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Call for Participation: re:constitution Workshop on 16 May 2022 in Rome, Italy

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On 16 May 2022, two re:constitution Fellows, Ylenia Maria Citino and Šimon Drugda will co-organise an international workshop on the topic “Freedom of Expression in the Digital Ecosystem: From the Wild Web to a European Lex Informatica?”. The workshop will take place at the Centro Studi sul Parlamento – Department of Political Science, LUISS Guido Carli, in partnership with the University of Copenhagen.

The co-conveners welcome abstracts from both senior and early career scholars, legal practitioners, and experts of the field, to be presented at the workshop. Selected participants will receive dedicated feedback on their paper from a member of the Scientific Committee.

Contributors are invited to submit their abstract no later than 15 February 2022. The Call for Participation can be downloaded here.

Workshop Outline

How can we combat the increasing threats to individual and collective security that take place on the web, without affecting freedom of expression? How can we strike a fair balance between freedom of enterprise and the rights of citizens and consumers in the digital ecosystem? How can we ensure political processes are not impacted by a totally unregulated online sphere? The problems that originate from these fundamental questions are among the main issues with which both the individual countries and the European Union are struggling with.

Since its beginning, the Internet has been seen as an anarchically free environment, mostly spontaneously regulated. In the U.S., both the case law of the Courts and the federal legislation confirmed a legal framework that prioritized liberty over responsibility. In Europe, a different set of principles took shape, mainly through the contribution of the judicial branches of the individual countries and the Council of Europe. As a consequence, in recent years, we have witnessed the framing of community standards and self-regulations by companies whose main goal is to avoid a situation in which lack of rules renders them liable. These regulations have often proven ineffective, as they have endowed algorithms and private entities with the authority to manage dilemmatic conflicts that involve the balance between fundamental rights, human dignity, and freedom of speech in public arena. This has led to a regulatory drive, especially in the area of free speech, elections and democracy. This necessity is even more stressed in a context in which the power of private digital services providers is increased by the oligopolistic dimensions of the market.

Nowadays, the speed at which technological innovation take place and the cross-border dimension of it calls for a European supranational regulatory approach: the goal of a ‘lex informatica’ emerges, to assist the citizens in the legal issues, much as the ‘lex mercatoria’ favored trade between the merchants in the past. The state of play of European common actions, aiming at fixing the main aspects of the virtual infrastructure, consists of a package of disciplines – or proposed disciplines – that wipe out overlapping, inefficient or simply conflicting regulations to ensure a level playing field framework. See, for example, the challenges being addressed by the proposed Digital Services Act and Digital Market Act regulations.

At large, dealing with the protection of fundamental rights in the digital environment requires a polycentric approach. The two sessions of the workshop will consequently focus on if and how to identify a harmonized approach with regards to:

a) the enjoyment of freedom of speech in a safe and secure digital ecosystem; and
b) the implementation of specific rules for the political processes, given that the self-regulatory approach may not be adequate when elections and democracy are at stake. The latter session will critically examine the role of the Venice Commission in delimiting the matter of e-democracy.

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