Privacy, Free Speech, and the Media

Summer School 2021 organised by Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary

Organizers: Dr. András Koltay and Dr. Petra Lea Láncos

Venue: Online (Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, Budapest, Hungary)

Date: 28 June – 9 July 2021

Co-organising institution: Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem (University of Public Service, Budapest)


The 20th century has witnessed a revolution in information technology, challenging the traditional concepts and regulatory solutions of media law. New devices allow for the spreading of content in unprecedented scale and speed, making it possible for information to reach millions around the globe. Not only do these solutions create new channels of democratic participation, obliterate the conventional news cycle and putting governments under new sources of pressure, they are bursting the confines of the traditional legal framework regulating the media. The internet and in particular, the borderless nature of cyberspace are posing difficult questions of jurisdiction in both regulating online behaviour and prosecuting possible offences. The problem of extraterritoriality in prosecuting hate crimes committed online shows a clear need for establishing cross-border cooperation between the server states and states where the audience of the inciting material is located. Differences in privacy laws and personality rights and net neutrality across the globe lead to differences in the consideration of similar cases involving revenge porn, photos of shot of police, or the download speed of certain sites. Meanwhile, private search engine and social media giants such as Google and Facebook are becoming central channels of the democratic debate, determining the information we access and share based on their own economic and political priorities. Attempts to regulate these companies have resulted e.g. in the notorious right to be forgotten, but the jury is out on how best to curb possible fundamental rights violations across multiple jurisdictions.

These are just some of the issues to be tackled by the media law of the 21st century. The Summer School on Privacy, Free Speech, and the Media focuses on introducing the different areas of law and the rights and freedoms affected by the shifting media landscape. Taking examples from prominent media scandals of the past decade, courses will discuss the most pressing issues of media regulation, along with solutions and case law from Europe and the United States.


The regulation of online platforms in Europe and in the US

The course gives an introduction to the platform ecosystem, and to the recent regulatory landscape of the EU and the US, with a special emphasis on media regulation. It also gives a short introduction to other legal aspects, like data and consumer protection and competition law, and an outlook to the plans and drafts that can affect the future legislation.

Lecturers: András Koltay (Rector of the National University of Public Service, Professor of Pázmány Péter Catholic University) & Zsolt Ződi (Senior Researcher, National University of Public Service)

Media Freedom in the Age of Social Media and Citizen Journalism

During the course students will deal with the following topics: (i) The development of social media and how it has evolved into one of the main mechanisms through which digital speech occurs and, therefore, how it facilitates citizen journalism. We will consider the extent to which social media, and the Internet more broadly, has enabled access to the public sphere; (ii) The development of citizen journalism, the impact it has had on the traditional media and the extent to which it currently contributes, or could contribute, to democratic governance.

Lecturer: Peter Coe (Lecturer in Law, School of Law, University of Reading, Research Associate, Information Law and Policy Centre, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies)

Hate speech and blasphemy in the online sphere

This course explores the challenges posed by online hate speech and blasphemy in the social media age. In a social media world online hate speech can impose instantaneous harm. At the same time, the extraterritorial nature of the internet complicates both the application of blasphemy laws as well as the global movement to abolish such laws. In this regard, the course examines the international political economy of blasphemy bans.

Lecturer: Robert Kahn (Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law)

The internet, “warts and all” – General introduction to the regulatory issues of the internet

While communication on the Internet has indeed brought about explosive development in several respects, including broadening the public sphere, this cannot obscure the difficulties ensuing from the new medium. The subject presents the interactions between freedom of speech, the protection of privacy and the search for truth, and examines how these support and strengthen one another and how they may clash, preventing one from prevailing over another in communication in the public sphere.

Lecturer: Paul Bernal (Senior Lecturer, University of East Anglia School of Law)

Hard cases in internet regulation: the case of the right to be forgotten and net neutrality

The course provides insight into two emerging challenges of media regulation, centering around the principles of privacy and freedom. Students are introduced to the old-new right to be forgotten, with a focus on personality rights and CJEU jurisprudence. Net neutrality as a concept is meant to further equal access and freedom in providing and downloading information - a topic where the two sides of the Atlantic take a very different stance.

Lecturers: Petra Láncos (Associate Professor of Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Faculty of Law) & Balázs Bartóki-Gönczy (Assistant Professor of National University of Public Service)

Grade evaluation

Grading will consist of a one hour final examination with essay questions or multiple choice test (60%) and class participation (40%).