794 S - The Internet, Law and Democracy
Professor: Peter M. Shane
Semester: 2009 Winter
Second Writing? No
Professional Responsibility? No
This course will be held January 12-March 20.
Since the advent of the Internet, hopes have loomed large for its potential role in invigorating the quality of democratic life in both developing and post-industrial countries. This course will analyze the ways in which the production, consumption, and legal regulation of Internet speech and digital technologies shape the Internet's political impact on democracy, with special, but not exclusive reference to the experience of the United States. The course will begin with an introduction to the Internet as a technological and political phenomenon, plus a brief survey of democratic theory. We will then consider the Internet as an information medium, as we might consider newspapers or broadcast journalism. A third section of the course will look at the Internet as a vehicle for governance and political action. Our readings will introduce the idea of "e-democracy," and the challenges posed for e-democracy by issues of access, inclusion, and the digital divide. We will then consider the uses of the Internet for mobilizing interest groups and conducting electoral campaigns, as well as the phenomenon of "e-government." Following this survey, we will consider how law treats the Internet in its capacity as a "public square" or general forum for free speech. Specific topics will include fighting words, national security limits on speech, the regulation of obscenity, and defamation. We will then discuss the legal regulation of digital technologies as it affects their democratic prospects. Of particular concern will be debates over treating internet service providers as common carriers, mandating "net neutrality," promoting broadband deployment, and regulating technologies for sharing information. We will take a brief look at copyright issues and their potential impact on democracy, and then survey political and legal perspectives on data mining, data protection and freedom of information.
In order to accommodate potential enrollment by graduate students from other departments, the course will be offered during the College of Law spring semester, but compressed into thirty 70-minute sessions taught over the ten-week winter quarter. Grading will be based 70 percent on a take-home final examination, 20 percent on student contributions to an online discussion forum, and 10 percent on class participation.
Our primary texts will be Andrew Chadwick, Internet Politics: States, Citizens and New Communication Technologies (Oxford University Press, 2006), and Madeleine Schachter and Joel Kurtzberg, Law of Internet Speech (Carolina Academic Press, 3d ed., 2008).
The course materials listed above are for informational purposes only and should not be considered final. Students must check with the Registrar for a current list of closed courses.