wikipedia and a surge of, in my view, unwarranted optimism has now sprung out of nowhere both among international and Turkish circles following the case closely. I fail to share this optimism. By all means, the lifting of the ban on Wikipedia is something to be happy about. But the timing and content of the TCC’s decision, when especially read through the political context in which it was handed down, do not give much reason to celebrate.

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