Watch video

See photos from the conference:



DATE: 4th of December, 2023

TIME: 9:00 am – 15:00 (CET)

LOCATION: Stockholm, Sweden & Online
KULTURHUSET stadsteatern, Sergels Torg, 111 57 Stockholm, Sweden,
Room: Foajé 3

A sneak peek

Academic and former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, will set the scene of the conference’s topic in a theoretical and practical way. Nathan Law will discuss his life as an activist from Hong Kong, civil society. Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, will reflect upon some of the submissions she received for her next report, which focuses on matters relevant to this conference.

Speakers will also address the various challenges and threats to free speech in the digital age, such as governmental restrictions and increased state-mandated content moderation, following developments like the enactment of Germany’s NetzDG and the EU’s Digital Services Act.

A panel discussing our 2023 report on the state of content moderation of hate speech in Austria, France and Germany will frame this analysis (presented by Ioanna Tourkochoriti, Mikael Ruotsi, Martin Fertmann and discussed with Alexandria Walden and Jacob Mchangama).  We will consider how counter speech can help to tackle online hate speech and disinformation.

Experts will discuss practical and normative issues in this field. There will also be a presentation on our toolkits, one of which uses counter speech to tackle hate speech and disinformation, another is an AI powered app that can assist the work of counterspeakers (Mina Dennert, Susan Benesch, Michael Bang Petersen, Jesse Spencer Smith).

Finally, we will look at current free speech controversies such as regional developments in the framework of prohibiting the desecration of religious texts.

Register here 
  (By the 24th November 2023)

If you want to be considered for an international bursary of EUR 300 please apply by the 6th November 2023

For more information contact


09.00 am Registration and Breakfast
09.30 am

Welcome Note and Scene Setting

Jacob Mchangama, Director of the Future of Free Speech Project and Research Professor at Vanderbilt University

09.50 am

Welcome Note

Secretary General of the Swedish PostCode Foundation

10.00 am Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapportuer on Freedom of Religion or Belief
10.20 am David Kaye, University of California
10.40 am Coffee Break
10.55 am Nathan Law
11.20 am Mina Dennert, Founder of the #iamhere network
11.50 am Faisal Al Mutar, Ideas Beyond Borders
12.10 pm Lunch Break
13.00 pm

Presentation and Discussion of Counterspeech Toolkits and AI app

Susan Benesch, Dangerous Speech Project

Jesse Spenser, Vanderbilt University

Michael Bang Petersen, Aarhus University

Commentary and Discussion by Jacob Mchangama & Q&A Session

14.00 pm

Presentation and Discussion of Content Moderation Analysis in France, Germany and Sweden

Ioanna Tourkochoriti, Baltimore University

Mikael Ruotsi, Upsala University

Martin Fertmann, Leibniz-Institute for Media Research, Hans-Bredow-Institute, the University of Hamburg’s Center for Law in Digital Transformation.

Commentary and discussion by Alexandria Walden (Google) and Jacob Mchangama & Q&A Session

15.00 pm Jacob Mchangama: Closing Comments

Event host

Jacob Mchangama – Executive Director, Future of Free Speech Project & Research Professor at Vanderbilt University

Jacob Mchangama is the founder and executive director of Justitia; there, he directs its Future of Free Speech Project. He is a research professor at Vanderbilt University and a Senior Fellow at The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) in Washington. In 2018 he was a visiting scholar at Columbia’s Global Freedom of Expression Center. He has commented extensively on free speech and human rights in outlets including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. Jacob has published in academic and peer-reviewed journals, including Human Rights Quarterly, Policy Review, and Amnesty International’s Strategic Studies. He is the producer and narrator of the podcast “Clear and Present” Danger: A History of Free Speech and the critically acclaimed book “Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media” published by Basic Books in 2022. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work on free speech and human rights.


Faisal Saeed Al Mutal – Founder, ‘Ideas Beyond Borders’ 

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar: Born in Babylon and raised in Baghdad, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar experienced the villainy of extremism and authoritarian regimes firsthand. He survived the Iraq Civil War, the murder of family members, and several kidnapping attempts before becoming a citizen of the United States in 2019. He is a practitioner of countering extremism and misinformation on an international scale, working first with his siblings in Iraq during the surge in 2007 to this current moment. He’s traveled to conferences and spoken on campuses across the globe about his experiences working to create alternative narratives in the region. He founded Ideas Beyond Borders, a non-profit dedicated to empowering people across the Middle East with access to new ideas and fresh perspectives with branches in The Kurdistan region in Iraq and Dubai. Faisal received the “President’s Volunteer Service Award” from President Barack Obama and is part of the leadership network of the American Enterprise Institute

Susan Benesch – Founder & Executive Director, The Dangerous Speech Project

Susan Benesch is the founder and Executive Director of the Dangerous Speech Project, which studies speech that can inspire violence and works to find ways to prevent that violence, without infringing on freedom of expression. To that end, she conducts research on methods to diminish harmful speech online, or the harm itself. Susan is also Faculty Associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

David Kaye – University of California, Irvine

David Kaye is a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and a 2023-2024 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Public International Law at LundUniversity, Sweden. From 2014 – 2020 he served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. He is also the author of Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet (2019), Independent Chair of the Board of the Global Network Initiative, and a Trustee of ARTICLE 19. He writes regularly for international and American law journals and media outlets. David began his legal career with the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a former member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law.

Marie Dahllöf – Secretary General Swedish Postcode Foundation

Marie Dahllöf is currently Secretary General at the Swedish Postcode Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to provide project funding to non-profit organizations. Prior to this, Marie worked as the Head of Charity and CSR at The Swedish Postcode Lottery. Swedish Postcode Lottery believes in a strong civil society and through operating lotteries, they provide long term funding for the charitable sector. Before joining The Swedish Postcode Lottery, Marie was the CEO of GodEl, a do-good social company that donates its profits to charity while providing a competitive offer of renewable energy to its customers. Marie has a Master’s Degree in International Politics from the University of Aberystwyth and a BA in English and International Relations from Gothenburg University.

“Freedom of speech is a basic prerequisite for a functioning democratic society. Understanding the importance of and safeguarding this freedom in a time when hate and disinformation is prevalent, especially on social media, is therefore of huge importance. We are happy to support Justitia in their work to explore various methods to tackle disinformation, hate and extremism without restricting freedom of speech, says Marie Dahllöf, Secretary General to the Swedish Postcode Foundation.”

Mina Dennert – Founder of the international movement I Am Here International with Swedish #jagärhär, 

Mina Dennert is a Swedish journalist, social media expert and founder of the I Am Here International network which works to counter disinformation to defend human rights and our freedom of speech. She especially works on supporting journalists, politicians and discriminated communities against online hate and disinformation campaigns that limit their freedom of speech and pushes them to self-censor. Her movement currently comprises more than 150,000 people worldwide.

Martin Fertmann – Researcher at the Leibniz-Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institute and a doctoral candidate at the University of Hamburg’s Center for Law in Digital Transformation. 

Martin Fertmann is a researcher at the Leibniz-Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institute and a doctoral candidate at the University of Hamburg’s Center for Law in Digital Transformation. His research focuses on content moderation, German and European platform regulation and their respective compatibility with international human rights. He has participated in a research sprint at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society (Harvard University) and held visiting roles in Paris (Sorbonne University and the French National Center for Scientific Research) and Oslo (Norwegian Centre for Human Rights), next to a Transatlantic Digital Debates-Fellowship (Global Public Policy Institute, Berlin and New America’s Open Technology Institute, Washington). Before pursuing his PhD, Martin studied law in Hamburg and Beijing, while volunteering with the University of Hamburg’s Cyber Law Clinic.

Nazila Ghanea

Nazila Ghanea assumed her mandate as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief on 1 August 2022. Nazila Ghanea is Professor of International Human Rights Law and Director of the MSc in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. Prior to that, she was Senior Lecturer at the University of London (2000-2006), and she has also previously taught in the People’s Republic of China (1993-1994). She has researched and published widely in international human rights law and served as consultant to numerous agencies.

Though her nearly 30-year career has been rooted in academia, Professor Ghanea’s academic work has often connected with multilateral practice in international human rights law. She has contributed actively to networks interested in freedom of religion or belief and its interrelationship with other human rights, and advised states and other stakeholders. In her professional activities, she has taken every opportunity to support the promotion and application of principled understandings of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. She has supervised well over 100 master’s dissertations and doctorates and served on doctoral panels internationally. She has also co-authored a 700-page publication by Oxford University Press that addresses freedom of religion or belief and is focused on the UN record.

Nathan Law – Democracy Activist

Nathan Law is a democracy activist from Hong Kong, now based in London as a refugee. He was the youngest elected legislator in Hong Kong and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME in 2020.

Michael Bang Petersen – Professor, Arhus University 

Michael Bang Petersen is a Danish political scientist and professor at Aarhus University. He studies political behavior and attitudes including in the context of social media. Currently, he is the director of the Research on Online Political Hostility Project (ROPH), which examines the causes and consequences of online hate speech and misinformation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he led the HOPE project, which investigated global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and advised the Danish government on effective communication strategies. He has received several awards for his research and public outreach. 

Michael Ruotsi – Senior Lecturer, Uppsala University 

Mikael Ruotsi is a Senior Lecturer in Constitutional Law at Uppsala University. He is Course Director of Term Course 1 of the Law Programme. His PhD thesis explored the relationship between the Swedish constitutional protection of freedom of expression and international law (Svensk yttrandefrihet och internationell rätt, Iustus 2020). He has previously worked as public prosecutor, legal officer at the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and legal officer at the Constitutional Committee of the Riksdag.

Jesse Spenser – Professor, Vanderbilt University 

Jesse Spencer-Smith, PhD is Chief Data Scientist and Interim Director for the Data Science Institute at Vanderbilt University, Professor of the Practice of Computer Science in the School of Engineering, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts & Science. He leads a team of data scientists who collaborate with researchers across the university and medical center and with industry partners applying , and teaches courses on Artificial Intelligence. He also consults with researchers and industry on AI. Since 2019 he has taught graduate-level courses and led workshops on generative AI and transformer models, the technology underlying ChatGPT and other AI solutions.

During his time at Vanderbilt as Chief Data Scientist he’s led projects applying AI to problems in fields ranging from education to archaeology to astrophysics, including exploring novel transformer architectures and training.

In addition, he’s been recognized for his outstanding teaching in data science. He has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science from Indiana University, and a BS in Computer Science from the University of Florida. He was previously at HCA Healthcare for nine years, a Fortune 500 company, where as Director of Data Science he built the first data science team for the company. He was an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Quantitative Methods at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and was a Beckman Fellow at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Ioanna Tourkochoriti – Associate Professor, Baltimore University

Ioanna Tourkochoriti is a leading scholar on human rights, jurisprudence, comparative law, constitutional theory. For eight years she held research and faculty appointments at Harvard University. She was a Wertheim Fellow with the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and a Lecturer on Law and Social Studies at the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University. She is currently Associate Professor of Law (with Tenure) at Baltimore Law School. Previously she taught at the School of Law of the University of Galway. During Academic Year 2019-2020 she was a Visiting Fellow at LSE’s Law Department.

Her book “Freedom of Speech: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Revolutionary Roots of American and French Legal Thought” (Cambridge University Press, 2022), was characterised by reviewers as “leading”, “innovative” and “based on extraordinary research”. It argues that the difference in the balancing of the two rights reflects a difference in the understanding of the role of the state concerning the definition of the content and the limits of liberty. The book is based in analysis of the understanding of liberty in France and the US since the French and the American Revolutions. It engages with major political theorists and discusses how they were read and understood by political actors on the two sides of the Atlantic.

Alexandria Walden – Global Policy Lead for Global Human Rights and Free Expression, Google 

Alexandria Walden is Google’s global policy lead for global human rights and free expression.

With colleagues in more than 40 countries, Alexandria builds partnerships to promote free speech and expression and to combat internet censorship and filtering around the globe. Based in Washington, DC, Alexandria coordinates policy and strategy around these issues for the company. She also represents Google at the Global Network Initiative (GNI) — a multi-stakeholder coalition of companies, human rights groups, investors, and academics that develops best practices for respecting human rights on the Internet and in the communications sector.

Prior to joining Google, Alexandria worked at The Raben Group; Center for American Progress; and NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. She has also served as a law clerk for the U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary and for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights & Liberties; and worked with the U.S. EEOC; U.S. Department of Labor; and Bay Area Legal Aid during law school. Alex holds a B.A. in political science from American University and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law

Nicola Aitken – Lead for external engagement on misinformation and responsible AI, Meta

Nicola Aitken is Meta’s lead for external engagement on misinformation and responsible AI within the Trust and Safety organisation. Her role is to work with external experts from around the globe to get independent feedback on Meta’s policy and product development.

Prior to joining Meta, she was a policy manager at Full Fact, the UK’s independent fact checking charity, where she managed the strategic response to Covid-19 misinformation on social media platforms. She also spent 5 years in the UK government, where she worked on countering mis and disinformation, tech regulation, broadcasting regulation and wider media policy.”

Bursaries and Travel Support

We are offering 20 bursaries of EUR 300 each to international early career scholars and civil society members from around the globe working on the issue and related themes. Indicators of success will be the possibility of impact following the conference.

Nevertheless, issues such as geographical equality, the inclusion of commonly underrepresented groups and gender balance will be taken into account.
Local travel within Sweden and 1 hotel night where appropriate will be covered for all participants within Sweden.

If you want to be considered for an international bursary of EUR 300 please apply by the 6th November 2023

For more information contact