An End-of-Summer Reflection

By Charlotte Ridsdale: Blog Post #2

As the summer comes to a close, I would like to reflect on my time as an intern at the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), and what I’ve learned through this experience.

First, I’ve learned that in the area of freedom of expression, we must adapt to changing technologies and realities. Many of the current projects at CLD revolve around digital rights, a broad legal area that includes for example online censorship, data sharing, privacy and defamation. As the internet has evolved, digital speech and mass dissemination of information (and disinformation) has remained a relatively unregulated area. When should online expression be regulated? This is a question that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression is currently focused on, specifically in times of conflict and disturbance. CLD made a submission in response to this call for input, which you can read online here. I researched existing prohibitions of propaganda for war, and how these prohibitions might be adapted to the digital era. Through this experience I began to see how ineffective current regimes are in their attempt to protect internet users globally.

Second, I’ve learned that when you are a part of a very small organization, you must pick your battles. There are a number of work leads that appear on CLD’s desks throughout the year, but only so much time and “person-power” to take them on. It’s not always easy to put aside a project that you believe is important and could make a positive impact, but establishing boundaries and priorities are important.

Third, I’ve learned that international comparative law is not very straightforward. Some resources that helped me (and may help future interns) are : National Gazettes on the Library of Congress Site, which provides English-language translations of national case law and jurisprudence of many countries, WorldLii, and some academic databases that target specific issues: for example, freedom of expression and intermediary liability. For some countries, the ability to read the basic language was necessary to access legislation and jurisprudence, but DeepL works in a pinch.

Evidently I learned more than four things in my internship, but I will conclude with this; working with CLD has solidified the fact that freedom of expression is absolutely a pillar of democracy. Further, how states balance freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of the media is often an indication of how they treat human rights in general.

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