The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Journal of Free Speech Law: "Intimate Privacy's Protection Enables Free Speech," by Prof. Danielle Keats Citron (Virginia)


Just published, at 2 Journal of Free Speech Law 3 (2022), as part of the "Non-Governmental Restrictions on Free Speech" symposium; the Abstract:

The protection of intimate privacy isn't at odds with free expression. At times, we prioritize one value over the other, but, more often, intimate privacy is an essential precondition for self-expression. Intimate privacy allows us to experiment with ideas, identities, and love. It secures space for us to figure out who we are and who we want to become. It frees us to forge close relationships. Intimate privacy enables us to trust others with our innermost thoughts, feelings, and past experiences so that we can come to know them, and they can come to know us. Mutual self-revelation is at the heart of love. The fight for intimate privacy is the fight for free speech.

This short essay highlights intimate privacy's significance for free speech. I explore how intimate privacy violations undermine the ability to engage in self-expression and to forge close relationships. I end with a high-level overview of empirical studies that I have been conducting with Jonathon Penney and Alexis Shore. Our preliminary findings suggest that the protection of intimate privacy—both in law and in the policies of social media platforms—inculcates trust necessary for victims to speak.