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Internet, Law, & Politics Spring Semester 2007, Prof. John Palfrey

Official Syllabus

News & Updates:

  • The final essay will be due on May 11, 2007 (the last day of exams).
  • Post von Hippel questions (4/17) here
  • Themes of the Course (4/24)

Group Projects

Debate 1: "Resolved: The Internet enables citizens to have a greater voice in politics and is, on balance, already a tremendous force for strengthening participatory democracies around the world."

Debate 2: "Resolved: E-Government is a lot like Al Gore’s ‘reinventing government’ initiative when he was Vice-President: sounds like something that governments should obviously do, but no one much cares and the impact on society, after lots of effort, is negligible. There’s no special magic to governing in a digital age."

Debate 3: "Resolved: United States technology companies should stay out of regimes that force them to sacrifice the civil liberties of citizens as the cost of doing business in those states."

Debate 4: "Resolved: The outcome of the digital intellectual property crisis is crucial to whether or not the use of the Internet ultimately has a positive impact in terms of strengthening democracies."

Class Notes

Internet, Law, & Politics in the News

  • Hello class. In response to the Zittrain article's discussion about how pornography helped fuel the internet boom, I refer you all to this article from Macworld[1] discussing how pornography played a role in VHS winning out over Beta and how pornography may contribute to Blu-ray winning out over HD-DVD. Notice that the article states that the pornography industry is a $57 billion industry. - Scott Lesowitz
  • Embattled Edwards Blogger Quits Campaign, Computerworld, Feb. 13, 2007.
  • On free copies, Benkler, and open books: "Yochai Benkler is a prominent academic. His widely praised book about the network economy, The Wealth of Networks, was published by Yale Press – a publisher not known for its radicalism. Yet with his publisher’s approval Benkler’s book is available for free online under a Creative Commons license. Instead of paying $40 one can simply download the book. Its sales are reportedly in the top rank of academic books. Benkler is delighted with the additional 20,000 readers who have downloaded it."
  • In case there's anybody that has not seen it, this is a cool video that explains the power of Web 2.0.
  • Blogger as Lobbyist? "if you're not for net neutrality, then the blogs will kick your" rear. The grass-roots groups that strongly favor it are relatively small but very noisy, she said, "and you just don't want to have to deal with that."
  • Wi-Fi Cloud Covers Rural Oregon "While cities around the country are battling over plans to offer free or cheap internet access, this lonely terrain is served by what is billed as the world's largest hotspot, a wireless cloud that stretches over 700 square miles of landscape so dry and desolate it could have been lifted from a cowboy tune."
  • Free Speech Battle Over Online Parody of “Colbert Report”: MoveOn and Brave New Films reacted by filing suit against Viacom for illegal takedown of YouTube Video. Here is the link to watch "Stop the Falsiness" video
  • 'Web Giants' seek US Government resolution to Debate 3 - includes lots of good links relevant to today's debate.
  • Où est l'e-égalité? (Where is e-equality?), Le Figaro, 21 March 2007: French election laws mandate that equal air time must be given to all presidential candidates (twelve at last count) by traditional television and radio outlets. This very short article raises the question as to where such campaign equality can be found on the Internet. See also this BBC article: the rules for Internet debates are more lax than those for TV debates under French election law, but Sarkozy refused to take advantage of this and declined an invitation to participate in an online debate that would include only four out of twelve candidates.
  • Here comes another piece of news about Google in China. It's not directly related to human rights or civil liberties, but might be an interesting issue in terms of is Google really keeping it's "don't be evil" promise in China. Go back to the topic of third debate, if international corporations like Google practice the princile "be responsive to local situation" in this way, they may sacrifice more than Chinese citizen's civil liberties. Also, this event also intrigues nationalism attitude toward foreign Internet companies, which may in a long run affect their credibilities - "Are they coming to China really to help improve our liberties as they claimed, or just to steal our moeny?" http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/11178/53/. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2007-04-09-google-sogou_N.htm
  • Will American candidates take a cue from their French counterparts in devising web campaigns?U.S. Experts Eye French Election's Web Campaigning, April 12, 2007. American campaign strategists note that" 'In some ways, the Sarkozy site is more advanced than most of the typical American political sites, particularly in the use of video" and that Segolene Royal's site was "inspiring" in its use as a network/grassroots campaign. See also French Election Strategies Leave Americans Scratching Their Heads April 13, 2007. Official Site of Nicolas Sarkozy Official Site of Segolene Royal
  • Yahoo got sued for helping identify Chinese dissidents under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act. Full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/19/technology/19yahoo.html?ex=1334635200&en=ab9e062372ade430&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Other Interesting Topics

  • I just found out that there will be a discussion on "Can the internet save democracy?" at Berkman Center on Feb 14, 2007, at 6 PM which subject might be in line with our course. More information can be found on http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/
  • The Internet is a Series of Tubes...awesome video. You can listen to Senator Stevens unaccompanied here.

Related Events

Event Responses

Scott's Response to the Institute of Politics Event: http://perspectives.com/forums/view_topic.php?id=138638&forum_id=4

Amanda's Response to The Information Society and Democratic Process: A Take on the French Elections

Responses to Beyond Broadcast 2007 by Renat and Chris