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The Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, is currently preparing a report on the legal framework governing the relationship between freedom of expression and the use of encryption to secure transactions and communications, and other technologies to transact and communicate anonymously online. This report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June, 2015. To prepare his study, Mr. Kaye is gathering information on national laws, regulations, policies or practices that permit or limit, directly or indirectly, the use of encryption technologies and services or the ability of individuals to communicate anonymously online. All States are being asked called to submit information on their relevant national norms and policies. Similarly, the Special Rapporteur would like to encourage all interested non-governmental stakeholders – including civil society, corporate actors, international and regional organizations, and national human rights institutions – to provide their views on the appropriate scope of the right to freedom of expression as applied to encryption and anonymity. He would particularly appreciate receiving comments addressing this matter from legal, state practice, or technical perspectives. Any available information should be sent electronically to freedex@ohchr.org, not later than 10 February 2015.

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Three aspects of scholarship appear to be most important: First, policymakers appear to want mid-range theory. Policymakers do not reject methodologically sophisticated scholarship across the board but do seem to find much of it not useful. They prefer that scholars generate simple and straightforward frameworks that help them make sense of a complex world. They seem not so much to be looking for direct policy advice as for background knowledge to help them put particular events within a more general context. We interpret policymakers’ preference for theories over facts to the fact that like most busy people, they are cognitive economizers who need ways to make good decisions quickly and under great uncertainty. Along these lines, Henry Kissinger reportedly demanded of his subordinates: “Don’t tell me facts, tell me what they mean.” Second, brevity is key for policymakers. We suspect that the reason that Op/Eds are so influential among policymakers is only partly due to where they are published; another important aspect of their influence is their short length. We are by no means suggesting that scholars only write in that format, but we strongly believe that research findings that cannot be presented in that format are unlikely to shape policy. Therefore, our recommended model is one in which a scholar publishes his or her findings in traditional scholar outlets such as books or journals but also writes shorter and more accessible pieces reporting the same findings and telegraphing their policy implications in policy journals, opinion pieces, or even on blogs. Finally, a related issue is accessibility: Policymakers find much current scholarly work – from across the methodological spectrum – inaccessible. Policymakers don’t want scholars to write in Greek or French, but rather just plain English.’

We suspect that the reason that Op/Eds are so influential among policymakers is only partly due to where they are published; another important aspect of their influence is their short length. We are by no means suggesting that scholars only write in that format, but we strongly believe that research findings that cannot be presented in that format are unlikely to shape policy. Therefore, our recommended model is one in which a scholar publishes his or her findings in traditional scholar outlets such as books or journals but also writes shorter and more accessible pieces reporting the same findings and telegraphing their policy implications in policy journals, opinion pieces, or even on blogs.