- Are you excited about it?
- Does it relate to law (not entirely necessary)
- Does it relate to tech (not entirely necessary)
- To be sure, these are rebuttable presumptions :)
Q: Are there any circumstances in which we can do a team of three? A: Yes! If I'm doing the math right, there are 12 seminar slots next term, of which we'll be using 11. There are 26 people. So with 2 per session that leaves 4 floaters; there can be 4 of the 11 sessions with 3 instead of 2. JZ 17:30, 27 November 2008 (EST)
This page is for topics that we have not yet scheduled (but potentially should). Please add suggestions to the bottom of this page, and feel free to modify the descriptions for topics already listed.
Philosophical Approaches to Internet Communications
We should do a survey overview of the topic.
Discursive Tools and Practices
We should do a survey overview of the topic!
The Internet as a Social and Economic Tool Today
Prediction Markets / Futarchy
Tradesports announced last week that it will cease operations at the end of this month. Does fallout from the current economic crisis include regulatory changes that spell doom for online prediction markets? Or is something else going on here? --Gwen 11:05, 26 November 2008 (EST)
Could prediction markets transform how we govern ourselves? Robin Hanson proposes Futarchy. The idea in brief:
"Democracies often fail to aggregate information, while speculative markets excel at this task. We consider a new form of governance, wherein voters would say what we want, but speculators would say how to get it. Elected representatives would oversee the after-the-fact measurement of national welfare, while market speculators would say which policies they expect to raise national welfare. Those who recommend policies that regressions suggest will raise GDP should be willing to endorse similar market advice."
Building on the work of MWesch (video here: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o) think about innovation in the classroom beyond the blackboard. How can we better interact in the classroom and how can technology help?
Unconferences represent a form of event-based discourse that seems chaotic but is actually organized around a set of well-codified rules intended to encourage initiative-taking by participants and ensure that the event is truly community-run and ad-hoc. Also known as "Open Space" events, they take several different forms, including Barcamps (which have been expanded to podcamps, etc.)
Open Source Software
How can a dispersed, multilingual collection of coders working for free assemble something as complicated as a web browser, let alone an entire operating system? Open-source projects are famously free-wheeling, but different organizational models and tools have sprung up to solve these obstacles.
Deliberative Polling Online
In a nutshell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberative_opinion_poll
Here and in other topics, are we too sanguine about deliberative democracy? If we opt for some of these topics, perhaps we should read Ch. 4-5 of Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy.
Maybe also Harvard's new open access policy for academic work? (note that the Harvard Free Culture group is working on the matter - see The Weeler Declaration)
Recording Harvard Law School Classes and Posting Them on iTunes U
Law schools tend not to post free class recordings on iTunes U. Should HLS take the opportunity to trailblaze? What are the law-school-specific challenges and the legal issues surrounding publishing audio recordings of HLS classes? What are the benefits? What about recording classes just for the benefit of the students (posted, as on religious holidays, solely on enrolled students' MyHLS pages)
Open Access Publishing
Addressing whether there actually seems to be a movement toward this model, and away from traditional science/tech publishing. What effects movement toward this model might have on quality, oversight, etc. of published articles. Also, discussion of business models/funding, problems with open access models, etc. And any copyright issues (to tie things back to law).
This can relate both to open access of full articles (as with PLoS) or single experiments/results (including Science Commons and like projects to both make the data available, and, perhaps more importantly, the technologies to make it available in usable form)
Implications of Internet Tools of the Future
The Semantic Web
What has become of this idea? Are we already there? Is it yet to come? Or has it died along the way? [Rainer]
One potential Semantic Web application is Freebase. It is primitive right now, far less useful than (the simpler) Wikipedia or even Knol. Perhaps there is someone in the field we could bring in with technical expertise?
Though it doesn't penetrate to every physical location on Earth (unless you can afford sattelite link-ups), the internet is an exceptionally global medium. With the barriers to access lower than any earlier medium for high-volume international communication, it represents an opportunity for greater international discourse and the deepening of a sense of global society. But unless we can reassemble the Tower of Babel, significant and entrenched divides exist: people simply don't always understand each other's language.
As certain languages become prevalent for international discourse, native users of that language have an advantage in communication. Auto-translation software such as Google Translate, Babelfish, and many others represent an opportunity to flatten this embeded advantage structure that favors people educated where linguae francae are native languages. Moreover, human translation communities such as Global Voices Online provide an edited and selected digest of what the editors notice in many languages.
What are the potential bridges for language divides? Which work better and for what? What are the implications of mistranslations by machines? --G 12:25, 28 November 2008 (EST)
Communications Norms and the Internet
The Rise of Anonymity...
"on the internet, nobody knows that you're a dog." Or tall, or 12 years old, or a hairdresser by day, or a lesbian, or in India, or with a harelip, or... but also: now that we can't filter by that by default, what do we filter by? Do we now bias towards good writers - and what of people who communicate best non-verbally?
What legitimate and illegitimate uses for anonymity are available on the internet? When is personal information useful, and when is verification appropriate? Last week's discussion about the different cultures on Wikipedia and Ebay and the use of behavioral enforcement mechanisms (ebay rating system, thumbs up/down-ing other drivers, etc.) reminded me of a panel from my favorite webcomic: http://xkcd.com/325/. As noted in the Properties subtext to the comic, "You can do this one in every 30 times and still have 97% positive feedback." How concerned should we be that people--be they selfish, malicious, or simply lunatics--can exploit such weaknesses in systems for building online reputations? If this is a real problem, how can we change current systems or create new ones to better protect users? And what are the trade-offs that come with better protection? --Gwen 11:21, 26 November 2008 (EST)
Also, what are the political and social implications of anonymitiy in countries with less free expression than the United States. In the Chinese example, we might speculate that with the internet more discourse is going on, in contexts ranging from political debates to hobby and commercial communities, but people may be motivated to try to remain anonymous. "Real name" requirements in some countries may challenge this, but circumvention methods exist. Then, how many people use circumvention methods, and how many users use them in a way that truly maintains anonymity? What does it mean that civic discourse might explode, but without real names attached? --G 11:58, 28 November 2008 (EST)
To what extent does our received wisdom on anonymity reflect previous modes of technological development? With the advent of data mining, can an author truly be anonymous by leaving his/her name out, if that information can be ascertained quickly? Did old-style pamphletting allow for better anonymity? How good are names at identifying something that is person-like? Does the repeated use of a pseudonym change anything? Could anyone in revolutionary times write under the name Publius? Can anyone do that on wikipedia? Does the design of the internet allow/encourage anonymous postings or have we been lulled into a false sense of security by programs like Tor? How do avatars and pseudonyms change these discussions? Is this a question of identity or accountability or neither? What does it mean to sue a username? Does the ability to remain unnammed expand the range of discourse or have a chilling effect of its own? Is the act of remaining unnammed ultimately a collective move, as in the case of Anonymous, or an inherently individuating move? Would granting users the right to remain pseudononymous create a tragedy of the anticommons, effectively rendering all userboards unusable? Does anonymity allow users to transcend bigotry or does it reinforce it? --Megerman 09:00, 29 November 2008 (EST)
... or the Fall of Privacy?
Despite the superficial anonymity provided by Internet communications, tracing a user of communications technologies has become ever-easier for the backbone provider, government actor, communications tool purveyor, and even the dedicated outside observer. Moreover, many members of the generation raised alongside the Internet spurn the option to use superficial anonymization altogether, posting photos and intimate personal details on social networking sites and rejecting pseudonymization on message boards. How will norms of privacy change for the coming Internet generation? How are they already changing?
Alan Westin proposed four states of privacy: Anonymity (freedom from identification and surveillance in public places and performing public acts), Solitude (freedom from observation from others), Reserve (freedom from disclosure of personal information to others), and Intimacy (freedom from surveillance in a group, in order to allow for free and open personal relationships).
Anonymity: As Megerman asks in the topic above, has the average citizen lost the ability to pamphlet anonymously with the movement of the public discourse online? What about anonymous protest? Does the fact that the vast majority of participants in online discussion do not have the tools to penetrate superficial anonymity more than make up for the ability of a few dedicated actors to do so (i.e. is the new anonymity "better" than the old)?
Solitude: Are reading habits now an open secret, with the URLs of favorite webpages subject to disclosure upon request under the Stored Communications Act? What about citizens' commercial activity online? Stanley v. Georgia strongly suggested that what a person did in the privacy of her own home was her own business as long as others were not harmed. Is this no longer true w/r/t commercial actors such as internet service providers? The government? Requests of commercial actors made by the government?
Reserve: What kind of right of reserve should we expect in our commercial transactional records? Health care records? Credit information? Should we rely on general laws like HIPAA to navigate these issues? Terms of Service and other one-on-one negotiations via contract law? Can social and commercial norms do this work in place of law?
Intimacy: As communications technologies make conversation over greater distances with fewer obstacles possible, is there a corresponding tradeoff in the loss of intimacy when using such technologies? Is it simply to be expected that email and message-board gatherings will not be free from surveillance? Is it even technologically feasible to make them so? As people rely more on such innovations and less on face-to-face meetings to stay in touch with friends and family, or to engage in political organization and political discourse, will certain bonds of intimacy be loosened or severed?
Where does the information for/during discussions come from? Interfaces/ease-of-access/digestibility of information affects how quickly it can get injected into conversations? (examples: hitting wikipedia in the middle of a dinner discussion, calling an expert friend or hitting another IRC channel to answer a quick question, etc). How does this affect how people prepare for conversations? (If you can easily look up notes during the meeting, why take them down beforehand?) Trying to apply some thoughts about info access in libraries to this.
Also, what if any tools exist to help people archive previous states of dynamic sites such as BBSs and news pages? In other words, after information comes into discussions, how can we see what happened after the fact? --G 12:01, 28 November 2008 (EST)
Identity and Expertise
How are participants in an internet dialog identified and credentialed? What gives weight to a participants' arguments - or phrased another way, what type of participants and arguments have weight, and what determines this for each discussion, participant, and discussion point?
The Future of News
The traditional media industry is in turmoil. Circulation of newspapers is falling. Staff are being laid off, costs are being cut and foreign bureaus are being shut. Audiences are fragmenting, advertising spending is plummeting and the valuations of companies is dropping. TV and radio are experiencing similar problems. Some papers are even outsourcing local news reporting to India!
Most of these changes have been blamed on the arrival of the web, which has changed how information is produced and consumed. Now, anyone can be a news gatherer, publisher and distributor. The balance of power has changed.
Yet at the same time, the web offers these organisations a huge opportunity. Already, groups such as spot.us and Pro Publica are experimenting with new business models. Others, such as the Christian Science Monitor, have ditched the old way of doing things and have gone entirely online. Many are using the web to reach out to audiences and connect with them in new ways.
But, are they doing enough? Will experiments like this be enough to save news organisations? Does it matter if they disappear? Should governments intervene to save them in the same way as they have decided to prop up the ailing car manufacturing industry? Is this an appropriate intervention? Should it be left to market forces? Ultimately, what is the future for “old media”?
The Communication Initiative is an organization in this domain with a compelling problem that they'd like advice on solving, and they're very enthusiastic and willing to work with the class. They're focused on the use and support of communication for economic and social development (http://www.comminit.com) with a large and varied network (over 70,000 total) of members all over the world. Their question: given the challenges the face (enumerated more in the details section), how do we guide and engage our network more through our interactive online processes instead of through email?" More information available at The Communication Initiative (they wrote up a problem statement for us!) - is this something people would be interested in taking on? I would be... Mchua 21:21, 30 November 2008 (EST)
The Internet and Societal Inequity
Problems encountered in the act of discoursing itself are sometimes addressed via social means, technological means, or both. It has been suggested that technological tools should support social processes, but there is an adaptation of each realm to the other - how does this back-and-forth take place in the design of a successful technology-enabled discussion?
Internet and Power
Which inequalities are created or strengthened due the increasing reliance on technology and the differences in the ability to access the Internet(e.g. global and socio-economic differences)? Does the net actually re-distribute and decentralize power and influence, or does it also reinforce the existing political and economic hierarchies? In short - is the Internet really a good thing for everybody?
- A solutions-focused question here might be: what tools might encourage a more egalitarian internet, both nationally and internationally? How can online applications be designed to encourage social equality? (Berkman Fellow Eszter Hargittai has worked on some related questions, focusing on research about how people actually use the internet.) --G 12:12, 28 November 2008 (EST)
One Laptop Per Child
To what extent is the hardware upon which the Internet exists damaging the environment? Where does old tech go when it dies? What distributive impact does the "recycling" of old tech have. Was the Internet build with principles of physical sustainbility in mind? Is it too late to change? How do individual companies, like Google, view their own practices? Does the cost of a server internalize the cost of disposal? Why has it been cheaper to just keep throwing on new machines? What of the electricity necessary to run these machines? What does it say about society that we are so willing to pollute our own communities to create a second life? Has technological innovation and advancement dislocated the true impact of non-zero cost transactions? --Megerman 19:36, 29 November 2008 (EST)
The Internet, Political Speech, and Political Change
See, e.g., Larry Lessig's Change Congress movement: http://change-congress.org/about/. Being Larry Lessig, the whole thing is tech-friendly.
Of course there are a lot of custom-built tools for mobilizing people online to get things done in the real world. On the other hand, what about more general tools? We've all been invited, via Facebook, to join groups and attend events (the Obama campaign certainly made good use of this); is there a generalizable model here?
Facebook groups dedicated to particular causes remind me of the online petitions that began circulating widely via email about ten years ago: their effectiveness in accomplishing real world change--and even their visibility to individuals capable of affecting the desired changes--are dubious. Is the real purpose of these movements simply to make participants feel like they are being active and involved? What percentage of those who signed email petitions in the 1990s were aware that their signatures were unverifiable and that the widely-distributed emails were unlikely to be collated and submitted to an official authority? What expectations do participants in facebook group causes have for their involvement and its consequences? The facebook group causes are certainly more centralized and visible than the old email petitions, and they provide a better tool for identifying and communicating with supporters in order to mobilize them in an organized fashion. How often is such mobilization attempted, and with what degree of success? As a tool of online activism, is facebook a step forward from chain emails, is it a step in a different direction, or does it just serve the same old functions but in newer packaging? --Gwen 08:26, 29 November 2008 (EST)
Maybe we can invite some of the leaders of the various social networking sites or Jascha Franklin-Hodge, who was an architect of the Obama campaign's use of social technology.
Might also be worth considering SMS applications that interface with the internet in this context especially since cell phones will presumably be the nexus of tech activism in the developing world. See FrontlineSMS or Ushahidi, a web crisis mapping project that let any user with a cell phone text in reports of violence in post-election Kenya as a way to geographically report real-time citizen reporting. (ELANA)
During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, web-only advertisements helped to shape the talking points of media personalities like Chris Matthews , Keith Olbermann, Greta Van Susteren, and Joe Scarborough, and sometimes even individuals who try to operate "above the fray" of punditry like Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, and David Letterman (See "Web-only campaign advertisements flood presidential race" "In a study released last summer....the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found most Americans heard about the most famous viral videos because they saw them replayed on TV").
Because a large and increasing number of Americans get their news from media personalities rather than from traditional broadcast or print media sources, these individuals have significant power to shape the national political discussion. Still, beyond campaigns' web-only ads, there hasn't yet been a concerted effort to use the Internet to directly influence these personalities and their television shows.
This void can be filled by a website that publishes a rating system and gauges/grades each of these media personalities (over multiple periods of time: daily [i.e., per episode], monthly, etc.) with a variety of qualitative metrics.
Ideally, such metrics would focus on process rather than substance (e.g., % of material that avoids explicit mention of either party's talking-points-of-the-day; % of in-show discussion that is active, fair dialogue with guests of opposing perspectives). Some metrics would be determined by the site's designers while others would be generated and selected (i.e., voted on) by the site's users. A team of qualitative analysts would code each media personality's episodes for (1) the site designers' metrics and (2) any given metric a critical mass the website's users select, and publish the results daily.
This website would be most influential as a source for audience feedback beyond bare headcounts (i.e., network viewer ratings). For some media personalities, that feedback will act as a friendly nudge that helps them improve their shows. For others, the ultimate message might sound more like Jon Stewart on Crossfire.
QUESTIONS (each followed by potential answers)
- (1) How should this kind of a site be funded, and by whom?
- Non-partisan journalism NGOs through a project grant
- The Berkman Center (see "Donations" link in navigation pane in left frame)
- (2) What kind of knowledge workers would the daily operations require?
- College research assistants as coders
- (3) What kind of goals should such a website pursue?
- Active dialogue
- More informed discussion
- Sophistication of television personalities
- Dedication to truth
- Fighting the political class's elitism
- Fighting prejudices/smears
- Deconstructing euphemistic language/political correctness
- Strengthening/Weakening political parties' control of the national political dialogue
- Expansion of the national political dialogue to include new and unique perspectives
- (4) How else could a pundit-centric website serve to channel the widespread complaints of "Media Bias" into a polished online platform?
- Hall of Shame for self-proclaimed (one-time guest) "Analysts" and "Experts" who actually have no rightful claim to either title.
- Sponsor and/or Host Op-Eds, Blogs, Vlogs, "Blogologues", and "Diavlogs" by premier Media/Journalism academics.
- Work to immediately uncover the original sources of stories in order (1) to get a sense of who is already influencing media personalities (and their writers) and (2) to push back against rushed vetting of unsubstantiated stories (a la Martin Eisenstadt)
- Highlight stories/angles the traditional anchors are broadcasting that these hosts are ignoring/purposely passing on.
- (5) How much embedded footage of actual shows can such a website legally display under Fair Use?
- A good place to start looking is Talking Points Memo's "The Day in 100 Seconds" Vidcast Series
--CKennedy 01:42, 25 November 2008 (EST)
The First USA CTO
President-elect Obama's promise to appoint the first USA CTO has turned many heads, and discussions on what the (as of yet unappointed) CTO should do have started up, notably at http://obamacto.org/. Several other related links not purely focused on "US CTO" issues:
The paper on the study, and where similar effects re: citizen participation may be seen.
New Legal Issues Raised by the Internet
And other, similar layman-focused legal projects
Google Book Search
What does the recent settlement between Google and American publishers regarding online accessibility of digitalized books mean? Many have hailed it for both improving universal access to knowledge and avoiding a judicial resolution that might have exposed antiquated aspects of US copyright law. But there may also be some troubling aspects of having access to so much content controlled by a single company. Should government intervene in any way to regulate such access?
From a regulatory perspective, there is also a question as to whether Google Book Search should be treated as a public or private entity, or whether such a distinction is even applicable (or does much work) in the internet context. Many of Google's library partners are public universities (e.g. Universities of California, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- see http://www.google.com/googlebooks/partners.html), though Google is of course private. And does Google Book Search's laudable mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" (http://books.google.com/googlebooks/agreement/) mean we should shy away from regulation, or should we be skeptical of such claims by a large for-profit corporation.
Rights of Minors
Minors have long been recognized to not have free speech rights that are co-extensive with adults. But with the Internet, how do we define those rights? And what, if any, regulation should the government enact to protect minors on the Internet, while also respecting their rights?
There are two traditional categories where minors' free speech rights have been restricted. The first is with respect to pornography, the second with respect to the school environment. These two areas raise different concerns.
The Government has on several occasions attempted to place restrictions on Internet access with the intention of preventing minors from viewing pornography. Nobody questions the Government's legitimate interest in restricting pornography, however the Government has run into substantial legal problems with most legislation it has enacted - primarily because the statutes were found to curtail the free speech rights of adults.
- Should the Government attempt regulation in this field at all?
- Does self regulation work?
- Is there any way to enact legislation to protect minors without limiting protected adult access?
- What would be defined as the community?
- Is there any way to develop a "community standard" where the Internet is inherently national/global?
- Do adults' rights to view porn mean that the Government must allow them to do so should it create free public access to the Internet?
- If, as currently proposed, a method is developed to determine whether an Internet user is a minor, how do we protect the privacy of the users?
- Do opt-in/opt-out policies go against our rights to privacy?
- The above discussion confuses obscenity with pornography. Obscenity law conveys a form of moral condemnation from the position of the status quo. Pornography law, if it ever existed, attempted a political analysis of equality principles. There are few things that will guarantee a messageboard clusterfuck like a discussion of pornography and heaven forbid you ever suggest that someone might one day take somone's porn away. One of the reasons for this situation is that the views and voices of the pornography-skeptical left have been almost completely drowned out and the vast majority of pornography viewers think that only a puritanical right opposes the idea (and thus each pornographic image consumed becomes a blow against Pat Robertson on behalf of liberty). If you believe that pornography involves serious concerns of civil rights then it's unclear how the internet or modern modes of transmission ultimately changes much other than providing easier access to rights violations. A radical position might exhort an abandonment of a commitment to equality in the face of overwhelming firepower, but that's not one that many would adopt. That said, it's pretty clear you're talking about obscenity, given the reference to community standards and so on. Keeping these two issues analytically separate is always the second thing to go in these discussions (once we've silenced certain voices). --Megerman 17:30, 30 November 2008 (EST)
- I can see how the confusion about pornography and obscenity can arise, but just to be clear, its the regulation of pornography with respect to minors that is raising the issue - not pornography in general. From my limited knowledge of free speech laws, it seems pretty clear that regulation of access to porn by minors is pretty much established. As to the "community standards" this in fact has been raised with respect to porn by the FCC. Currently, there is a proposal to auction spectrum to allow free broadband access to the Internet, provided that it is "porn free." The rationale given is that this is to protect minors, and what porn would be filtered would be based on community standards. See Service Rules for Advanced Wireless Services, WT Docket Nos. 07-195 and 05-356, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 08-158 (rel. June 20, 2008). It explicitly states that the provider of the free Internet would need to have a filter that "filters or blocks images and text that constitute obscenity or pornography and, in context, as measured by contemporary community standards and existing law, any images or text that otherwise would be harmful to teens and adolescents. For purposes of this rule, teens and adolescents are children 5 through 17 years of age[.]" Id. (emphasis added). -- Bepa 18:30, 30 November 2008 (EST)
- The rabbit gets put in the hat when you say "regulation of pornography with respect to minors." We regulate child pornography (that is, pornography involving minors) and the access to obscene materials by minors. Since Hudnut this country has not regulated pornography that does not involve children. CIPA and other laws regulate the ability of children to access obscene material on the Internet, but does not regulate pornography that does not involve children. Of course, this point is often lost even by somewhat credible observers and it certainly seems a little beyond Rehnquist in United States V. American Library Assn., Inc.. As far as the proposed FCC rules, my guess is that the Court would find them to be unconstitutional insofar that they prohibited the dissemination of pornography, but they'd be fine if they were just limited to obscenity. Intuitively, this tracks the larger discussion. Those who seek to protect children from obscenity are concerned about issues of morality and sin, not equality and justice. The community standards issue only applies to obscenity and for these reasons. I'm less concerned with the substance of this actual debate (which may be beyond the scope of this class) than keeping the terms straight (and thereby unsilencing a valid viewpoint in these discussions). --Megerman 19:13, 30 November 2008 (EST)
Courts have recognized that the minors do not have rights to engage in speech that has a substantial impact on the school setting, or runs against pedagogical interests. For example, displaying a sign that questionably promotes drug use while at a school sponsored event is not protected speech. Minors are also most likely prevented from passing around a flier encouraging students to riot if they pass that flier around at school. But what if they pass the message as a digital flier? Perhaps the students create a group on Facebook encouraging students to simultaneously drop their pencils at 11:30 am, and again every 5 minutes for the rest of the day. Is that speech protected if all the activity takes place from the home?
- What type of activity should be regulated, if at all?
- Should Internet activity that takes place primarily at home, but creates a disruption at school, be protected?
- What if the disruption at school is substantial? Not substantial?
- What if the speech is only tangentially related to the school setting, but still creates some impact there?
- Should Internet activity that takes place primarily at home, but creates a disruption at school, be protected?
- How do we balance the legitimate pedagogical needs of minors to have access to the Internet with the need to create an environment where students can learn, free from distraction?
Old Laws/New Media
Shubham Mukherjee Debbie Rosenbaum Matt Sanchez
How has new media affected traditional industries and challenged traditional law? How do we deal with the fact that there is little legal infrastructure in today's new media environments? Do we apply old laws to new technologies? Do we create new regulations? How can we create good sound policy that aligns with both our legal aspirations and the technological realities of today?
This topic will aim to explore these questions by analyzing the music industry v. Tenenbaum, a case the three of us are working on pro-bono with Professor Charles Nesson, co-founder of the Berkman Center.
copyright and privacy issues regarding images on social networking sites
The Internet as a "Place"
Much like open-source software, the Internet can be considered a collection of servers, pipes, and users spread all over the world. How does it keep working? One easy answer is that the United States (through actors public and private) just sort of gets its way. This isn't really a satisfying answer descriptively or normatively, though. With the rest of the world contributing more and more to the Internet as a whole, is it time for a change?
Internet Dependency (What if someone somehow takes down the net?)
We have come to rely on the Internet for almost every aspect of our lives. If the Internet somehow suddenly went "down" (through either a cyberattack or physical attack on key backbone pieces of infrastructure), the result would likely be calamity, as well as hordes of people who wouldn't know what to do with themselves. Can we even imagine what the world would look like the morning after such an attack if it was successful? Are we wrong to rely so heavily on a single tool whose detailed technical inner workings so few people truly understand? Are we setting ourselves up to be ruined when someone compromises this tool? What about the tradeoffs between keeping the Net free+open vs. regulation to ensure that it retains its functional integrity in the face of attack?
We can invite Dan Kaminsky, who recently discovered a flaw in the inner-workings of the Net that could have caused some serious damage. See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/09/technology/09flaw.html?hp (or we could invite will smith, who defeated the aliens in independence day with the help of cyber-attack).
- I vote Will Smith. Unless everyone wants to get into the desirability of a DNS nonce of sufficient bitlength, in which case... no, still Will Smith. That guy's an elliptic curve cryptography fiend. However, if we do want to talk about design issues in the internet, and the failure of the marketplace to handle externalities created by poor software design, leading to the perpetual crisis of bugginess, we could do worse than to invite Daniel Bernstein. Plus, as an added bonus, he saw the issues that gave rise to the Kaminsky bug coming down the pike a long time ago. --Jgruensp
Internet as International Conflict Zone
In light of the recent events in Estonia, have we finally reached the long-predicted era of cyberwarfare? Is cyber-espionage a counterintelligence problem or something more? (This article from the National Journal talks bluntly about perceived threats, although is perhaps a little too willing to attribute causation of certain events to Chinese actors on dubious evidence)
Internet as an Extension of National Infrastructure
It is easy to define the borders of the nation in realspace (ports, airports, land crossings), and the tradeoffs between private propertyholders' rights and national security interests (making those tradeoffs? Not always so easy). But what are the national borders in cyberspace? Given the dangers described in the two topics above, what kind of role, if any, should national government play in monitoring and regulating major backbone communications links? What about the networks of semi-public industries such as utilities? Private corporations that store government secrets? Financial systems? Other types of privately owned networks?
--Jgruensp 23:54, 30 November 2008 (EST)