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Ms Maria Bjarnadottir

Post:Research student (Law)
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María Rún Bjarnadóttir is an Icelandic lawyer and is currently pursuing a PhD in Law at the University of Sussex.

Her research titled: “Does the internet limit human rights protection?” builds on her experience working for the Icelandic Government Offices in relevant fields of law; human rights, data protection and telecommunication. In her research she explores the effects jurisdiction has on enforcement of domestic legislation in the digital sphere with a particular focus on human rights obligations of states.

María is the Vice Chair of the Icelandic Media Commission. She has represented Icelandic authorities in the promotion and development of human rights and data protection through regional and international cooperation. She has also chaired and been a member of a number of intergovernmental committees in Iceland.

Maria holds B.A. and Mag. Jur. Degrees from the University of Iceland.  


PhD Student
Title of PhD Thesis:
Does the internet limit human rights protection?
Brief Description of the Project:

The global nature of the interconnection internet has exposed weaknesses in the current regime of the legal jurisdiction of states. This poses questions as to if human rights obligations of states are being upheld in the online sphere or if going online enacts a different bar for states to measure up to. How does this comply with states obligation to protect its citizens under the international human rights regime? What are the positive human rights obligations of states in cyberspace? Where is the balance tip between the responsibility to act in order to protect, and the obligation not to interfere with the exercise of freedom?  As internet does not align with the traditional states jurisdictions, does the duty to protect evolve as the virtual borders grow away from the traditional borders of states? And if so, what is the room for manoeuvre when it comes to state actions in the online sphere? 

The research is positioned at the intersection of large themes of universal application of human rights, the role and functions of sovereign states, the complex role of private entities on the online sphere, and the interaction between law and technology. Reflecting the complex legal, societal, and technical backdrop of the research, the methodology is built on an interdisciplinary analysis of the legal frameworks in play, while presenting a comparative analysis on rights and regulations in countries bound by the European Convention on Human Rights on the other hand, and in specific states and on federal United States of America level on the other. 


Member of the Icelandic Lawyers Association since 2011.

Associate Fellow of Higher Education Academy since 2017.


Academic projects and networks

In an expert capacity, María has contributed to recent research projects on fundamental rights. 

Revising the Gender Equality Act in light of societal and technological changes. Report for the Intergovernmental working group on revising the Gender Equality Act in Iceland. January 2019.

Threats and hate online from a gendered perspective. Nordic research commissioned and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers conducted by Dr. Moa Bladini from the University of Gothenburg. María contributed as an external expert on legal and practical issues of hate and threaths in the online sphere from an Icelandic perspective. The report was published in June 2017 and is accessible here

Gender Equality in sports. María is a researcher in the project that is conducted by Reykjavík University. She also manages social media accounts of behalf of the project. The project examines gender equality in sports in Iceland and in the context of human rights obligations the state has undertaken. Funded by the Icelandic Equality Fund and the Sports Fund of Iceland.

During her studies, María represented both academic parties and leading national NGO's in academic networks on the application of fundamental rights in the online sphere. 

Law and Media, is a Nordplus funded network of legal experts in the field of media law and human rights in the Nordic and Baltic region. The research explores law and media in the digital age. María represents the law faculty of the University of Iceland in the network.

Nordic network against online sexism and hate speech. The network is funded by NIKK,the Nordic Information on Gender. Maria represents the Icelandic Human Rights Centre that forms the network with the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Norwegian Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud.