Skip to main content
Podcast Episode: AI in Kitopia

Speaking Freely

Speaking Freely

Around the globe, freedom of expression (or free speech) varies wildly in definition, scope, and level of access. The impact of the digital age on perceptions and censorship of speech has been felt across the political spectrum on a worldwide scale. In the debate over what counts as free expression and how it should work in practice, we often lose sight of how different forms of censorship—of hate speech, for example—can have a negative impact on different communities, and especially marginalized or vulnerable ones.

Speaking Freely brings forth interviews with human rights workers, free expression advocates, and activists from a variety of disciplines and affiliations. The common thread in these interviews is that curtailing free expression, via public or private censorship, can harm our ability to fully and authentically participate in an open society.

Protect digital privacy and free expression. EFF's public interest legal work, activism, and software development preserve fundamental rights.
Protect digital privacy and free expression. EFF's public interest legal work, activism, and software development preserve fundamental rights. DONATE TO EFF
Ethan Zuckerman photo

Speaking Freely: Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman is a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he teaches Public Policy, Communication and Information. He is starting a new research center called the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure. Over the years, he’s been a tech startup guy (with Tripod.com), a non-profit founder (Geekcorps.org) and co-founder (Globalvoices.org), and throughout it all, a blogger.

Photo of Gohary on plum background

Speaking Freely: Mohamed El Gohary

Mohamed El Gohary is an open-knowledge enthusiast. After majoring in Biomedical Engineering in October 2010, he switched careers to work as a Social Media manager for Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper until October 2011, when he joined Global Voices contracts managing Lingua until the end of 2021. He now works for IFEX as the MENA Network Engagement Specialist.

Nompilo Simanje photo

Speaking Freely: Nompilo Simanje

Nompilo Simanje is a lawyer by profession and is the Africa Advocacy and Partnerships Lead at the International Press Institute. She leads the IPI Africa Program which monitors and collects data on press freedom threats and violations across the continent, including threats to journalists’ safety and gendered attacks against journalists both online and offline to inform evidence-based advocacy. Nompilo is an expert on the intersection of technology, the law, and human rights. She has years of experience in advocacy and capacity building aimed at promoting media freedom, freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to privacy. She also currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise. Simanje is an alumnus of the Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program and the US State Department IVLP Program on Promoting Cybersecurity.

MacKinnon portrait, Speaking Freely

Speaking Freely: Rebecca MacKinnon

Rebecca MacKinnon is Vice President, Global Advocacy at the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that hosts Wikipedia. Author of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom (2012), she is co-founder of the citizen media network Global Voices, and founding director of Ranking Digital Rights, a research and advocacy program at New America. From 1998-2004 she was CNN’s Bureau Chief in Beijing and Tokyo. She has taught at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Pennsylvania, and held fellowships at Harvard, Princeton, and the University of California. She holds an AB magna cum laude in Government from Harvard and was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan.

Obioma portrait speaking freely

Speaking Freely: Obioma Okonkwo

Obioma Okonkwo is a lawyer and human rights advocate. She is currently the Head of Legal at Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a non-governmental organization based in Nigeria whose focus is to promote and defend freedom of expression, press freedom, digital rights and access to information within Nigeria and across Africa. She is passionate about advancing freedom of expression, media freedom, access to information, and digital rights. She also has extensive experience in litigating, researching, advocating and training around these issues. Obioma is an alumnus of the Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Programme, a fellow of the African School of Internet Governance, and a Media Viability Ambassador with the Deutsche Welle Akademie.

Hamadallah portrait, Speaking Freely

Speaking Freely: Lynn Hamadallah

Lynn Hamadallah is a Syrian-Palestinian-French Psychologist based in London. An outspoken voice for the Palestinian cause, Lynn is interested in the ways in which narratives, spoken and unspoken, shape identity. Having lived in five countries and spent a lot of time traveling, she takes a global perspective on freedom of expression. Her current research project investigates how second-generation British-Arabs negotiate their cultural identity. Lynn works in a community mental health service supporting some of London's most disadvantaged residents, many of whom are migrants who have suffered extensive psychological trauma.

Aileen Speaking Freely

Speaking Freely: Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso

Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso is the executive director of FORUM-Asia. She has worked for many years in human rights organizations in the Philippines and internationally, and is best known for her work on enforced disappearances. She has received several human rights awards at home and abroad, including the Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Prize conferred by the Government of Argentina and the Franco-German Ministerial Prize for Human Rights and Rule of Law. In addition to her work at FORUM-Asia, she currently serves as the president of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) and is a senior lecturer at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines.

Emma Shapiro photo

Speaking Freely: Emma Shapiro

Emma Shapiro is an American artist, writer, and activist who is based in Valencia, Spain. She is the Editor-At-Large for the Don’t Delete Art campaign and the founder of the international art project and movement Exposure Therapy. Her work includes the use of video, collage, performance, and photography, while primarily using her own body and image. Through her use of layered video projection, self portraiture, and repeated encounters with her own image, Emma deconstructs and questions the meaning of our bodies, how we know them, and what they could be.

Regular censorship of her artwork online and IRL has driven Emma to dedicate herself to advocacy for freedom of expression. Emma sat down with EFF’s Jillian York to discuss the need for greater protection of artistic expression across platforms, how the adult body is regulated in the digital world, the role of visual artists as defenders of cultural and digital rights, and more.

Robert Ssempala

Speaking Freely: Robert Ssempala

Robert Ssempala is a longtime press freedom and social justice advocate. He serves as Executive Director at Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, a network of journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection, and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media. Under his leadership, his organization has supported hundreds of journalists who have been assaulted, imprisoned, and targeted in the course of their work.

Maryam Al-khawaja Speaking Freely Project

Speaking Freely: Maryam Al-Khawaja

Maryam Al-Khawaja is a Bahraini Woman Human Rights Defender who works as a consultant and trainer on Human Rights. She is a leading voice for human rights and political reform in Bahrain and the Gulf region. She has been influential in shaping official responses to human rights atrocities in Bahrain and the Gulf region by leading campaigns and engaging with prominent policymakers around the world.

She played an instrumental role in the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout in February 2011. These protests triggered a government response of widespread extra judicial killings, arrests, and torture, which she documented extensively over social media. Due to her human rights work, she was subjected to assault, threats, defamation campaigns, imprisonment and an unfair trial. She was arrested on illegitimate charges in 2014 and sentenced in absentia to one year in prison. She currently has an outstanding arrest warrant and four pending cases, one of which could carry a life sentence. She serves on the Boards of the International Service for Human Rights, Urgent Action Fund, CIVICUS and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. She also previously served as Co-Director at the Gulf Center for Human Rights and Acting President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

Carolina Are portrait

Speaking Freely: Dr. Carolina Are

Dr. Carolina Are is an Innovation Fellow at Northumbria University Centre for Digital Citizens. Her research primarily focuses on the intersection between online abuse and censorship. Her current research project investigates Instagram and TikTok’s approach to malicious flagging against ‘grey area’ content, or content that toes the line of compliance with social media’s community guidelines.

She is also a blogger and creator herself, as well as a writer, pole dance instructor and award-winning activist. Dr. Are sat down for an interview with EFF’s Jillian York to discuss the impact of platform censorship on sex workers and activist communities, the need for systemic change around content moderation, and how there’s hope to be found in the younger generations.

Photo of Alison Macrina

Speaking Freely: Alison Macrina

Alison Macrina is an activist librarian and the director of Library Freedom Project (LFP). LFP is radically rethinking the library professional organization by creating a network of values-driven librarian-activists taking action together to build information democracy. LFP offers trainings, resources, and community building for librarians on issues of privacy, surveillance, intellectual freedom, labor rights, power, technology, and more—helping create safer, more private spaces for library patrons to feed their minds and express themselves.

Alison started LFP in 2015 to organize and build community with other librarians who are dedicated to library values of privacy, intellectual freedom, social responsibility, and the public good. Their work is informed by a social justice, feminist, anti-racist approach, and they believe in the combined power of long-term collective organizing and short-term, immediate harm reduction.

Library Freedom Project was also a 2023 EFF Award recipient, and we were excited for this opportunity to get Alison’s views on the interaction between freedom of expression and power, the vitally important role of libraries and librarians as defenders and facilitators of freedom of expression and access to information, and so much more.

Photo of Ron Diebert

Speaking Freely: Ron Deibert

Ron Deibert is a Canadian professor of political science, a philosopher, an author, and the founder of the renowned Citizen Lab, situated in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He is perhaps best known to readers for his research on targeted surveillance, which won the Citizen Lab a 2015 EFF Award. I had the pleasure of working with Ron early on in my career on another project he co-founded, the OpenNet Initiative, a project that documented internet filtering (blocking) in more than 65 countries, and his mentorship and work has been incredibly influential for me. We sat down for an interview to discuss his views on free expression, its overlaps with privacy, and much more.

Photo of Augustina Del Campo

Speaking Freely: Agustina Del Campo

Agustina Del Campo is the Director at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE) at the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a law degree from Universidad Catolica Argentina and an LL.M. in International Legal Studies from American University Washington College of Law.

Agustina has extensive experience in human rights training, particularly as it relates to freedom of expression and the press in the Inter-American human rights system. She has taught and lectured in several Latin American countries and the U.S.

EFF’s Executive Director Cindy Cohn caught up with Agustina at RightsCon 2023 in Costa Rica. In this brief but powerful exchange Agustina discusses how, though free speech has a bad rap these days, it is inherent in any advocacy agenda aimed at challenging – and changing – the status quo and existing power dynamics.

Photo of David Kaye

Speaking Freely: David Kaye

David Kaye is a clinical professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and the independent board chair of the Global Network Initiative. He also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression from 2014-2020. It is in that capacity that I had the good fortune of meeting and working with him; he is someone that I consider both a role model and a friend and I enjoy any chance we have to discuss the global landscape for expression.

Photo of Grecia 2

Speaking Freely: Grecia Macías

Grecia Macìas is a lawyer at R3D: La Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales. She graduated from the Universidad Panamericana Law School in Mexico. She has experience in Constitutional Law and Human Rights, and is passionate about issues of freedom of expression, privacy, content moderation and algorithm inequality.

EFF’s Director of Civil Liberties, David Greene, met up with Grecia at RightsCon 2023 in Costa Rica. They dove in for a lively conversation covering a wide range of topics like freedom of expression as a tool of power and community for the oppressed, particularly in the context of Mexico; what it means to be a woman working in the free speech space; and why young people are embracing free speech more and more. Grecia also gives us a pertinent and important reminder for us all- free speech is punk.

Photo of Nadine Strossen

Speaking Freely: Nadine Strossen

Nadine Strossen is a leading voice for freedom of speech as a scholar and an activist in the US and globally. She is a constitutional law professor at New York Law School, a Senior Fellow with FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and was the President of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1991 through 2008. She has been a mentor and inspiration to numerous EFF attorneys and remains a trusted advisor.

Photo of Ada Palmer

Speaking Freely: Ada Palmer

Ada Palmer is a Renaissance historian whose work lies at the intersection of ideas and historical change. She is currently on research leave from the University of Chicago, where she teaches early modern European history. In this interview, we talk about censorship during the Inquisition, and how that parallels to today’s online censorship challenges.

Photo of Ahmet Sabanci

Speaking Freely: Ahmet Alphan Sabancı

Ahmet Alphan Sabancı is a Turkish digital activist who works on free expression, security and privacy. He's the founder of NewsLabTurkey and has contributed to EFF's Surveillance Self-Defense. Ahmet spoke to me about his journey to becoming an activist, and what it's like to fight back against Turkey's censorship apparatus.

forward-facing headshot of Rima Sghaier

Speaking Freely: Rima Sghaier

Rima Sghaier is a human rights activist and researcher who works at the intersection of technology and human rights, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Rima grew up in Tunisia under the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which lasted for twenty-four years. We discussed the impact of Tunisian internet censorship and much more.

side-facing headshot of Biella Coleman

Speaking Freely: Biella Coleman

Gabriella “Biella” Coleman is an anthropologist whose work focuses on a range of subjects, from the anthropology of medicine to the practice of whistleblowing. To EFF readers, she is probably best known for her work on hacker communities. In 2014, she published the book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (Verso). We discussed medical misinformation and much more.

forward-facing headshot of Asta Helgadottir

Speaking Freely: Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir

Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir is a former Pirate Party member of the Icelandic parliament who currently serves as a digital policy advisor to a member of the European parliament. She’s known online for her passion for the Internet and digital policy, as well as her love of golden retrievers.

Artist Addie Wagenknecht

Speaking Freely: Addie Wagenknecht

Addie Wagenknecht is an artist and researcher based between the U.S. and Europe. We met a few years back when she invited me to be part of Deep Lab, a “collaborative group of cyberfeminist researchers, artists, writers, engineers, and cultural producers” that she co-founded in 2014. In this interview, we talked about art and free expression.

Activist and musician Evan Greer

Speaking Freely: Evan Greer

Evan Greer is many things: A musician, an activist for LGBTQ issues, the Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, and a true believer in the free and open internet. Evan is a longtime friend of EFF, and it was great to chat with her about the state of free expression, and what we should be doing to protect the Internet for future activism.

test test test

Speaking Freely: Christian Frank

Christian Frank is a freelance IT consultant who was born and raised, and currently resides, in Cologne, Germany. Last year, he did some work protesting the Article 13 demonstrations in Europe, a topic that he remains passionate about. We discussed many things, including the internet as—to use Christian’s words—“another living space” that we need to keep fighting to protect.

Photo of Chris Leon

Speaking Freely: Cristian León

Cristian León, based in Buenos Aires, works for Asuntos del Sur, a “think/do tank” that works to strengthen democracy and participation. Originally from Bolivia, Cristian works on open government and democracy across several countries in Latin America. We discussed free expression and surveillance in the region.

photo of Sanra Ordoñez

Speaking Freely: Sandra Ordoñez

Sandra (Sandy) Ordonez is dedicated to protecting women being harassed online. Sandra is an experienced community engagement specialist, a proud NYC Latina resident of Sunset Park Brooklyn, and a recipient of Fundación Carolina’s Hispanic Leadership Award. She is also a long-time diversity and inclusion advocate, with extensive experience incubating and creating FLOSS and Internet Freedom community tools.

Back to top

JavaScript license information