Janny H. C. Leung, “Language, Law, and the Limits of Digital Autonomy”

June 15, 2021

As more of our lives shift online, the question of how speech should be regulated in this digital space becomes increasingly relevant. In response, social media companies have set precedents for regulating language on their private platforms. However, these mechanisms are often designed in order to work in tandem with artificial intelligence-based algorithms that have not yet been fully developed, leaving them instead to be administered inconsistently by human content moderators.

In this podcast, Janny H. C. Leung, professor of linguistics in the School of English at The University of Hong Kong, addresses the ethical and legal questions that arise from these attempts to monitor and evaluate—and sometimes even block—individuals’ language on social media. As she points out, the evolution of standards and practices around digital discourse has the potential to reshape the concept of free speech as we know it.

Janny Leung
Janny HC Leung, The University of Hong Kong
Janny H. C. Leung is professor of linguistics in the School of English at The University of Hong Kong. She obtained her MPhil and PhD in English and applied linguistics from the University of Cambridge, an LLB from the University of London, and an LLM from Yale Law School. Her first line of research, developed from her doctoral work, focuses on the mapping between meaning and linguistic form in the acquisition and processing of language, using a psycholinguistic approach and a quantitative methodology. Her most current line of research lies in the emergent interdisciplinary area of language and law. She has published a monograph and a series of papers on challenges, ideologies and paradoxes in multilingual legal practice. She has also written about language rights, legal interpretation, unrepresented litigation, courtroom discourse, legal translation, and representations of law in the media. Her latest government-funded project deals with the evolution of law in the modern communication environment.