Dr Jeffrey Howard is awarded the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship
5 May 2020
Congratulations to Dr Jeffrey Howard, who has been awarded the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for his project on dangerous speech online.
In recent years, online networks have been weaponised to incite violence and inflame hatred. This speech—whether propounded by white supremacist terrorists, religious extremists, xenophobic nationalists, or foreign intelligence operatives—endangers citizens and undermines democracy. But what should be done about it?
The year-long Fellowship will be used to write a book manuscript that confronts this challenge. The project aims to identify the philosophical principles that should guide policymakers in confronting extremist speech. A central task of the project will be to debunk a widely defended philosophical view, which holds that a considerable amount of dangerous speech is broadly protected by the moral right of freedom of expression. On this view, restrictions on dangerous speech (either through direct limits on citizens’ expression, or regulation of online networks) cannot be justified. The project will argue that this view is mistaken; there is, in fact, a moral duty to refrain from dangerous speech, which sets limits to the right to free speech itself. Whether and how that duty ought to be enforced depends on a range of further moral considerations, which the project will investigate.