Who We Are

The Future of Free Speech is an independent, non-partisan think tank located at Vanderbilt University.

Executive Director

Jacob Mchangama

Jacob Mchangama is the Founder and Executive Director of The Future of Free Speech. He is a research professor at Vanderbilt University and a Senior Fellow at The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). 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.

      

Scholars

Natalie Alkiviadou | Senior Research Fellow

Natalie Alkiviadou is a Senior Research Fellow at The Future of Free Speech. Her research interests lie in the freedom of expression, the far-right, hate speech, hate crime and non-discrimination. She holds a PhD (Law) from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She has published three monographs, namely ‘The Far-Right in International and European Law’ (Routledge 2019), ‘Legal Challenges to the Far-right: Lessons from England and Wales’ (Routledge 2019) and ‘The Far-Right in Greece and the Law’ (Routledge 2022). She has published on hate speech, free speech and the far-right in a wide range of peer reviewed journals, has been reviewer for journals such as the International Journal of Human Rights, The Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights and guest editor for the International Journal of Semiotics and the Law. Natalie has over ten years experience in working with civil society, educators and public servants on human rights education and has participated in European actions such as the High-Level Group on Combatting Racism, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance. Natalie has been the country researcher for the 2019 European Network against Racism report on Hate Crime and the 2022 report on structural racism. She has drafted handbooks, strategy papers and shadow reports for projects funded by the Anna Lindh Foundation, the European Commission and the European Youth Foundation, on themes such as hate speech. Natalie is an international Fellow (2022/23) of the ISLC – Information Society Law Centre of the Università degli Studi di Milano.

      

Jordi Calvet-Bademunt | Research Fellow

Jordi is a Research Fellow at The Future of Free Speech and a Visiting Scholar at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on free speech in the digital space. Jordi has been a fellow at the Internet Society and holds a Master’s in public administration from Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts), where he specialized in tech and AI policy. While at Harvard, Jordi supported the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, two former senior Department of Justice officials, and the former Chair of the MIT Economics Department with the organization of a year-long seminar series on tech policy. Jordi has almost a decade of experience as a policy analyst at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and as an associate in leading European law firms. He holds a Master of Law from the College of Europe (Bruges, Belgium) and two Bachelor of Laws and Business Administration from Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain).

   

Joan Barata | Senior Legal Fellow

Joan Barata is a Senior Legal Fellow for The Future of Free Speech. He works on freedom of expression, media regulation, and intermediary liability issues. He is a Fellow of the Program on Platform Regulation at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center. He has published a large number of articles and books on these subjects, both in academic and popular press. His work has taken him in most regions of the world, and he is regularly involved in projects with international organizations such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where he was the principal advisor to the Representative on Media Freedom. Joan also has experience as a regulator, as he held the position of Secretary General of the Audiovisual Council of Catalonia in Spain and was member of the Permanent Secretariat of the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities.

   

Jeff Kosseff | Non-Resident Senior Fellow

Jeff Kosseff is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow for The Future of Free Speech. He writes about online speech, the First Amendment, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In 2023, Johns Hopkins University Press published his latest book, Liar in a Crowded Theater: Freedom of Speech in a World of Misinformation, which cautions against addressing the challenges created by misinformation through government regulation. He also is the author of The United States of Anonymous: How the First Amendment Shaped Online Speech, which examines and defends the U.S. tradition of anonymous speech, and The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet, which explores the history and future of Section 230. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Georgetown University Law Center, and clerked for Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Before becoming a lawyer, he was a journalist at The Oregonian, and was a recipient of the George Polk Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting.

   

Suthan Krishnarajan | Affiliate Fellow

Suthan Krishnarajan is an Affiliate Fellow for The Future of Free Speech where he is responsible for collecting and analyzing the global survey data on freedom of speech in more than 25 countries. He is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Aarhus University focusing on regime instability in democracies and autocracies around the world historically as well as today. Currently, his primary focus is on public perceptions of undemocratic behavior in Western democracies today. His PhD dissertation won the 2019 Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD Award, and his work has been published in leading international journals such as International Studies Quarterly and Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Svend-Erik Skaaning | Affiliate Fellow

Svend-Erik Skaaning is an Affiliate Fellow for The Future of Free Speech, where he will work on the opinions of ordinary citizens related to free speech. This work will be based on surveys from a broad selection of countries from all world regions. Skaaning is professor of political science specialized in comparative studies of democratization, civil liberties, and the rule of law. He is currently working on historical patterns of political regime changes. His most recent books – on the measurement of democracy and on democratic stability in times of crisis, respectively – have been published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press.

 

Staff

Wendy Burch | Chief Operating Officer

Wendy Burch is the Chief Operating Officer for The Future of Free Speech in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an established leader and entrepreneur who has owned and operated multiple businesses in the Nashville community. Additionally, past professional experience includes working in the areas of non-profit, event management, public relations, and government. Wendy has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s in Political Science and Government. She studied International Law in Paris, France, as part of her graduate studies. She worked as a press and legislative aide in the office of Senator Fred Thompson in Washington, D.C. Her non-profit work includes stints with the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center and the American Cancer Society.

Sam Cosby | Director of Development

Sam Cosby is the Director of Development at The Future of Free Speech, bringing nearly two decades of fundraising experience. Sam previously served as Director of Advancement at Davis House Child Advocacy Center, where he led successful fundraising campaigns to empower children and families affected by abuse. Before his tenure at Davis House, Sam held key positions in the public policy sector, including as Director of Development at the Beacon Center of Tennessee and Corporate & Sponsor Development Officer at State Policy Network (SPN). In these roles, he built meaningful partnerships and secured vital resources to advance policy initiatives aimed at fostering economic freedom and individual liberty. Sam’s commitment to public service extends to his roots in public media, where he served as Corporate Support Officer for WKU Public Media at Western Kentucky University, located in his hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Justin Hayes

Justin Hayes | Director of Communications

Justin Hayes is the Director of Communications at The Future of Free Speech. He was previously Director of Research at CounterPoint Strategies, where he provided crisis and issue management solutions to leading private equity firms, Dow 30 companies, trade associations, private industrial firms, and prominent public figures. He also served as a marketing manager at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he helped promote graduate student fellowships and scholarly research. He holds an M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Florida and a B.S. in Political Science from Kennesaw State University. Justin has always been passionate about promoting free speech, working as a graduate research fellow with the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project during his time at the University of Florida and regularly writing about the topic in his spare time.

      

Lily Thomas | Project Coordinator

Lily Thomas serves as a project coordinator at The Future of Free Speech at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She received a B.A. in Policy Studies from Syracuse University. During her time as an undergraduate, Lily was a teaching assistant and interned with multiple non-profit organizations. In her senior year, she undertook the role of a research consultant for Feeding New York State, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating food insecurity throughout New York. Lily’s passion for policy studies and her multifaceted experiences position her as a dedicated and versatile contributor to the Future of Free Speech Project.

 

Research Assistants

Nick Queffurus | Research Assistant

Over the past few years, Nick has worked at London-based human rights law firms, including Leigh Day, focusing on environmental, equality and data protection issues. Alongside legal practice, he has strong interests in policy and academic work on online speech governance – he has worked as a research fellow in content regulation of online platforms at Leeds University (UK) and recently headed out to the US for a conference at Yale Law School about governing online speech. He studied law in England (Bristol University) and France (Université de Bordeaux), developing strong comparative public law interests. He also holds an MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford, for which he did fieldwork in Kenya.

Hicham Kantar | Research Assistant

Hicham Kantar has served as a judge in Lebanon for over 18 years, serving in criminal and civil courts and as a prosecutor. He has a Master’s degree in public international law from Université Saint Joseph in Beirut and an LL.M. degree from Columbia Law School where he received the Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar honors, in addition to the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law certificate in recognition of achievement in international and comparative law. In 2022, he was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia Law school in New York, working on research on legal tradition and criminal justice in the Middle East.

Hicham teaches Human Rights and International Courts at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. He also worked as a legal consultant for the Independent High-Level Legal Panel of Experts on Global Media Freedom and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, advising on issues of freedom of expression and media freedom, state practices, legislation and case law in the MENA region. He is currently a legal consultant for the World Bank, working on the Equality of Opportunity for Sexual and Gender Minorities project.

Arianna Marchionne | Research Assistant

Arianna’s research interests encompass the legal and ethical implications arising from advancements in Artificial Intelligence, with a specific focus on examining free speech issues in the digital age. With her diverse background spanning both law and science, Arianna is committed to exploring the challenges at the intersection between human rights and advancements in technology. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Glasgow, a Master’s Degree in Physics from the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” and a PhD in Physics from the University of Copenhagen.