US Current Trends in Civic Space

These trends provide succinct overviews of emerging issues affecting civic space in the United States.


The emergence of new surveillance technologies has raised concern about their potential abuse by law enforcement in the United States, including to inappropriately surveil demonstrations. Such surveillance can have a chilling effect on protesters and protest organizers, infringing their privacy rights and undercutting the right to peaceful assembly.

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SLAPP suits impede the ability of civil society to engage in advocacy on issues of public importance. They tie up activists in court and chill the freedom of speech. Given these effects, some have called SLAPP suits a form of privatized censorship. They are a concerning trend in the fight against the closing of civic space.

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University Restrictions  

U.S. university campuses have long been associated with student protests and free expression. In recent years, there has been a revitalization of this tradition with many campuses seeing a surge in student demonstrations, whether this has been related to the black lives matter movement, protesting the Trump administration’s immigration policies, or other issues.

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Collective Liability  

The U.S. has witnessed collective liability increasingly being applied in the context of demonstrations. This development not only can be personally unjust to protesters or organizations charged on these grounds, but also chill the right to protest, by discouraging individuals from joining or groups from helping organize demonstrations because they fear being held liable for others actions.

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For more information contact: Nick Robinson at

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