Research

The Berkman Center enjoys a global reputation for cutting-edge work centered on the relationships between the Internet, law, and society. Our mode — entrepreneurial nonprofit — embraces our pursuit of scholarly research in the manner and spirit of an academic think tank, anchored by the diverse collaborative and individual work of our faculty and fellows. more >

The Berkman Center enjoys a global reputation for cutting-edge work centered on the relationships between the Internet, law, and society. Our mode — entrepreneurial nonprofit — embraces our pursuit of scholarly research in the manner and spirit of an academic think tank, anchored by the diverse collaborative and individual work of our faculty and fellows.

Our efforts are concentrated in three areas of inquiry, united by the question of how the Internet can elicit the best from its users.

Law, Technology, Innovation, and Knowledge

The Berkman Center has sought and seeks, first, to be an honest broker in the conversations about the future of the Internet and related technologies. In the field of intellectual property, the need for creative solutions derived from understanding the varied motivations of the relevant players, has continued to grow as the economy changes around the world.

The Relationship between Internet and Civic Activity

Second, we see an enormous need to bring clarity to the conversation about the Internet’s impact on democracy. As more and more activists are using the network as an essential set of tools to do their job — in democratic and non-democratic regimes alike — the threats to their personal security and their ability to express themselves are growing.

Technology, Law, and Development

Third, we envision a growing opportunity to use Internet technologies to improve the way that we teach, learn, and make information accessible to citizens around the world who are not physically proximate to our libraries.

 

Berklett Cybersecurity

Launched in December 2014 and led by Prof. Jonathan Zittrain, former US National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen, and cryptographer and civil liberties author Bruce Schneier, the Berklett cybersecurity project will engage in a clean-slate evaluation of the role of the foreign intelligence community in promoting cybersecurity.

Cooperation

The Cooperation Group is an interdisciplinary community of scholars studying networked cooperation. Our current activities include a series of empirical research projects on online collaboration, as well as a weekly meeting in which we present and discuss research on cooperation from a variety of academic disciplines.

CopyrightX

CopyrightX is a twelve-week networked course, offered each Spring under the auspices of Harvard Law School, the HarvardX distance-learning initiative, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The course explores the current law of copyright and the ongoing debates concerning how that law should be reformed. Through a combination of pre-recorded lectures, weekly seminars, live webcasts, and online discussions, participants in the course examine and assess the ways in which law seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression.

Cyberlaw Clinic

Harvard Law School‘s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, provides high-quality, pro-bono legal services to appropriate clients on issues relating to the Internet, new technology, and intellectual property. Students enhance their preparation for high-tech practice and earn course credit by working on real-world litigation, client counseling, advocacy, and transactional / licensing projects and cases. The Clinic strives to help clients achieve success in their activities online, mindful of (and in response to) existing law. The Clinic also works with clients to shape the law’s development through policy and advocacy efforts. The Cyberlaw Clinic was the first of its kind, and it continues its tradition of innovation in its areas of practice. The Clinic works independently, with law students supervised by experienced and licensed attorneys. In some cases, the Clinic collaborates with counsel throughout the country to take advantage of regional or substantive legal expertise.

Cybersecurity Wiki

During 2010-2012, under the guidance of Professor Jack Goldsmith, the Berkman Center team created a cybersecurity wiki, which houses an evolving set of more than 350 foundational articles, annotations, reports, and other resources on cybersecurity, broadly-defined.

Digital Finance Initiative

A multitude of technical, legal, policy, and economic issues around digital currencies and blockchain technologies have emerged in recent years. The Berkman Center, along with the MIT Media Lab and other collaborators, will draw upon the expertise of our own community and the Center’s global networks to explore challenges and opportunities that distributed ledgers present across sectors.

Digital Problem-Solving Initiative

The Digital Problem-Solving Initiative (DPSI) at Harvard University is an innovative and collaborative program that brings together a diverse group of learners (students, faculty, fellows, and staff) to work on projects to address challenges and opportunities across the university. DPSI offers participants a novel opportunity to enhance and cultivate competency in various digital literacies as teams engage with research, design, and policy relating to the digital world.

Global Access in Action

Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines, and alternative incentives for the development of medical treatments for underserved populations. Improving access and promoting socially beneficial innovation are key strategies for combatting the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations.

H2O

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with support from the Harvard Law School Library, has developed a Web-based platform — H2O — for creating, editing, organizing, consuming, and sharing course materials. With this capacity to develop countless customized electronic textbooks, we envision building a corpus of open-source materials available for dynamic use by faculty and students at Harvard and beyond. Piloted with legal casebooks, H2O has been received with broad approval in Professor Jonathan Zittrain’s Torts class, with the planned expansion into a number of additional courses in the 2012-2013 school year.

Harmful Speech Online

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society has launched a research, policy analysis, and network building effort devoted to the study of hate speech, in close collaboration with the Center for Communication Governance at National Law University in New Delhi, the Digitally Connected network, and in conjunction with Network of Centers (NoC). This effort aims to develop research methods and protocols to enable and support robust cross-country comparisons; study and document country experiences, including the policies and practices of governments and private companies, as well as civic society initiatives and responses; and build and expand research, advocacy, and support networks. This research will evaluate the impact of hate speech online and its capacity to catalyze violence and social exclusion. Our efforts build upon many complementary projects and initiatives, including the Berkman Center’s ongoing work related to Youth-Oriented Online Hate Speech / Viral Peace, as well as the activities of individuals and institutions within our networks.

Herdict

Herdict collects and disseminates real-­time, crowdsourced information about Internet filtering, denial of service attacks, and other blockages. Based at the Berkman Center at Harvard University, it is the first and only large-­scale project of its kind. When individuals can’t access a site, they can report that experience to Herdict through browser toolbars, e-­mail, Twitter, or Herdict.org. Herdict aggregates this data to create a real-­time map of global Internet health. This data can be sorted and visualized by country, URL, and date, creating a picture of changes as they are happening. As more of peoples’ lives move online, tools like Herdict will become increasingly important.

Improving Information for Decision Makers (Future of the Internet Initiative)

The World Economic Forum, through leveraging its leader-level multistakeholder and interdisciplinary platform, is working to expand the effectiveness of multistakeholder Internet cooperation and problem solving through dialogue and collective action. On the Future of the Internet Initiative’s Improving Information for Decision Makers track, the Forum has partnered with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Internet Governance

The Berkman Center’s Internet governance work is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and extended investigation into several important aspects of the multi-layered system that defines the function, structure, and operation of the Internet at both the technical and application layers. 

Internet Monitor

Internet Monitor's aim is to evaluate, describe, and summarize the means, mechanisms, and extent of Internet content controls and Internet activity around the world. The project helps researchers, advocates, policymakers, and user communities understand trends in Internet health and activity through research, analysis, and data visualization.

Internet Robustness

The Internet Robustness project is developing, testing, and piloting software and protocols such as Amber to safeguard the promise of the URL, or "Uniform Resource Locator": that information placed online can remain there, even amidst network or endpoint disruptions.

Interoperability

In early June 2012, Urs Gasser and John Palfrey released Interoperability: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems. The book is inspired by their 2005 study and paper—“Breaking Down Digital Barriers: When and How Information and ICT Interoperability Drives Innovation”—which examined the relationship between interoperability and innovation in the ICT environment. The book builds a theory of interoperability, and then illustrates how that theory works and why interoperability is relevant for consumers, companies, governments, and the public.

Jamaica Project

True to the Berkman Center’s expansive interest in the interaction between internet and society, the Jamaica project’s mission centers on the use of the internet to shape, define and change society and the world around us – and empower others to do the same. It has explored topics from restorative justice, prison reform and Jamaican independence, to self-expression, learning and entrepreneurship.

Lumen

Lumen collects and studies online content removal requests, providing transparency and supporting analysis of the Web’s takedown “ecology,” in terms of who sends requests, why, and to what ends.

Media Cloud

Media Cloud, a joint project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Center for Civic Media at MIT, is an open source, open data platform that allows researchers to answer complex quantitative and qualitative questions about the content of online media. Using Media Cloud, academic researchers, journalism critics, and interested citizens can examine what media sources cover which stories, what language different media outlets use in conjunction with different stories, and how stories spread from one media outlet to another.
 

Mindsport Research Network

The Mindsport Research Network aims to build multiple experimental frameworks for understanding human strategic thinking in mind sports. Research will extend not only to understanding the intuitive thinking process of outstanding competitors, but also to the potential educational, emotional, intellectual and economic benefits for students in mind sport cooperation and competition.

Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers

The global Network of Internet & Society Centers (NoC) is a collaborative initiative among academic institutions with a focus on interdisciplinary research on the development, social impact, policy implications, and legal issues concerning the Internet. This collective aims to increase interoperability between participating centers in order to stimulate the creation of new cross-national, cross-disciplinary conversation, debate, teaching, learning, and engagement regarding the most pressing questions around new technologies, social change, and related policy and regulatory developments.

OpenNet Initiative

A collaborative project between the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group (Ottawa), OpenNet Initiative's mission is to identify and document Internet filtering and surveillance, and to promote and inform wider public dialogs about such practices.

Privacy Initiatives

The Berkman Center has long been home to a number of cross-disciplinary initiatives that investigate privacy and privacy-relevant questions in the digitally networked environment. To this end, we offer research, resources, workshops, and other outputs focused on key privacy issues, aiming to pinpoint novel solutions to privacy problems that reconcile technological, legal, political, economic, and behavioral tensions and maximize capacity for innovative and effective uses of data and communications. Our most recent work in the privacy space includes the Student Privacy Initiative, the Youth and Online Privacy Initiative, and the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project.

Privacy Initiatives

Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data

Led collaboratively by Harvard University's Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), and Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with support from the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program at the National Science Foundation, the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project seeks to develop methods, tools, and policies to further the tremendous value that can come from collecting, analyzing, and sharing data while more fully protecting individual privacy.

ProjectVRM

ProjectVRM seeks to improve markets by equipping customers with tools for both independence from vendors and better engagement with vendors.

Privacy Initiatives

Student Privacy Initiative

Led by Berkman Center Executive Director Urs Gasser, the Student Privacy Initiative-- part of the Center's growing suite of Privacy Initiatives-- aims to surface, identify, and evaluate central privacy issues and opportunities that may emerge when educational institutions consider moving to "the cloud." We hope to engage and collaborate with school administrators, academics, industry representatives, and policy officials as well as students, parents, and teachers to develop a shared set of good practices that can support the many potential benefits of cloud-based technologies across diverse educational contexts.

OpenNet Initiative

Surveillance

The Surveillance project is drawing a map of the different forms and impacts of surveillance online. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation and run in collaboration with our partner institutions from the OpenNet Initiative on Internet filtering, the project will explore the various technical, political, and social issues involved in Internet surveillance through its blog, An Eye on Surveillance, and through a series of upcoming research papers.

Youth and Media

Led by Principal Investigator Urs Gasser and Youth and Media Director Sandra Cortesi, Youth and Media encompasses an array of research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth and digital technology.

Assembly

The Berkman Assembly is a new and innovative pilot program that is experimenting with different modes of education, collaboration, and development to work towards solving some of the tough problems at the intersections of code and policy.