Horizontal Censorship: Employers' Power to Regulate Socio-Political Speech

Horizontal Censorship: Employers' Power to Regulate Socio-Political Speech

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In liberal theory, we are free to speak and also free to dissociate ourselves from others’ speech.  How, if at all, does the law regulate the tension that sometimes arises between these liberties, for example when organisations, such as corporate employers, seek to restrain or penalise what would otherwise be seen as socio-political speech using their private law power?  This question is becoming more acute in an age when so much expression is traceable and organisations are increasingly brand conscious. 

Compared to ‘vertical censorship’, which considers how government or direct law restricts speech, ‘horizontal censorship’ is an under-researched area of emerging significance.  As part of a wider project I am beginning to navigate on this topic, this paper will discuss how labour law (for example unfair dismissal law and anti-discrimination law) may moderate the contractual power of employers in this thorny area.


Graeme Orr is a professor of law at the University of Queensland, Australia.  His focus is the law of politics, in which his books include The Law of Politics: Elections, Parties and Money in Australia (2nd ed in press), a comparative study of elections as rituals (2015) and The Law of Deliberative Democracy (2016 with Ron Levy).  He recently co-edited The Cambridge Handbook of Deliberative Constitutionalism (2018 with Jeff King, Hoi Kong and Ron Levy).  Graeme has been international editor of the Election Law Journal, and also has teaching and research interests in labour law and law and language. In 2014 he was elected to the Australian Academy of Law.





Professor Graeme Orr
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