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Prof. Citron Testifies at the British Parliament

Danielle Keats Citron, the Lois K. Macht Research Professor of Law, testified on Oct. 27, 2011, at the British Parliament on cyber hate. She gave her testimony at the House of Commons on behalf of MP John Mann, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA). The ICCA has a Task Force on Cyber Hate on which Prof. Citron serves as a member, along with 10 governmental ministers, industry representatives, and academics from around the world. The task force is co-chaired by Hogan Lovells partner Christopher Wolf, who directs his firm’s Privacy and Information Management practice, and Israel’s Minister of Public Affairs and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein.

According to a press announcement released by Hogan Lovells, the hearing focused on “the types of hate speech appearing on the [I]nternet, the various online media through which it appears and the regional aspects of online hate around the world…[and] the impact that [I]nternet hate can have, including its role in fostering hate crimes.”

During the hearing, Leslie Harris, president of the Center on Democracy and Technology, Jeffrey Rosen, a George Washington University law professor and journalist for The New Republic, and Steven Sheinberg of the Anti-Defamation League set the stage by introducing the global legal framework and the significance of U.S. intermediaries in the distribution of hate speech.

Prof. Citron gave expert testimony on misogynistic cyber hate, while her fellow task force members Mike Whine and Roni Stauber discussed anti-Semitism online and U.K. Police Superintendent of the Hate Crime Programme Paul Giannasi discussed U.K. efforts to encourage the reporting of cyber hate and harassment. The hearing also heard testimony from witnesses who documented Islamaphobia online and LGBT online harassment.

In her testimony, Prof. Citron provided a picture of misogynistic cyber hate, from the very worst abuses involving the harassment of individuals to less virulent forms of misogyny. Prof. Citron explained that although posters could target anyone, they disproportionately attack women, often in a sexually threatening manner.

The nonprofit organization Working to Halt Online Abuse has compiled statistics about individuals harassed online. It found that from 2000 to 2010, 72% of the 3,008 individuals reporting cyber harassment were female, 23% were male, and 5% were unknown. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics similarly explained that, nationally, 74% of offline and online stalking victims were female and 26% were male. Men, too, face virtual assaults, though often for being gay or seeming gay.

During her testimony, Prof. Citron explored the kind of damage that can result to individuals, women as a group, and society as a whole.

The task force will be meeting again at Stanford University in May 2012 to develop a report that offers recommendations for combating cyber hate.

“The testimony we all provided, along with the subsequent meetings we plan to hold, hopefully will have a significant global impact on dealing with the myriad issues surrounding hate speech online,” said Prof. Citron.

Prof. Citron’s scholarship focuses on information privacy law, cyber law, civil rights, and administrative law, with a focus on government’s reliance on information technologies. She is currently working on book about cyber mobs, hate, and the rule of law, forthcoming in Harvard University Press. Her work has appeared in numerous law reviews, including California Law Review, Michigan Law Review (twice), Southern California Law Review, Washington University Law Review and Boston University Law Review (twice). She has been interviewed by scores of media outlets, including ABC, CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Barron’s, Glamour, Associated Press and NPR.

Prof. Citron is an Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project and an Affiliate Fellow at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society. She serves on the advisory boards of privacy groups Future of Privacy, Without My Consent, and Teach Privacy. She blogs at Concurring Opinions.

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Copyright © 2015, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved