AI Ethics Challenge | ISTF 2019

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is a fundamental value in liberal democracies. Those lucky enough to be born in societies that respect this fundamental liberty, learn the meaning of freedom of speech other by social interactions in which freedom of speech is guaranteed by legal and social norms. However, respect for freedom of speech is not a ’natural’ state for society to be in. Historically, it is quite a recent development. In fact, freedom of speech is not even the absence of regulation on speech, but the result of a special kind of regulation. Regulation is needed because, first of all, freedom of speech requires order to facilitate discussion and needs to be sometimes curtailed, when in danger of inciting violence. And second, because you need regulation to prevent powerful individuals, or powerful groups of individually non-powerful individuals, to exert coercion on other individuals in order to deprive them of their freedom to communicate. At the legal level, freedom of speech is enshrined in most countries’ Constitutions, it is a also a human right many countries have given their allegiance to. Even more importantly, a culture of freedom of speech is protected by social norms.

Nowadays, a large amount of social interactions, information exchanges and cultural events take place on internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. This means that ever-lasting questions about the boundaries of freedom of speech have to be sorted out in the context of web platforms. These boundaries must be defined between the platforms and their users and are increasingly implemented through the use of Artificial Intelligence. The challenge concerns how one could build legitimate AI in the domain of free speech.


Challenger | Dr. Michele LoiPostdoctoral Researcher Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine,

University of Zurich UZH



Michele Loi is a political philosopher turned bioethicist turned digital ethicist. He is currently (2017-2020) working on two interdisciplinary projects, one on which on the ethical implications of big data at the University of Zurich. In the past, he was hired to develop an ethical framework of governance for the Swiss MIDATA cooperative (2016). He is interested in bringing insights from ethics and political philosophy to bear on big data, proposing more ethical forms of institutional organization, firm behavior, and legal-political arrangements concerning data.