David Kaye

Clinical Professor of Law
David Kaye


Public international law, international humanitarian law, human rights, international criminal justice, the law governing use of force, and freedom of expression


David Kaye is a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. He is the 2023-2024 Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Public International Law at Lund University, Sweden, and the U.S. Independent Expert to the European Commission for Democracy through Law (“Venice Commission”). He regularly lectures and has published widely in academic and non-specialist journals on issues related to human rights at domestic and international levels, accountability for serious human rights abuses, international humanitarian law, and the international law governing use of force. His 2019 book, Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet (Columbia Global Reports), explores the ways in which companies, governments and activists struggle to define the rules for online expression.

Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, David served through July 2020 as the global body’s principal monitor for freedom of expression issues worldwide, developing a global profile particularly on issues related to technology and human rights. He reported to the UN on COVID-19 and freedom of expression and, in 2019, to the UN General Assembly on online hate speech. His earlier reporting addressed, among other topics, the ways in which Artificial Intelligence technologies implicate human rights issues, the global private surveillance industry and its impact on freedom of expression, growing repression of freedom of expression globally, encryption and anonymity as promoters of freedom of expression, the protection of whistleblowers and journalistic sources, the roles and responsibilities of private Internet companies, and the regulation of online content by social media and search companies. He conducted official missions to Japan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Mexico, Liberia, Ecuador and Ethiopia, and regularly addressed major policy and academic conferences dealing with free expression, technology and media freedom worldwide. Together with the regional monitors of freedom of expression in Europe (OSCE), the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, he joined six Joint Declarations on major contemporary challenges for free expression and independent media worldwide.

After doing his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, he joined the U.S. State Department as a lawyer in 1995, serving in Washington, D.C., and The Hague, The Netherlands. In addition to his academic work, he is the Independent Board Chair of the Global Network Initiative and a Trustee of the global freedom of expression organization, ARTICLE 19. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, he has also published essays in such publications as Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, Reuters, Slate, Foreign Policy, Just Security, Lawfare, Tech Policy Press and The Los Angeles Times.

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  • David Kaye, Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet (Columbia Global Reports 2019).

Articles, Essays, Reviews

  • The United Nations Charter, International Human Rights, and the Hollowness of Sovereignty Claims, Oxford Handbook of Human Rights Advocacy (2023/forthcoming), available at SSRN.
  • A review of Samuel Moyn’s Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, 117 American Journal of International Law 177 (2023).
  • Online Propaganda, Censorship and Human Rights in Russia’s War Against Reality, 116 American Journal of International Law Unbound 140 (2022).
  • Convergence and Conflict: Reflections on Global and Regional Human Rights Standards on Hate Speech (with Evelyn Aswad), 20 Northwestern Journal of Human Rights 165 (2022).
  • The Troubled World of Hate Speech Regulation (review essay), 21 Journal of Human Rights 110 (2022).
  • Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Elgar Encyclopedia of Human Rights (eds., Nowak et al) (2022).
  • The Spyware State and the Prospects for Accountability, 27 Global Governance 483 (2021).

Reports Submitted as UN Special Rapporteur

  • May 4, 2023:
    Panelist: The Future of State Media
    , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC
  • May 3, 2023
    Panelist: Solving the Threat of Intrusive Spyware
    , AccessNow, New York, New York
  • March 29, 2023
    : Can the framework of Human Rights Law Help at Home? SpeechMatters Podcast of the UC Free Speech Center
  • February 23, 2023
    Panelist: Content Management and Accountability
    , UNESCO Conference: An Internet of Trust, Paris, France
  • November 10, 2022
    Lecture and Panelist: Current threats to international media freedom
    , Practicing Law Institute, New York, New York
  • November 8, 2022:
    : Platform Rules, Public Law, Yale Law School, Information Society Project Lecture Series
  • October 27, 2022:
    : Intrusive spyware’s threats to human rights, PEGA Committee of the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
  • October 23, 2022:
    Panelist: Regulating social media: freedom but under what rules?
     Asma Jahangir Foundation Annual Conference, Lahore, Pakistan (remote participation)
  • Feb. 26, 2022:
    Moderator, Global China in an Anxious Age, UCI Forum for the Academy and the Public, Irvine, CA
  • Jan. 28, 2022:
    Featured Speaker, The Future of Media and Press Freedom Globally, Media Freedom and Human Rights Mini-Symposium, William and Mary Law School, Online
  • Jan. 19, 2022:
    Speaker, The Digital Services Act and Online Freedom of Expression, IIEA, Online
  • July 29, 2021:
    Featured Speaker, The Social Media Predicament: Exploring the Real World Impacts of Social Media, OC Forum, Online
  • April 15, 2021:
    Featured Speaker, “From Monopoly to Autocracy: A Human Rights Agenda for the Global Internet,” Mildred Fish-Harnack Human Rights and Democracy Lecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law, Online
  • Feb. 11, 2021: 
    Panelist, At the Intersection: Battling Terrorism Online: When Does Information Sharing and Free Speech Collide, American University Washington College of Law, Online
  • Nov. 18, 2020:
    Moderator, Freedom of the Press Under Fire, UCI Office of Global Engagement, Online
  • Oct. 26, 2020:
    Featured Speaker, Free Speech Online in a Global Setting, Strauss Center, Online
  • Oct. 21, 2020:
    Panelist, Hearing on Combatting Online Hate Speech and Disinformation Targeting Religious Communities, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Online
  • Oct. 6, 2020:
    Keynote Speaker, Information and Disinformation in Times of Election, Universidad de Pacifico, Online
  • Sept. 23, 2020:
    Q&A with Rep. Katie Porter on Freedom of Expression, Periscope, Online
  • July 23, 2020:
    Speaker, Human Rights at Home: Media, Politics, and Safety of Journalists, Helsinki Commission, Online
  • June 2, 2020:
    Speaker, Is Free Speech Destroying Itself Online?, ADL Orange County, Online
  • May 6, 2020:
    Featured Speaker, Human Rights and Digital Technologies Symposium, National Academies, Online
  • Sept. 18, 2019:
    Speaker, The Relevance of Human Rights in a Digital World, National Academy of Sciences Human Rights and Digital Technologies Symposium, Washington, DC
  • Sept. 16, 2019:
    Featured Speaker, Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet, 3rd Annual Global Leaders Lecture, Emory Law, Atlanta, GA
  • Sept. 9, 2019:
    Featured Speaker, Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston, Houston, TX
  • Aug. 26, 2019:
    Featured Speaker, Engage & Enlighten, Museum of Ventura County, Ventura, CA
  • July 13, 2019:
    Conversation with the UN Special Rapporteur, ORGCON Digital Rights Conference, London, United Kingdom
  • July 10, 2019:
    Panelist, The Joint Declaration on Challenges to Freedom of Expression, Foreign Office Conference on Media Freedom, Printworks, London, United Kingdom
  • July 9, 2019:
    Book Talk: Speech Police, Sponsored by Index on Censorship and Article 19, Wayra, London, United Kingdom
  • July 4, 2019:
    Who Owns the Internet? Lecture and Panelist, Special Event at De Rode Hoed Event Space, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • June 28, 2019:
    Disinformation and International Human Rights Law, Keynote Lecture, Conference of the Free Russia Foundation, The Hague, The Netherlands
  • June 6, 2019:
    Speech Police: Lecture, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, New York, NY (video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6PDZ-o5Khg).
  • June 5, 2019:
    Speech Police: Book Talk and Panel with Anne-Marie Slaughter and Rebecca Mackinnon, New America Foundation, Washington, DC (video available at https://www.newamerica.org/oti/events/speech-police/).
  • June 3, 2019:
    Speech Police: Book Talk and Interview, World Affairs, San Francisco, CA (video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPznSfJTXjE).
  • May 20, 2019:
    Speaker, Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet, Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA (video available at https://vimeo.com/338940806)
  • May 18, 2019:
    Speaker, Rights Night: 1st Amendment, ALOUD, Library Foundation of Los Angeles and ACLU SoCal, Los Angeles, CA 
  • March 25, 2019:
    Keynote Speaker, Targeted, Monitored and Silenced: Digital Attacks on Open Societies and the Freedom of Expression, Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, McGill University Law School, Montreal, Canada
  • Feb. 26, 2018: 
    Keynote Speaker, “Artificial Intelligence and the Information Environment,” High-Level Conference: Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of Artificial Intelligence Development on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Council of Europe, Helsinki, Finland
  • Feb. 23, 2018: 
    Speaker, Controlling the Conversation: The Ethics of Social Platforms and Content Moderation, Annenberg Innovation Lab, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
  • Feb. 15, 2019: 
    Speaker, Can Social Media Be Fixed? (And Do They Need Fixing?), Ziffren Center for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law, UCLA Law, Los Angeles, CA
  • Feb. 5, 2018: 
    Featured Speaker. Human Rights Luncheon. American Bar Association 2018 Midyear Meeting. Vancouver, BC
  • April 25, 2017:
    Speaker, “The International State of Digital Rights,” Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University
  • April 13, 2017:
    Speaker, Artistic Freedom around the World: Challenges, Standards & Definitions workshop, Creative Artists Agency, Los Angeles
  • March 23, 2017:
    Moderator, Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Cuba, UC Irvine School of Law
  • Dec. 12, 2016:
    Speaker, “The Global Retreat from Reality: What the Assault on Freedom of Expression Means for Democracy’s Future,” International Human Rights Day event, Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Nov. 4, 2016:
    Keynote speaker, Freedom of Information Laws on the Global Stage: Past, Present and Future symposium, Southwestern Law School
  • Oct. 28, 2016:
    Keynote Speaker, IP and Human Rights Symposium, UC Irvine School of Law
  • Sept. 28, 2016:
    Panelist, “Killing the Chicken to Scare the Monkey: Filmmaking in the Time of Censorship”, Getting Real ’16 conference, Los Angeles
  • Sept. 20, 2016:
    Panelist, “Fueling Extremism in a Wired World,” Eighth Annual Linda and Tony Rubin Lecture, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
  • April 12-19, 2016:
    UN Special Rapporteur official visit to Japan to explore media independence, access to information, other issues