Free Expression in a Networked World


Course Code:
LAW 4026
2 - 3
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


This seminar explores cutting-edge questions at the intersection of the First Amendment, the internet, and new technologies. The internet and digital media technologies have opened up new spaces for expression — spaces that are designed and controlled by a handful of private companies. For example, Facebook, Twitter, and Google's algorithms determine what content is presented to us; software designed by Facebook and Twitter identifies and filters content like fake news; and new kinds of "speakers" like bots tweet and share information. The engineering and design choices underlying these technologies have significant implications for our ability to express ourselves and for democracy. But our expressive rights are increasingly in tension with platform companies' statutory immunities, like CDA 230, and, potentially, their constitutional claims to speech and press rights. Lawyers operating in this space — whether from the perspective of technology companies, policymakers, regulators, or academia — need to understand not only traditional First Amendment doctrine, but also the statutes and technologies that shape the behavior of private actors and the spaces in which expression occurs. They need to grapple with questions of responsibility and accountability, and with the proper balance between private and public control. This course prepares students to deal with the complex dynamics underlying these issues. Every other week, a scholar or practitioner at the cutting edge of these topics will present their research or discuss their professional experiences. Students will read any materials provided in advance, and the class will engage in a discussion with the guest. In the week before the speaker's presentation, we will meet as a group to discuss key literature informing the scholar's work or the practitioner's experiences. 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 five 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).

Current Offerings

2017-2018 Spring

Free Expression in a Networked World LAW 4026 Section 01 Class #20845

  • 2 Units
  • Enrollment Limitations: Consent 15
  • Thu
  • Room: Law 230

Free Expression in a Networked World LAW 4026 Section 02 Class #31942

  • 2 3 Units
  • Enrollment Limitations: Consent

Notes: R -Research Requirement for Law Degree.

  • Thu
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