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LAW 4026: Internet Platforms and Free Expression

In recent years, Internet platforms like Facebook, Google, or Twitter have increasingly come under fire. Top executives from these companies have testified before Congress about their role in spreading misinformation in the 2016 elections. With the increased scrutiny come diverse calls for change. They include asking the platforms to self-regulate, asking regulators to address the platforms' growing market power, or asking Congress to adopt laws regulating various aspects of the platforms' behavior. The seminar explores the many ways in which Internet platforms shape free expression online and asks what public responsibilities these private companies do and should have. By interrogating the structural role that these companies play in society -- are they quasi-state actors? are they the press? are they monopolies? -- we will assess how the platforms contribute to (or possibly mitigate) key social problems. We will critically examine constitutional and statutory laws, like the First Ame more »
In recent years, Internet platforms like Facebook, Google, or Twitter have increasingly come under fire. Top executives from these companies have testified before Congress about their role in spreading misinformation in the 2016 elections. With the increased scrutiny come diverse calls for change. They include asking the platforms to self-regulate, asking regulators to address the platforms' growing market power, or asking Congress to adopt laws regulating various aspects of the platforms' behavior. The seminar explores the many ways in which Internet platforms shape free expression online and asks what public responsibilities these private companies do and should have. By interrogating the structural role that these companies play in society -- are they quasi-state actors? are they the press? are they monopolies? -- we will assess how the platforms contribute to (or possibly mitigate) key social problems. We will critically examine constitutional and statutory laws, like the First Amendment, CDA 230, and antitrust law to evaluate whether and how they facilitate or constrain possible solutions. And with the benefit of guest speakers from academia and policy sectors, we will draw our own conclusions about how to best ensure platform accountability. tl;dr: If you want to work at a tech law firm, in-house at a tech company, in a regulatory position vis-a-vis the tech sector, or are generally interested in critical questions around the role of Internet platforms in society and their impact on free expression online, this class is for you. We hope to see your application! Special Instructions: Enrollment will be limited to 15 students from both SLS and H&S. Experience with First Amendment doctrine is helpful, but not required. Grades will be based on class attendance, class participation, and either a number of shorter reflection papers (section (01)) or an independent research paper (section (02)). After the term begins, students accepted into the course can transfer from section (01) into section (02), which meets the R requirement, with consent of the instructor. Students taking the course for R credit can take the course for either 2 or 3 units, depending on paper length. Elements used in grading: Class participation, class attendance, reflection papers or research paper. CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete and submit the Consent Form available on the SLS website (Click Courses at the bottom of the homepage and then click Consent of Instructor Forms).
Terms: Spr | Units: 2-3
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