Dr. Randall Stephenson, LL.M. (Columbia), M.St., D.Phil. (Oxon)

Senior Researcher

Main Focus

Dr. Steph­en­son's com­par­at­ive re­search at the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Law ex­am­ines the im­pact of the In­ter­net and di­git­al com­mu­nic­a­tions on net­worked ac­count­ab­il­ity dy­nam­ics in con­tem­por­ary demo­cra­cies. His prin­cip­al re­search pro­ject, Demo­cracy and State Secrets: Cal­ib­rat­ing Pub­lic Ac­count­ab­il­ity in Mod­ern In­tel­li­gence Gath­er­ing, ex­am­ines wheth­er mass 'full-take' in­form­a­tion sur­veil­lance (and its leg­al au­thor­isa­tion) is con­sist­ent with es­tab­lished prin­ciples of self-govern­ance, in­clud­ing the­or­ies of sep­ar­a­tion of powers, ju­di­cial re­view, and demo­crat­ic ac­count­ab­il­ity.

Curriculum Vitae

Ran­dall Ste­phen­son is a com­pa­ra­ti­ve pu­blic law and de­fa­ma­ti­on scholar spe­cia­li­sing in the in­ter­sec­ti­ons bet­ween press free­dom, de­mo­cra­tic theo­ry, and net­wor­ked ac­coun­ta­bi­li­ty dy­na­mics. Af­ter ob­tai­ning his MSt and DPhil at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford (the lat­ter awar­ded wi­thout re­vi­si­ons or cor­rec­ti­ons), his doc­to­ral the­sis was pu­blis­hed by a lea­ding aca­de­mic is­su­er. A Cri­sis of De­mo­cra­tic Ac­coun­ta­bi­li­ty: Pu­blic Li­bel Law and the Checking Func­ti­on of the Press (Ox­ford: Hart 2018) ex­ami­nes the mo­dern ri­se of pu­blic in­te­rest/po­li­ti­cal speech de­fences in li­bel law. It ar­gues that the law and le­gal ap­proa­ches in the UK, Aus­tra­lia, New Zea­land, Ca­na­da, and the Uni­ted States are un­dertheo­ri­sed, lack ade­qua­te cri­te­ria for de­ter­mi­ning sui­ta­ble doc­tri­nal ap­proa­ches, and re­qui­re a mo­re pre­ci­se un­der­stan­ding of ‘de­mo­cra­cy’, ‘re­pre­sen­ta­tion’, and ‘ac­coun­ta­bi­li­ty’. The book’s in­ter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry law re­forms in­cor­po­ra­te in­no­va­ti­ve ad­van­ces in pu­blic ac­coun­ta­bi­li­ty schol­ar­ship, re­com­men­ding ju­ris­dic­ti­ons ad­just their pu­bic li­bel doc­tri­ne to match their un­i­que ac­coun­ta­bi­li­ty profile and in­sti­tu­tio­nal net­works. Dr Ste­phen­son’s le­gal schol­ar­ship has sin­ce be­en pu­blis­hed in The Mo­dern Law Re­view, the Ox­ford Jour­nal of Le­gal Stu­dies, and the Os­goo­de Hall Law Jour­nal. Be­fo­re at­ten­ding Ox­ford, Dr Ste­phen­son prac­ti­ced li­ti­ga­ti­on as a se­ni­or as­so­cia­te at Os­ler, Hoskin & Har­court LLP, a lea­ding busi­ness law firm in To­ron­to, Ca­na­da, and stu­died un­der pro­mi­nent First Amend­ment schol­ars and at­tor­neys du­ring his LLM stu­dies at Co­lum­bia Law School. He was al­so a pa­ne­list at the Law Com­mis­si­on of On­ta­rio's in­ter­na­tio­nal con­fe­rence on De­fa­ma­ti­on Law and the In­ter­net: Whe­re Do We Go From He­re? – one of the most tho­rough and wi­de-ran­ging ap­prai­sals of di­gi­tal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on's im­pact on de­fa­ma­ti­on law and pu­blic dis­cour­se to da­te. 


Rethinking Digital Media Regulation

Heads of project: J. Rinceanu, R. Ste­phen­son, P. Granata, F. Zufall
The Internet and social media have triggered a radical shift in our digital media environment. Discourse production in society has moved onto a new medium and changed its structure and dy­namic. The most fundamental features of this new environment have been, first, a shift from… more

Democracy and State Secrets

Head of project: Randall Stephenson
This comparative law project examines the impact of the Internet and digital communications on networked accountability mechanisms in contemporary democracies (ie Germany, USA, UK, and Canada). Concentrating on modern-day intelligence gathering trends, my principal research question is whether mass ‘full-take’… more

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