Current Berkman People and Projects

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

July 18, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
D.C. Circuit Reverses Lower Court re: Copyright in Laws and Codes

We previously reported about the Clinic’s amicus advocacy in a pair of cases concerning copyrights in legal standards and model codes incorporated into law. We are pleased to report that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling yesterday in favor of Public.Resource.Org, the organization that we supported (on behalf of two different groups of amici) in the district and circuit courts.  By way of background, private standards development organizations (or “SDOs”) promulgate model codes and standards to address the needs of technical fields — for example, model building codes or electrical codes. Those codes may be adopted or incorporated into law by legislative bodies, often at the local level. Some SDOs maintain that they have copyright interests in the codes they create and that such interests persist beyond the point when those codes become law. This can lead to some troubling outcomes for litigants, journalists, researchers, and other members of the general public who seek to use and rely on the text of binding law.

Public.Resource.Org is dedicated to making government information accessible to the public. In an effort to advance its mission of promoting and protecting, “the right of the public to know and speak the laws that govern it,” Public Resource made codes developed by plaintiffs  in these cases available online.  Two sets of plaintiffs — one led by the American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) and another led by the American Educational Resource Association (“AERA”) — sued Public Resource for copyright and trademark infringement in separate cases in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment, and the Clinic filed briefs in both cases (brief in ASTM here, brief in AERA here). Those briefs were filed on behalf of coalitions of law scholars. The briefs focused on the issue of copyrightability, asking that the District Court find the model codes at issue are not proper subjects of copyright protection. The Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs in both cases, finding that Public Resource infringed plaintiffs’ copyrights and trademarks by posting these materials online.

The cases were consolidated on appeal to the D.C. Circuit, where the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Darrell Issa.  The brief for these two  Members of Congress addressed the public policy implications of the lower courts’ decisions, including possible constitutional due process issues relating to SDOs’ use of copyright to restrict access to laws. Amici also expressed concerns about the impact of copyright restrictions on general welfare, noting that allowing SDOs to maintain copyright interests would open the floodgates to litigation and pose threats to public safety.

The D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings.  Of particular note:

  • The Court focused its analysis not on copyrightability but on fair use, noting that the doctrine “may provide a full defense to some, if not all, of the SDO’s infringement claims in this case.”
  • Specifically, the Court noted that there is “reason to believe ‘as a matter of law’ that [Public Resource’s] reproduction of certain standards ‘qualif[ies] as a fair use of the copyrighted work.”
  • The Court addressed each of the four fair use factors in turn — noting as to the especially important first factor that “[t]he district court . . . failed to adequately consider whether, in certain circumstances, distributing copies of the law for purposes of facilitating public access could constitute transformative use.”

The Court vacated injunctions that the district court issued against Public Resource.

The Clinic will monitor the case and keep tabs on further developments.  In the meantime, we are glad that Public Resource will have the opportunity to continue its advocacy for access to laws as the case returns to the district court.


by Christopher Bavitz at July 18, 2018 01:32 PM

July 13, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Clinic Supports Pakistani NGO in Shaping New Data Protection Bill

This month, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication released a draft Personal Data Protection Bill for public comment. The bill has a wide scope, encompassing at a basic level the commercial usage of data from which an individual is identifiable, and creates a key role for user consent. While not without areas for possible improvement, the bill represents a positive step for Pakistan’s internet-connected populace. With support from Cyberlaw Clinic, the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a Pakistani NGO that works in support of human rights and democratic processes online, submitted a policy brief to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication while the initial drafting of the bill was underway. DRF founder Nighat Dad said, “Working with the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic was a unique experience, both personally and professionally… I believe that such platforms add indispensable value to the global advocacy endeavours and tremendously help in successful attempts at making the internet more inclusive and approachable.”

The Clinic provided DRF with a high-level comparative analysis of data privacy regulations in jurisdictions around the globe, including the European Union and the United States as well as Argentina, Morocco, and South Korea. The regimes analyzed were selected to represent a range of perspectives, having both commonalities and contrasts with Pakistan, and DRF attorneys consulted the research in shaping their recommendations, a number of which were incorporated in to the bill’s present form. Clinic students Audrey Adu-Appiah and Sheeva Nesva, both Harvard Law School Class of 2018, working under the supervision of Clinical Instructor and Acting Assistant Director Jessica Fjeld, authored the report.

This bill is particularly important in the sense that it may be seen as a shift in momentum from Pakistan’s most recent efforts to regulate cyberspace. In 2016, Pakistan enacted the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which was widely criticized for the broad powers it granted the government to censor content determined to be “illegal,” and for harsh penalties it imposed.

DRF is already at work on its submission for the public comment period, and the Clinic joins them in commending the Ministry for opening up the bill for comment, and hoping that engagement with various stakeholders and civil society at large results in an even more effective piece of legislation.

by jessicafjeld at July 13, 2018 06:25 PM

July 12, 2018

Justin Reich
Design Thinking: From Process to Culture
If imagination is bound by culture, how might we reimagine a culture of school that deeply values the tenets of design thinking?

by Beth Holland at July 12, 2018 12:31 PM

July 10, 2018

Privacy = personal agency + respect by others for personal dignity

Privacy is a state each of us enjoys to the degrees others respect it.

And they respect what economists call signals. We send those signals through our behavior (hand signals, facial expressions) and technologies. Both are expressions of agency: the ability to act with effect in the world.

So, for example, we signal a need not to reveal our private parts  by wearing clothes. We signal a need not to have our private spaces invaded by buttoning our clothes, closing doors, setting locks on those doors, and pulling closed curtains or shades. We signal a need not to be known by name to everybody by not wearing name tags as we walk about the world. (That we are naturally anonymous is a civic grace, but a whole ‘nuther thread.)

All of this has been well understood in the physical world for as long as we’ve had civilization—and perhaps longer. It varies by culture, but remained remarkably non-controversial—until we added the digital world to the physical one.

The digital world, like the physical one, came without privacy. We had to invent privacy in the physical world with technologies (clothing, shelter, doors, locks) and norms such as respect for the simple need for personal dignity.

We have not yet done the same in the digital world. We did, however, invent administrative identities for people, because administrative systems need to know who they’re interested in and dealing with.

These systems are not our own. They belong to administrative entities: companies, government agencies, churches, civic groups, whatever. Nearly 100% of conversation about both identity and privacy take place inside the administrative context. All questions  come down to “How can this system with ways of identifying us give us privacy?” Even Privacy By Design (PbD) is about administrative systems. It is not something you and I have. Not in the way we have clothes.

And that’s what we need: the digital equivalents of clothing and ways of signaling what’s okay and what’s not okay.  Norms should follow, and then laws and regulations restricting violations of those norms.

Unfortunately, we got the laws (e.g. the EU’s GDPR and California’s AB 375) before we got the tech and the norms.

But I’m encouraged about getting both, for two reasons. One is the work going on here among VRM-ish developers. The other is that @GregAEngineer gave a talk this morning on exactly this topic, at the IEEE #InDITA conference in Bangalore.

Oh, and lest we think privacy matters only to those in the fully privileged world, watch Privacy on the Line, a video just shared here.

by Doc Searls at July 10, 2018 05:17 AM

June 29, 2018

Justin Reich
The Purpose of Education: Workforce Development or Lifelong Learning?
Instead of creating a Department of Education and Workforce Development, what if we considered a Department of Education and Lifelong Learning?

by Beth Holland at June 29, 2018 06:30 PM

June 28, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Harvard Law Bulletin Highlights Artificial Intelligence Initiative

The Harvard Law Bulletin‘s Summer 2018 issue highlights the work of the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, a project based jointly at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the MIT Media Lab. Members of the Cyberlaw Clinic team have been actively involved in many aspects of the Initiative, including Chris Bavitz and Kira Hessekiel (who have spearheaded the Center’s work on government use of algorithmic tools); Mason Kortz and Jess Fjeld (who have worked on cutting-edge issues around the intersection of artificial intelligence and the arts); Kendra Albert (who has played the role of product counsel on a number of innovative AI-related projects); and Vivek Krishnamurthy and Hannah Hilligoss (who have led the charge on the Center’s ongoing work examining the human rights implications of AI). This work has also become integrated into the Clinic docket — students have assisted with an open letter sent to members of the MA legislature about pre-trial risk assessments, advised the developer of an art-generating AI system in license negotiations, and provided legal support for teams in the BKC / MITML “Assembly” program.


by Clinic Staff at June 28, 2018 07:24 PM

Miriam Meckel
Mein Kopf gehört mir

Eine Reise durch die schöne neue Welt des Brainhacking

Pieper, 2018
ISBN: 978-3492059077

Jetzt bei Amazon bestellen.

by Miriam Meckel at June 28, 2018 12:25 PM

Wir verschwinden

Der Mensch im digitalen Zeitalter

Kein & Aber, 2013
ISBN: 978-3036956527

Jetzt bei Amazon bestellen.

by Miriam Meckel at June 28, 2018 12:19 PM

June 26, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Forming, storming, norming, performing, and …chloroforming?

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman proposed a “developmental sequence in small groups.” According to his influential theory, most successful groups go through four stages with rhyming names:

  1. Forming: Group members get to know each other and define their task.
  2. Storming: Through argument and disagreement, power dynamics emerge and are negotiated.
  3. Norming: After conflict, groups seek to avoid conflict and focus on cooperation and setting norms for acceptable behavior.
  4. Performing: There is both cooperation and productive dissent as the team performs the task at a high level.

Fortunately for organizational science, 1965 was hardly the last stage of development for Tuckman’s theory!

Twelve years later, Tuckman suggested that adjourning or mourning reflected potential fifth stages (Tuckman and Jensen 1977). Since then, other organizational researchers have suggested other stages including transforming and reforming (White 2009), re-norming (Biggs), and outperforming (Rickards and Moger 2002).

What does the future hold for this line of research?

To help answer this question, we wrote a regular expression to identify candidate words and placed the full list is at this page in the Community Data Science Collective wiki.

The good news is that despite the active stream of research producing new stages that end or rhyme with -orming, there are tons of great words left!

For example, stages in a group’s development might include:

  • Scorning: In this stage, group members begin mocking each other!
  • Misinforming: Group that reach this stage start producing fake news.
  • Shoehorning: These groups try to make their products fit into ridiculous constraints.
  • Chloroforming: Groups become languid and fatigued?

One benefit of keeping our list in the wiki is that the organizational research community can use it to coordinate! If you are planning to use one of these terms—or if you know of a paper that has—feel free to edit the page in our wiki to “claim” it!

Also posted on the Community Data Science Collective blog. Although credit for this post goes primarily to Jeremy Foote and Benjamin Mako Hill, the other Community Data Science Collective members can’t really be called blameless in the matter either.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 26, 2018 02:21 AM

June 25, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Supreme Court Holds Warrant Required for Cell Site Location Information

The United States Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited ruling in Carpenter v. United States, holding that the government must get a warrant before obtaining cell site location information from an individual’s cell phone provider. The decision marks a significant development in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in the digital age, and the Court commented extensively on the unique nature of cell phones and cell phone location records. The Court’s ruling has important implications for the future of the third-party doctrine, as the Court held, “the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection.”

Prior to joining the Clinic last year, our own Kendra Albert helped to draft and file an amicus brief in Carpenter on behalf of Data & Society and fifteen individual scholars—including a number of members of the extended Berkman Klein Center community (Ifoema Ajunwa, Meryl Alper, and danah boyd, among others). The Cyberlaw Clinic previously filed amicus briefs in a pair of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cases that addressed similar issues — Commonwealth v. Augustine (brief filed on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Commonwealth v. Estabrook —  (brief filed on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts).The outcomes in those cases presaged the majority’s decision in Carpenter.

To quote Paul Ohm, it seems likely that Carpenter represents a significant “inflection point” in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and that we will talk about Fourth Amendment law “before-Carpenter and after-Carpenter for a long time, at least for cases involving technology.” The Clinic looks forward to watching (and being involved with) future developments on behalf of our many clients and collaborators with a keen interest in privacy and government surveillance.

Supreme Court image courtesy Pixabay user, Skeeze, CC0.


by Clinic Staff at June 25, 2018 10:35 PM

June 23, 2018

Why personal agency matters more than personal data

Lately a lot of thought, work and advocacy has been going into valuing personal data as a fungible commodity: one that can be made scarce, bought, sold, traded and so on.  That’s all fine, but I also think it steers attention away from a far more important issue it would be best to solve first: personal agency.

I see two reasons why personal agency matters more than personal data.

The first reason is that we have far too little agency in the networked world, mostly because we settled, way back in 1995, on a model for websites called client-server, which should have been called calf-cow or slave-master, because we’re always the weaker party. Fortunately the Net’s and the Web’s base protocols remain mostly peer-to-peer, by design. We can still build on those. It’s early.

A critical start in that direction is making each of us the first party rather than the second when we deal with the sites, services, companies and apps of the world—and doing that at scale across all of them.

Think about how much more simple and sane it is for websites to accept our terms and our privacy policies, rather than to force each of us, all the time, to accept their terms, all expressed in their own different ways. (Because they are advised by different lawyers, equipped by different third parties, and generally confused anyway.)

Getting sites to agree to our own personal terms and policies is not a stretch, because that’s exactly what we have in the way we deal with each other in the physical world.

For example, the clothes that we wear are privacy technologies. We also have  norms that discourage others from, for example sticking their hands inside our clothes without permission.

The fact that adtech plants tracking beacons on our naked digital selves and tracks us like animals across the digital frontier may be a norm for now, but it is also morally wrong, massively rude and now illegal under the  GDPR.

We can easily create privacy tech, personal terms and personal privacy policies that are normative and scale for each of us across all the entities that deal with us. (This is what ProjectVRM’s nonprofit spin-off, Customer Commons is all about.)

Businesses can’t give us privacy if we’re always the second parties clicking “agree.” It doesn’t matter how well-meaning and GDPR-compliant those businesses are. Making people second parties is a design flaw in every standing “agreement” we “accept,” and we need to correct that.

The second reason agency matters more than data is that nearly the entire market for personal data today is adtech, and adtech is too dysfunctional, too corrupt, too drunk on the data it already has, and absolutely awful at doing what they’ve harvested that data for, which is so machines can guess at what we might want before they shoot “relevant” and “interest-based” ads at our tracked eyeballs.

Not only do tracking-based ads fail to convince us to do a damn thing 99.xx+% of the time, but we’re also not buying something most of the time as well.

As incentive alignments go, adtech’s failure to serve the actual interests of its targets verges on the absolute. (It’s no coincidence that more than a year ago, 1.7 billion people were already blocking ads online.)

And hell, what they do also isn’t really advertising, even though it’s called that. It’s direct marketing, which gives us junk mail and is the model for spam. (For more on this, see Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.)

Privacy is personal. That means privacy is an effect of personal agency, projected by personal tech and personal expressions of intent that others can respect without working at it. We have that in the offline world. We can have it in the online world too.

Privacy is not something given to us by companies or governments, no matter how well they do Privacy by Design or craft their privacy policies. It simply can’t work.

In the physical world we got privacy tech and norms before we got privacy law. In the networked world we got the law first. That’s why the GDPR has caused so much confusion. It’s the regulatory cart in front of the technology horse. In the absence of privacy tech, we also failed to get and the norms that would normally and naturally guide lawmaking.

So let’s get the tech horse back in front of the lawmaking cart. With the tech working, the market for personal data will be one we control.  For real.

If we don’t do that first, adtech will stay in contol. And we know how that movie goes, because it’s a horror show and we’re living in it now.


by Doc Searls at June 23, 2018 10:10 PM

June 22, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
I’m a maker, baby


What does the “maker movement” think of the song “Maker” by Fink?

Is it an accidental anthem or just unfortunate evidence of the semantic ambiguity around an overloaded term?

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 22, 2018 11:34 PM

Ethan Zuckerman

On Wednesday, June 20th, Matt Smith and Aura Bogado broke a harrowing story about the Shiloh Treatment Center, south of Houston, TX, one of the contractors the Trump administration is using to house migrant children who were separated from their parents. Their report for Reveal, a Center for Investigative Reporting publication, and The Texas Tribune is based on an analysis of federal court filings, which allege that children held at Shiloh have been forcibly subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs. Released at a moment when media attention has been focused on separation of children from their families at the US/Mexico border, the story was widely shared online – as of this morning, Reveal’s tweet about the story had been retweeted 22,000 times.

The story gained attention for reasons other than its harrowing revelations. When Reveal tried to “boost” their post on Facebook, the platform alerted them that they were “Not Authorized for Ads with Political Content”. This is a new safety feature implemented by Facebook in the wake of scrutiny towards the company’s role in the 2016, permitting over 3000 ads to be illegally posted by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, with the goal of sowing discontent in the US. Facebook is in a tough bind – they need to vet purchasers of political ads far more carefully than they have been, but thus far, their algorithmic review process is flagging some stories as ads, and allowing some ads to pass through unscreened. And Facebook Ads VP, Rob Goldman, didn’t help clarify matters by telling Reveal “…this ad, not the story, was flagged because it contains political content.”

Last night, one of the authors of the Reveal story, Aura Bogado, pointed to another problem she and Matt Smith are experiencing:

One of the long-standing patterns of the news industry is the tendency to copy reporting someone has already done. In the days when most people subscribed to a single newspaper, this copying served a helpful civic function – it helped spread news to multiple audiences, helping citizens have a common basis of news to inform democratic participation. A very clear journalistic ethic emerged around this practice: you prominently credit the publication that broke the story. You’ll see even fierce competitors, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, do this with their biggest scoops.

The internet has changed these dynamics. On the one hand, there’s no longer any civic need to copy stories – you could simply link to them instead. But there’s also a powerful financial incentive to make any story your own – the ad clicks. This story, written by Andrew Hay and bylined “Reuters staff”, shows how easily original reporters and outlets can disappear – it contains original reporting, in that it has a novel quote from Carlos Holguin, a lawyer for the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, who’s cited in the Reveal piece… but it doesn’t mention Smith and Bogado, the Texas Tribune or Reveal. (Reuters is not the only outlet that’s scrubbed provenance from this story. But they are a publicly traded company with 45,000 employees, $11 billion in annual revenue, and have been in the news industry since 1851. They should know better.)

This is not only a shitty thing to do, it’s a profitable thing to do. Reuters gets the ad views from the story they largely rewrote, while the two non-profits responsible for the original reporting get nothing, not even credit.

I’ve been thinking about this problem for some time, because the origins of important news stories is one of the main uses for Media Cloud, the system we’ve been developing for almost a decade at Center for Civic Media and the Berkman Klein Center. One of our first publications, “The Battle for Trayvon Martin: Mapping a Media Controversy online and offline” is at its heart a provenance paper, trying to understand who first reported on Trayvon’s death as a way of understanding how the story turned into a national conversation on race and violence. (TL;DR: Trayvon’s family worked with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to pitch the story to Reuters and CBS: This Morning. It was well over a week before the internet began amplifying the story with petitions and protests.) Rob Faris and Yochai Benkler’s massive Media Cloud analysis of the 2016 US Presidential elections focuses on provenance, tracing influential stories in mainstream media publications to their origins in the fringes of the right-wing blogosphere that surround Breitbart, Gateway Pundit and others.

Media Cloud works by ingesting (usually via RSS, sometimes via scraping) all the stories from tens of thousands of media publications, multiple times a day. We can often trace the provenance of a story by identifying an appropriate search string – “Shiloh” AND (migrant* OR drug*) might work in this case – and looking to see what stories hit our database first. Often a story breaks in several places simultaneously – that’s often an indicator that it was written in reaction to a statement made by a public official or a corporate leader, not the result of long investigative reporting. This process is imperfect and requires the input of knowledgeable humans to create search strings. What if we could automate it?

We’re working on this problem, looking to create automatic signatures that identify clusters of related stories. Duncan Watts is working on it at MSR as well, generating “fingerprints” for these clusters that rely in part on named entities. And obviously Google has a clustering system working that they use to organize related stories in Google News. With automated signatures and clustering, combined with a deep database of stories collected many times a day, we might be able to identify the initial stream that leads to a later media cascade.

Attention in US mainstream media to “Larry Nassar” from January 2017 to present, via

What then? Well, that would depend on what media platforms did with this data. Consider a major, ongoing story like Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuse of US gymnasts. That horrific story was uncovered by the Indy Star, who began a massive investigative series on sexual abuse within US gymnastics in August 2017, months before Nassar’s name became a household word. When platforms that aggregate, distribute and monetize news – Apple, Google, Facebook – share revenues with publishers, maybe they should check against a provenance service to find out whether they’re rewarding someone who did original journalism, or someone who’s simply chasing clicks. Perhaps one or more platform would end up sharing revenues between the publisher that captured the clicks and the one that initially sponsored the investigation.

Could this ever really happen? Yes, but it would require not only the technology to work, but for there to be pressure from readers for ethically sourced journalism. It took a great deal of work for consumers to demand that their coffee be sustainably grown and that Apple look into whether suppliers are using child labor. What Bogado and her colleagues are asking for is good for anyone who cares about the long-term future of journalism. We need more resources to investigate stories like the abuse of children at the hands of the US government. We don’t need hundreds of news outlets rushing to cover the same stories. Establishing – and rewarding – provenance of stories that start with investigative journalism could help shift the playing field for original reporting.

by Ethan at June 22, 2018 07:21 PM

June 19, 2018

Justin Reich
Strategies for Supporting Girls in Computer Science
By focusing on providing positive female role models for computer science in our schools, and supporting girls and young women in their endeavors, we can send a strong message that computer science is for everyone.

by Douglas Kiang at June 19, 2018 11:18 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill
How markets coopted free software’s most powerful weapon (LibrePlanet 2018 Keynote)

Several months ago, I gave the closing keynote address at LibrePlanet 2018. The talk was about the thing that scares me most about the future of free culture, free software, and peer production.

A video of the talk is online on Youtube and available as WebM video file (both links should skip the first 3m 19s of thanks and introductions).

Here’s a summary of the talk:

App stores and the so-called “sharing economy” are two examples of business models that rely on techniques for the mass aggregation of distributed participation over the Internet and that simply didn’t exist a decade ago. In my talk, I argue that the firms pioneering these new models have learned and adapted processes from commons-based peer production projects like free software, Wikipedia, and CouchSurfing.

The result is an important shift: A decade ago,  the kind of mass collaboration that made Wikipedia, GNU/Linux, or Couchsurfing possible was the exclusive domain of people producing freely and openly in commons. Not only is this no longer true, new proprietary, firm-controlled, and money-based models are increasingly replacing, displacing, outcompeting, and potentially reducing what’s available in the commons. For example, the number of people joining Couchsurfing to host others seems to have been in decline since Airbnb began its own meteoric growth.

In the talk, I talk about how this happened and what I think it means for folks of that are committed to working in commons. I talk a little bit about the free culture and free software should do now that mass collaboration, these communities’ most powerful weapon, is being used against them.

I’m very much interested in feedback provided any way you want to reach me including in person, over email, in comments on my blog, on Mastodon, on Twitter, etc.

Work on the research that is reflected and described in this talk was supported by the National Science Foundation (awards IIS-1617129 and IIS-1617468). Some of the initial ideas behind this talk were developed while working on this paper (official link) which was led by Maximilian Klein and contributed to by Jinhao Zhao, Jiajun Ni, Isaac Johnson, and Haiyi Zhu.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 19, 2018 06:03 PM

Honey Buckets

When I was growing up in Washington state, a company called Honey Bucket held a dominant position in the local portable toilet market. Their toilets are still a common sight in the American West.

Honey Bucket brand portable toilet. Photo by donielle. (CC BY-SA)

They were so widespread when I was a child that I didn’t know that “Honey Bucket” was the name of a company at all until I moved to Massachusetts for college. I thought “honey bucket” was just the generic term for toilets that could be moved from place-to-place!

So for the first five years that I lived in Massachusetts, I continued to call all portable toilets “honey buckets.”

Until somebody asked me why I called them that—five years after moving!—all my friends in Massachusetts thought that “honey bucket” was just a personal, idiosyncratic, and somewhat gross, euphemism.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 19, 2018 05:36 PM

June 18, 2018

Joseph Reagle
Ditch your word processor: Write prose like code in a text editor

In this video I show the benefits of writing in a text editor. I link to descriptions of these things which you can find in Sublime Text and Atom.

Two things I forgot to demo but which I rely upon for navigation are bookmarks and being able to navigate forward and backward between previous cursor positions.

by Joseph Reagle at June 18, 2018 04:00 AM

June 13, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Coming in from the Cold: A Safe Harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201


The Assembly program is pleased to announce a new publication proposing a statutory safe harbor from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for security research activities using a constructed communication protocol based on a responsible disclosure model.

Publication Date

1 Jun 2018

Thumbnail Image: 
Authored by Daniel Etcovitch and Thyla van der Merwe
The Assembly program is pleased to announce a new publication, titled Coming in from the Cold: A Safe Harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201, written by Harvard Law School student Daniel Etcovitch and 2017 Assembly cohort member Thyla van der Merwe.  
The paper proposes a statutory safe harbor from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for security research activities using a constructed communication protocol based on a responsible disclosure model. The authors explore how such a safe harbor could provide security researchers a greater degree of control over the vulnerability research publication timeline and guarantee researchers safety from legal consequence if they complied with the proposed safe harbor process. ​
The collaboration between Daniel and Thyla was born out of the 2017 Assembly program and the Internet & Society class co-taught by Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain and MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, where they first met.  As the authors describe it, they “found a common interest in legal barriers to security” during the Internet & Society course and together “began to engage with the reality that some security researchers – particularly academics – were concerned about potential legal liability under computer crime laws.” 
In our paper, we propose a statutory safe harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201 for security research activities. Based on a responsible disclosure model in which a researcher and vendor engage in a carefully constructed communication process and vulnerability classification system, our solution would enable security researchers to have a greater degree of control over the vulnerability research publication timeline, allowing for publication regardless of whether or not the vendor in question has effectuated a patch. Any researcher would be guaranteed safety from legal consequences if they comply with the proposed safe harbor process. 
About the Berkman Klein Assembly 
Assembly, at the Berkman Klein Center & MIT Media Lab, gathers developers, managers, and tech industry professionals for a rigorous spring term course on internet policy and a twelve-week collaborative development period to explore hard problems with running code. Each Assembly cohort comes together around a defined challenge. In 2017, the Assembly cohort focused on digital security. In 2018, the program focused on the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence. For more information, visit the program website,

Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at June 13, 2018 07:40 PM

June 11, 2018

Justin Reich
Critically Thinking About Critical Thinking
Despite being an objective of education since before the start of the 21st century, critical thinking continues to be an increasingly important skill.

by Beth Holland at June 11, 2018 11:10 PM

June 07, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Wrapping Up Academic Year 2017-18 — Congratulations, Graduates!

Steve Meil (HLS JD ’18), Vinitra Rangan (HLS JD ’18), and Frederick Ding (HLS JD ’18), with Chris Bavitz from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Clinic’s Year-End Event

The beginning of June marks the arrival of summer interns — affectionately known as “Berkterns” — at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the Cyberlaw Clinic. As we begin to settle into our summer routine, we wanted to look back at the 2017-18 academic year and bid a fond farewell to our graduating Cyberlaw Clinic alumni from the Harvard Law School class of ’18. It has been a remarkable year at the Clinic — a year of remarkable work spearheaded by our remarkable students.

Alexa Singh (HLS JD ’18), with Jess Fjeld from the Cyberlaw Clinic

The Law School held its annual “Class Day” festivities on Wednesday, May 23, the day before Harvard’s formal commencement.  The HLS-wide Class Day celebration included remarks from HLS Dean John Manning; winner of the Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence, HLS Professor Carol Steiker; winner of the Staff Appreciation Award, Edgar Kley Filho; and U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (among many others).  The Clinic held its annual year-end event that day for students and their families on the front steps of the Berkman Klein Center’s offices in the little yellow house at 23 Everett Street.  Attendees included students who had worked with the Clinic on a wide variety of matters during their time at the Law School, from amicus briefs, to direct client advising, to transactional work, litigation, and policy advocacy.  It is always a pleasure to meet the families of students we have come to know so well during their time at HLS and see them off as they prepare to apply their well-earned skills and knowledge in service of new clients and constituencies.

Rebecca Rechtszaid (HLS JD ’17) and Abi Riddle (HLS JD ’17), with Chris Bavitz, visit Scratch at the MIT Media Lab

Austin Bohn (HLS JD ’17) and Erin Thomas (HLS JD ’17), with Kendra Albert from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Copyright Office Section 1201 Proceedings

Taking stock of the 2017-18 academic year — students worked on four amicus briefs, including three U.S. Supreme Court briefs and a D.C. Circuit brief on behalf of two members of Congress.  They helped represent a coalition of librarians and archivists in a large administrative proceeding before the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress; supported advocacy to the Massachusetts Legislature around the use of risk assessment tools; and developed publicly-accessible resources on protest art.  In their spare time, students who worked with us in the Clinic wrote Law Review notes and participated as finalists in the fall 2017 Ames moot court competition. Fifty-nine students came through the Cyberlaw Clinic during AY 2017-18, and sixty-two 2018 HLS graduates had enrolled in the Clinic during their time at the Law School.

Cayman Mitchell (HLS JD ’18), with Chris Bavitz

Lydia Lichlyter (HLS JD ’18), with Jess Fjeld

2017-18 saw the Clinic’s teaching team contributing to publications on the role of explanation in artificial intelligence, zero rating and Internet adoption, and harmful speech online.  They presented  at South By Southwest, Harvard’s Fair Use / Fair Dealing Week festivitiesRightsCon 2018, the University of Montreal Cyberjustice Laboratory, and beyond.

Aaron Marks (HLS JD ’18) and Filippo Raso (HLS JD ’18)

Over the summer, the Clinic team plans to keep ongoing active matters afloat with an all-star team of interns hailing from law schools around the country. We will also de-brief after a busy year, build out course materials for the 2018-19 installments of the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar, and participate in research and writing projects at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (including projects related to artificial intelligence ethics and governance).  We also plan to do some horizon scanning to identify emerging issues that will become central to our practice and teaching activities in the years to come.

Congratulations, again, to the graduating Cyberlaw Clinic alums and to all HLS students in the class of 2018!

by Clinic Staff at June 07, 2018 01:19 PM

June 02, 2018

Juan Carlos De Martin
Norberto Bobbio sulla democrazia (1958)
Questo testo di Norberto Bobbio comparve nel 1958 su "Risorgimento" che, in occasione del primo decennale della Costituzione, aveva promosso un'inchiesta. Venne poi pubblicato, nello stesso anno, sul bollettino dell' Ateneo di Torino.

“Quando parliamo di democrazia, non ci riferiamo soltanto a un insieme di istituzioni, ma indichiamo anche una generale concezione della vita. Nella democrazia siamo impegnati non soltanto come cittadini aventi certi diritti e certi doveri, ma anche come uomini che debbono ispirarsi a un certo modo di vivere e di comportarsi con se stessi e con gli altri.

Come regime politico la democrazia moderna è fondata sul riconoscimento e la garanzia della libertà sotto tre aspetti fondamentali: la libertà civile, la libertà politica e la libertà sociale. Per libertà civile s' intende la facoltà, attribuita ad ogni cittadino, di fare scelte personali senza ingerenza da parte dei pubblici poteri, in quei campi della vita spirituale ed economica, entro i quali si spiega, si esprime, si rafforza la personalità di ciascuno. Attraverso la libertà politica, che è il diritto di partecipare direttamente o indirettamente alla formazione delle leggi, viene riconosciuto al cittadino il potere di contribuire alle scelte politiche che determinano l' orientamento del governo, e di discutere e magari di modificare le scelte politiche fatte da altri, in modo che il potere politico perda il carattere odioso di oppressione dall' alto. Inoltre, oggi siamo convinti che libertà civile e libertà politica siano nomi vani qualora non vengano integrate dalla libertà sociale, che sola può dare al cittadino un potere effettivo e non solo astratto o formale, e gli consente di soddisfare i propri bisogni fondamentali e di sviluppare le proprie capacità naturali.

Queste tre libertà sono l' espressione di una compiuta concezione della vita e della storia, della più alta e umanamente più ricca concezione della vita e della storia che gli uomini abbiano creato nel corso dei secoli. Dietro la libertà civile c' è il riconoscimento dell' uomo come persona, e quindi il principio che società giusta è soltanto quella in cui il potere dello stato ha dei limiti ben stabiliti e invalicabili, e ogni abuso di potere può essere legittimamente, cioè con mezzi giuridici, respinto, e vi domina lo spirito del dialogo, il metodo della persuasione contro ogni forma di dogmatismo delle idee, di fanatismo, di oppressione spirituale, di violenza fisica e morale. Dietro la libertà politica c' è l' idea della fondamentale eguaglianza degli uomini di fronte al potere politico, il principio che dinanzi al compito di governare, essenziale per la sopravvivenza stessa e per lo sviluppo della società umana, non vi sono eletti e reprobi, governanti e governati per destinazione, potenti incontrollati e servi rassegnati, classi inferiori e classi superiori, ma tutti possono essere, a volta a volta, governanti o governati, e gli uni e gli altri si avvicendano secondo gli eventi, gli interessi, le ideologie. Infine, dietro la libertà sociale c' è il principio, tardi e faticosamente apparso, ma non più rifiutabile, che gli uomini contano, devono contare, non per quello che hanno, ma per quello che fanno, e il lavoro, non la proprietà, il contributo effettivo che ciascuno può dare secondo le proprie capacità allo sviluppo sociale, e non il possesso che ciascuno detiene senza merito o in misura non proporzionata al merito, costituisce la dignità civile dell' uomo in società.

Una democrazia ha bisogno, certo, di istituzioni adatte, ma non vive se queste istituzioni non sono alimentate da saldi principi. Là dove i principi che hanno ispirato le istituzioni perdono vigore negli animi, anche le istituzioni decadono, diventano, prima, vuoti scheletri, e rischiano poi al primo urto di finire in polvere. Se oggi c' è un problema della democrazia in Italia, è più un problema di principi che di istituzioni. A dieci anni dalla promulgazione della costituzione possiamo dire che le principali istituzioni per il funzionamento di uno stato democratico esistono. Ma possiamo dire con altrettanta sicurezza che i principi delle democrazia siano diventati parte viva del nostro costume?

Non posso non esprimere su questo punto qualche apprensione. Il cammino della democrazia non è un cammino facile. Per questo bisogna essere continuamente vigilanti, non rassegnarsi al peggio, ma neppure abbandonarsi ad una tranquilla fiducia nelle sorti fatalmente progressive dell' umanità. Oggi non crediamo, come credevano i liberali, i democratici, i socialisti al principio del secolo, che la democrazia sia un cammino fatale. Io appartengo alla generazione che ha appreso dalla Resistenza europea qual somma di sofferenze sia stata necessaria per restituire l' Europa alla vita civile.

La differenza tra la mia generazione e quella dei nostri padri è che loro erano democratici ottimisti. Noi siamo, dobbiamo essere, democratici sempre in allarme.”

(da un post su Facebook del prof. Riccardo Bellofiore, che ringrazio.)

by Juan Carlos De Martin at June 02, 2018 09:48 AM

June 01, 2018

Justin Reich
From Final Exam to Defense of Learning
Instead of regurgitating information on a summative exam, what if students had to defend their understanding of a body of knowledge.

by Beth Holland at June 01, 2018 03:38 PM

May 30, 2018

Ethan Zuckerman
Six or Seven Things Social Media Can Do For Democracy

Social media doesn’t work the way we think it should. That’s the conclusion many people have come to in the wake of revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s mining of Facebook data to build political profiles and sway elections. Perhaps the concerns go further back, to the election of a US president in 2016 who seems fueled by social media, the more polarizing and divisive the better. Or perhaps it was Brexit that broke you. Or a gunman “self-investigating” the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor, spurious accusations of crisis actors at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and the amazingly inventive web of conspiracies the internet seems to engender. The cyberutopians have retreated, the creators of the modern internet are doing penance and we’re all social media critics now.

Photo by Tim Green, Flickr

Those critics include (suddenly) self-reflective executives at social media platforms, who are desperate for ideas on how their tools can return to society’s good graces. Having learned that platforms manage to metrics, making business decisions to maximize revenues, pageviews or engagement, there’s a new urgency to create a metric that will give us better social media, tools less likely to isolate, polarize and radicalize us. Tristan Harris has preached the gospel of Time Well Spent to newly receptive audiences at Facebook. At Cortico, my MIT colleague Deb Roy is working to define measures of healthy online communities, so Twitter and other platforms can optimize to encourage these behaviors.

These are worthy projects, and I am following both with optimism and interest. But I am concerned that we’ve not had a robust conversation about what we want social media to do for us.

We know what social media does for platform companies like Facebook and Twitter: it generates enormous masses of user-generated content that can be monetized with advertising, and reams of behavioral data that make that advertising more valuable. Perhaps we have a sense for what social media does for us as individuals, connecting us to distant friends, helping us maintain a lightweight awareness of each other’s lives even when we are not co-present. Or perhaps it’s a machine for disappointment and envy, a window into lives better lived than our own. It’s likely that what social media does for us personally is a deeply idiosyncratic question, dependent on our own lives, psyches and decisions, better discussed with our therapists than spoken about in generalities.

I’m interested in what social media should do for us as citizens in a democracy. We talk about social media as a digital public sphere, invoking Habermas and coffeehouses frequented by the bourgeoisie. Before we ask whether the internet succeeds as a public sphere, we ought to ask whether that’s actually what we want it to be.

I take my lead here from journalism scholar Michael Schudson, who took issue with a hyperbolic statement made by media critic James Carey: “journalism as a practice is unthinkable except in the context of democracy; in fact, journalism is usefully understood as another name for democracy.” For Schudson, this was a step too far. Journalism may be necessary for democracy to function well, but journalism by itself is not democracy and cannot produce democracy. Instead, we should work to understand the “Six or Seven Things News Can Do for Democracy”, the title of an incisive essay Schudson wrote to anchor his book, Why Democracies Need an Unloveable Press.

The six things Schudson sees news currently doing for democracy are presented in order of their frequency – as a result, the first three functions Schudson sees are straightforward and unsurprising. The news informs us about events, locally and globally, that we need to know about as citizens. The news investigates issues that are not immediately obvious, doing the hard work of excavating truths that someone did not want told. News provides analysis, knitting reported facts into complex possible narratives of significance and direction.

Schudson wades into deeper waters with the next three functions. News can serve as a public forum, allowing citizens to raise their voices through letters to the editor, op-eds and (when they’re still permitted) through comments. The news can serve as a tool for social empathy, helping us feel the importance of social issues through careful storytelling, appealing to our hearts as well as our heads. Controversially, Schudson argues, news can be a force for mobilization, urging readers to take action, voting, marching, protesting, boycotting, or using any of the other tools we have access to as citizens.

His essay closes with a seventh role that Schudson believes the news should fill, even if it has yet to embrace it. The news can be a force for the promotion of representative democracy. For Schudson, this includes the idea of protecting minority rights against the excesses of populism, and he sees a possible role for journalists in ensuring that these key protections remain in force.

This is perhaps not an exhaustive list, nor is the news required to do all that Schudson believes it can do. Neither does the list include things that the news tries to do that aren’t necessarily connected to democracy, like providing an advertising platform for local businesses, providing revenue for publishers, or entertaining audiences. And Schudson acknowledges that these functions can come into conflict – the more a news organization engages in mobilization, the more likely it is that it will compromise their ability to inform impartially.

In this same spirit, I’d like to suggest six or seven things social media can do for democracy. I am neither as learned or as wise as Schudson, so I fully expect readers to offer half a dozen functions that I’ve missed. In the spirit of Schudson’s public forum and Benkler’s digital public sphere, I offer these in the hopes of starting, not ending, a conversation.

Social media can inform us.

Many of us have heard the statistic that a majority of young people see Facebook as a primary source for news, and virtually every newsroom now considers Facebook as an important distributor of their content (sometimes to their peril.) But that’s not what’s most important in considering social media as a tool for democracy. Because social media is participatory, it is a tool people use to create and share information with friends and family, and potentially the wider world. Usually this information is of interest only to a few people – it’s what you had for lunch, or the antics of the squirrel in your backyard. But sometimes the news you see is of intense importance to the rest of the world.

When protesters took to the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, they were visible to the world through Facebook even though the Tunisian government had prevented journalists from coming to the town. Videos from Facebook made their way to Al Jazeera through Tunisian activists in the diaspora, and Al Jazeera rebroadcast footage, helping spread the protests to Tunis and beyond. The importance of social media in informing us is that it provides a channel for those excluded by the news – whether through censorship, as in Tunisia, or through disinterest or ignorance – to have their voices and issues heard.

Places don’t need to be as far away as Tunisia for social media to be a conduit for information – when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, many people learned of his death, the protests that unfolded in the wake, and the militarized response to those protests, via Twitter. (And as news reporters were arrested for covering events in Ferguson, they turned to Twitter to share news of their own detention.) Social media is critically important in giving voice to communities who’ve been systemically excluded from media – people of color, women, LGBTQIA people, poor people. By giving people a chance to share their under-covered perspectives with broadcast media, social media has a possible role in making the media ecosystem more inclusive and fair.

Finally, social media may be in helping replace or augment local information, as people connect directly with their children’s schools or with community organizations. This function is increasingly important as local newspapers shed staff or close altogether, as social media may become the primary conduit for local information.

Social media can amplify important voices and issues.

In traditional (broadcast or newspaper) media, editors decide what topics are worth the readers’ attention. This “agenda setting” function has enormous political importance – as Max McCombs and Donald Shaw observed in 1972, the news doesn’t tell us what to think, but it’s very good at telling us what to think about.

That agenda-setting power takes a different shape in the era of social media. Instead of a linear process from an editor’s desk through a reporter to the paper on your front porch, social media works with news media through a set of feedback loops. Readers make stories more visible by sharing them on social media (and help ensure invisibility by failing to share stories). Editors and writers respond to sharing as a signal of popularity and interest, and will often write more stories to capitalize on this interest. Readers may respond to stories by becoming authors, injecting their stories into the mix and competing with professional stories for attention and amplification.

Amplification has become a new form of exercising political power. In 2012, we watched Invisible Children use a carefully crafted campaign, built around a manipulative video and a strategy of sharing the video with online influencers. Within an few days, roughly half of American young people had seen the video, and US funding for the Ugandan military – the goal of the campaign – was being supported by powerful people in the US Congress and military. (That the organization’s director had a nervous breakdown, leading to the group’s implosion, was not a coincidence – Invisible Children managed to amplify an issue to a level of visibility where powerful backlash was inevitable.)

Amplification works within much smaller circles that those surrounding US foreign policy. By sharing content with small personal networks on social media, individuals signal the issues they see as most important and engage in a constant process of self-definition. In the process, they advocate for friends to pay attention to these issues as well. Essentially, social media provides an efficient mechanism for the two-step flow of communication, documented by Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz, to unfold online. We are less influenced by mass media than we are by opinion leaders, who share their opinions about mass media. Social media invites all of us to become opinion leaders, at least for our circles of friends, and makes the process entertaining, gamifying our role as influencers by rewarding us with up to the second numbers on how our tweets and posts have been liked and shared by our friends.

Social media can be a tool for connection and solidarity.

The pre-web internet of the 1980s and 1990s was organized around topics of interest, rather than offline friendships, as social networks like Facebook organize. Some of the most long-lasting communities that emerged from the Usenet era of the internet were communities of interest that connected people who had a hard time finding each other offline: young people questioning their sexuality, religious and ethnic minorities, people with esoteric or specialized interests. The spirit of the community of interest and identity continued through Scott Hefferman’s, which helped poodle owners or Bernie supporters in Des Moines find each other, and now surfaces again in Facebook Groups, semi-private spaces designed to allow people to connect with likeminded individuals in safe, restricted spaces.

Social critics, notably Robert Putnam, have worried that the internet is undermining our sense of community and lessening people’s abilities to engage in civic behavior. Another possibility is that we’re forming new bonds of solidarity based on shared interests than on shared geographies. I think of Jen Brea, whose academic career at Harvard was cut short by myalgic encephalomyelitis, who used the internet to build an online community of fellow disease sufferers, a powerful documentary film that premiered at Sundance, and a powerful campaign calling attention to the ways diseases that disproportionately affect women are systemically misdiagnosed. Brea’s disease makes it difficult for her to connect with her local, physical community, but social media has made it possible to build a powerful community of interest that is working on helping people live with their disease.

One of the major worries voiced about social media is the ways in which it can increase political polarization. Communities of solidarity can both exacerbate and combat that problem. We may end up more firmly rooted in our existing opinions, or we may create a new set of weak ties to people who we may disagree with in terms of traditional political categories, but with whom we share powerful bonds around shared interests, identities and struggles.

Social media can be a space for mobilization

The power of social media to raise money for candidates, recruit people to participate in marches and rallies, to organize boycotts of products or the overthrow of governments is one of the best-documented – and most debated – powers of social media. From Clay Shirky’s examination of group formation and mobilization in Here Comes Everybody to endless analyses of the power of Facebook and Twitter in mobilizing youth in Tahrir Square or Gezi Park, including Zeynep Tufekçi’s Twitter and Tear Gas, the power of social media to both recruit people to social movements and to organize actions offline has been well documented. It’s also been heartily critiqued, from Malcolm Gladwell, who believes that online connections can never be as powerful as real-world strong ties for leading people to protest, or by thinkers like Tufekçi, who readily admit that the ease of mobilizing people online is an Achille’s heel, teaching leaders like Erdogan to discount the importance of citizens protesting in the streets.

It’s worth noting that mobilization online does not have to lead to offline action to be effective. A wave of campaigns like Sleeping Giants, which has urged advertisers to pull support from Breitbart, or #metoo, where tens of thousands of women have demonstrated that sexual harassment is a pervasive condition, not just the product of a few Harvey Weinsteins, have connected primarily online action to real-world change. What’s increasingly clear is that online mobilization – like amplification – is simply a tool in the contemporary civic toolkit, alongsite more traditional forms of organizing.

Social media can be a space for deliberation and debate.

Perhaps no promise of social media has been more disappointing than hope that social media would provide the public forum function Schudson celebrated. Newspapers began experimenting with participatory media through open comments fora, and quickly discovered that online discourse was often mean, petty, superficial and worth ignoring. Moving debate from often anonymous comment sections onto real-name social networks like Facebook had less of a mediating effect that many hoped. While conversations less often devolve into insults and shouting, everyone who’s shared political news online has had the experience of a friend or family member ending an online friendship over controversial content. It’s likely that the increasing popularity of closed online spaces, like Facebook groups, has to do with the unwillingness of people to engage in civil deliberation and debate, and the hope that people can find affirmation and support for their views rather than experiencing conflict and tension.

Yet it is possible to create spaces for deliberation and debate within social media. Wael Ghonim was the organizer of the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page, one of the major groups that mobilized “Tahrir youth” to stand up to the Mubarak regime, leading to the most dramatic changes to come out of the Arab Spring. After the revolution, Ghonim was deeply involved with democratic organizing in Egypt. He became frustrated with Facebook, which was an excellent platform for rallying people and harnessing anger, but far less effective in enabling nuanced debate about political futures. Ghonim went on to build his own social network, Parlio, which focused on civility and respectful debate, featuring dialogs with intellectuals and political leaders rather than updates on what participants were eating for lunch or watching on TV. The network had difficulty scaling, but was acquired by Quora, the question-answering social network, which was attracted to Parlio’s work in building high-value conversations that went beyond questions and answers.

Parlio suggests that the dynamics of social networks as we understand them have to do with the choices made by their founders and governing team. Facebook and Twitter can be such unpleasant places because strong emotions lead to high engagement, and engagement sells ads. Engineer a different social network around different principles, and it’s possible that the deliberation and debate we might hope from a digital public sphere could happen within a platform.

Social media can be a tool for showing us a diversity of views and perspectives.

If the idea of social media as a space for deliberation and polite dialog doesn’t convince you that I’ve been replaced with a cyberutopian dopplegänger of myself, this assertion might. I wrote a book, Rewire, that argues that social media tends to reinforce homophily, the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together. Given the apparent track record of social media as a space where ethnonationalism and racism thrive, is it reasonable to hope for social media to operate as a tool for increasing diversity of views and exposure to alternative perspectives.

Yes, but not without conscious intervention to help social networks operate differently than they do now. Contemporary social networks have an enormous amount of potential diversity, but very little manifest diversity. In theory, you can connect with 2 billion people from virtually every country in the world on Facebook. In practice, you connect with a few hundred people you know offline, who tend to share your national origin, race, religion and politics. But a social network that focused explicitly on broadening your perspectives would have a tremendous foundation to build upon: networks like Facebook know a great deal about who you already pay attention to, and have a deep well of alternative content to draw from. Projects like FlipFeed from MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines and from my group at the MIT Media Lab explicitly re-engineer your social media feeds to encourage encounters with a more diverse set of perspectives. If a network like Twitter or Facebook concluded that increased diversity was a worthy metric to manage to, there’s dozens of ways to accomplish the goal, and rich questions to be solved in combining increased diversity with a user’s interests to accomplish serendipity, rather than increased randomness.

Schudson’s suggestion that news could promote representative democracy was intended as a challenge to news organizations to take their democratic responsibilities more seriously. I offer my seventh suggestion for social media in the same spirit.

Social media can be a model for democratically governed spaces.

Users in social networks like Twitter and Facebook have little control over how those networks are governed, despite the great value they collectively create for platform owners. This disparity has led Rebecca MacKinnon to call for platform owners to seek Consent of the Networked, and Trebor Scholz to call us to recognize participation in social networks as Digital Labor. But some platforms have done more than others to engage their communities in governance.

Reddit is the fourth most popular site on the US internet and sixth most popular site worldwide, as measured by Alexa Internet, and is a daily destination for at least 250 million users. The site is organized into thousands of “subreddits”, each managed by a team of uncompensated, volunteer moderators, who determine what content is allowable in each community. The result is a wildly diverse set of conversations, ranging from insightful conversations about science and politics in some communities, to ugly, racist, misogynistic, hateful speech in others. The difference in outcomes in those communities comes in large part to differences in governance and to the partipants each community attracts.

Some Reddit communities have begun working with scholars to examine scientifically how they could govern their communities more effectively. /r/science, a community of 18 million subscribers and over a thousand volunteer moderators, has worked with communications scholar Nathan Matias to experiment with ways of enforcing their rules to maximize positive discussions and throw out fewer rulebreakers. The ability to experiment with different rules in different parts of a site and to study what rulesets best enable what kinds of conversations could have benefits for supporters of participatory democracy offline as well as online.

It’s fair to point out that the social media platforms we use today don’t fulfill all these functions. Few have taken steps to increase the diversity of opinions users are exposed to, and though many have tried to encourage civil discourse, very few have succeeded. It’s likely that some of these goals are incompatible with current ad supported business models. Political polarization and name-calling may well generate more pageviews than diversity and civil deliberation.

Second, as Schudson observed about the possible functions for media, these democratic functions for social media may be mutually incompatible. It’s likely that the communities that favor solidarity and subgroup identity, or turn that identity into mobilization, aren’t the best ones to support efforts for diversity or for dialog. The ways in which different networks may be necessary to accomplish multiple democratic goals points to the fact that we may not need One Network to Rule Them All, so much as we may need a diversity of networks for different purposes. The place where I swap war stories about continuous glucose monitors with fellow type 1 diabetics may not be the place I argue politics – and it may be a massive mistake to collapse those communities and functions into the same platform

Finally, it’s also fair to note that there’s a dark side to every democratic function I’ve listed. The tools that allow marginalized people to report their news and influence media are the same ones that allow fake news to be injected into the media ecosystem. Amplification is a technique used by everyone from Black Lives Matter to neo-Nazis, as is mobilization, and the spaces for solidarity that allow Jen Brea to manage her disease allow “incels” to push each other towards violence. While I feel comfortable advocating for respectful dialog and diverse points of view, someone will see my advocacy as an attempt to push politically correct multiculturalism down their throat, or to silence the exclusive truth of their perspectives through dialog. The bad news is that making social media work better for democracy likely means making it work better for the Nazis as well. The good news is that there’s a lot more participatory democrats than there are Nazis.

My aim in putting forward seven things social media could do for democracy is two-fold. As we demand that Facebook, Twitter and others do better – and we should – we need to know what we’re asking for. I want Facebook to be more respectful of my personal information, more dedicated to helping me connect with my friends than marketing me to advertisers, but I also want them to be thinking about which of these democratic goals they hope to achieve. Second, I don’t believe we should have only one or two social media networks. My hope is a world where we could have dozens of interoperable social networks focused on different goals and purposes. When I’ve proposed publicly-funded social media networks, it’s not because I believe taxpayers should pay for a replacement for Facebook. It’s because I think we need networks that take seriously problems like deliberation and diversity, and I don’t yet see those projects emerging from the market.

In suggesting the roles news has within a democracy, Michael Schudson had the support of Thomas Jefferson, who declared that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”. There’s no guarantee that our founders would have embraced social media as a critical pillar of democracy – though I’ve made the case that Franklin, at least, would have found it very familiar. But if our response to the shortcomings of contemporary social media is to move beyond the idea that we should burn it all down, it’s critical that we ask what social media can do for democracy and demand that it play its part.

As I mentioned early in this essay, I’m unconvinced that I’ve identified the correct seven functions for social media in a democracy, or that there’s six or seven. And while I have the intuition that our democracies are better with social media than without them, I’m interested in all arguments, including the argument to burn it all down. I hope you’ll take advantage of participatory media as a space for dialog to offer your thoughts in the comments on this, or in your own writing elsewhere online. Thanks for reading and engaging.

by Ethan at May 30, 2018 03:20 PM

May 29, 2018

How Social Network Manipulation Tactics Are Impacting Amazon & Influencing Consumers
Narrative manipulation issues - such as manufactured consensus, brigading, harassment, information laundering, fake accounts, news voids, and more - are increasingly well-documented problems affecting the entire social ecosystem.This has had negative consequences for information integrity, and for trust. In this talk Renee DiResta (Director of Research at New Knowledge, and Head of Policy at nonprofit Data for Democracy) examines the ways that these same manipulative tactics are being deployed on Amazon, which is now the dominant product search engine and a battlefield for economically and ideologically motivated actors. For more info on this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 29, 2018 06:44 PM

May 23, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Natural experiment showing how “wide walls” can support engagement and learning

Seymour Papert is credited as saying that tools to support learning should have “high ceilings” and “low floors.” The phrase is meant to suggest that tools should allow learners to do complex and intellectually sophisticated things but should also be easy to begin using quickly. Mitchel Resnick extended the metaphor to argue that learning toolkits should also have “wide walls” in that they should appeal to diverse groups of learners and allow for a broad variety of creative outcomes. In a new paper, Sayamindu Dasgupta and I attempted to provide an empirical test of Resnick’s wide walls theory. Using a natural experiment in the Scratch online community, we found causal evidence that “widening walls” can, as Resnick suggested, increase both engagement and learning.

Over the last ten years, the “wide walls” design principle has been widely cited in the design of new systems. For example, Resnick and his collaborators relied heavily on the principle in the design of the Scratch programming language. Scratch allows young learners to produce not only games, but also interactive art, music videos, greetings card, stories, and much more. As part of that team, Sayamindu was guided by “wide walls” principle when he designed and implemented the Scratch cloud variables system in 2011-2012.

While designing the system, Sayamindu hoped to “widen walls” by supporting a broader range of ways to use variables and data structures in Scratch. Scratch cloud variables extend the affordances of the normal Scratch variable by adding persistence and shared-ness. A simple example of something possible with cloud variables, but not without them, is a global high-score leaderboard in a game (example code is below). After the system was launched, we saw many young Scratch users using the system to engage with data structures in new and incredibly creative ways.

cloud-variable-scriptExample of Scratch code that uses a cloud variable to keep track of high-scores among all players of a game.

Although these examples reflected powerful anecdotal evidence, we were also interested in using quantitative data to reflect the causal effect of the system. Understanding the causal effect of a new design in real world settings is a major challenge. To do so, we took advantage of a “natural experiment” and some clever techniques from econometrics to measure how learners’ behavior changed when they were given access to a wider design space.

Understanding the design of our study requires understanding a little bit about how access to the Scratch cloud variable system is granted. Although the system has been accessible to Scratch users since 2013, new Scratch users do not get access immediately. They are granted access only after a certain amount of time and activity on the website (the specific criteria are not public). Our “experiment” involved a sudden change in policy that altered the criteria for who gets access to the cloud variable feature. Through no act of their own, more than 14,000 users were given access to feature, literally overnight. We looked at these Scratch users immediately before and after the policy change to estimate the effect of access to the broader design space that cloud variables afforded.

We found that use of data-related features was, as predicted, increased by both access to and use of cloud variables. We also found that this increase was not only an effect of projects that use cloud variables themselves. In other words, learners with access to cloud variables—and especially those who had used it—were more likely to use “plain-old” data-structures in their projects as well.

The graph below visualizes the results of one of the statistical models in our paper and suggests that we would expect that 33% of projects by a prototypical “average” Scratch user would use data structures if the user in question had never used used cloud variables but that we would expect that 60% of projects by a similar user would if they had used the system.

Model-predicted probability that a project made by a prototypical Scratch user will contain data structures (w/o counting projects with cloud variables)

It is important to note that the estimated effective above is a “local average effect” among people who used the system because they were granted access by the sudden change in policy (this is a subtle but important point that we explain this in some depth in the paper). Although we urge care and skepticism in interpreting our numbers, we believe our results are encouraging evidence in support of the “wide walls” design principle.

Of course, our work is not without important limitations. Critically, we also found that rate of adoption of cloud variables was very low. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this from the data we observed, it has been suggested that widening walls may have a potential negative side-effect of making it harder for learners to imagine what the new creative possibilities might be in the absence of targeted support and scaffolding. Also important to remember is that our study measures “wide walls” in a specific way in a specific context and that it is hard to know how well our findings will generalize to other contexts and communities. We discuss these caveats, as well as our methods, models, and theoretical background in detail in our paper which now available for download as an open-access piece from the ACM digital library.

This blog post, and the open access paper that it describes, is a collaborative project with Sayamindu Dasgupta. Financial support came from the eScience Institute and the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. Quantitative analyses for this project were completed using the Hyak high performance computing cluster at the University of Washington.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at May 23, 2018 04:17 PM

May 17, 2018

Berkman Center front page
20 years of the Laws of Cyberspace


Berkman Klein event celebrates how Lawrence Lessig's groundbreaking paper provided structure to the Center's field of study


It’s been two decades since Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig published “The Laws Of Cyberspace,” which, in the words of Professor Jonathan Zittrain, “imposed some structure over the creative chaos of what maybe was a field that we’d call cyberlaw.”

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What if an architecture emerges that permits constant monitoring; an architecture that facilitates the constant tracking of behavior and movement. What if an architecture emerged that would costlessly collect data about individuals, about their behavior, about who they wanted to become. And what if the architecture could do that invisibly, without interfering with an individual’s daily life at all? … This architecture is the world that the net is becoming. This is the picture of control it is growing into. As in real space, we will have passports in cyberspace. As in real space, these passports can be used to track our behavior. But in cyberspace, unlike real space, this monitoring, this tracking, this control of behavior, will all be much less expensive. This control will occur in the background, effectively and invisibly. -Lawrence Lessig, "The Laws of Cyberspace," 1998

It’s been two decades since Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig published “The Laws Of Cyberspace,” which, in the words of Professor Jonathan Zittrain, “imposed some structure over the creative chaos of what maybe was a field that we’d call cyberlaw.” Lessig’s groundbreaking paper describes four types of constraints that together regulate behavior – law, social norms, the market, and architecture – and argues that due to its special architecture, cyberspace is different from “real” space and thus subject to new possibilities for control by governments and other centers of power. “The world we are entering is not a world where freedom is assured,” Lessig wrote in 1998, but instead, “has the potential to be the most fully, and extensively, regulated space in our history.”

On April 16, the Berkman Klein Center of Internet & Society hosted a special event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the publication of “The Laws of Cyberspace,” with Lessig, Harvard Law School Professors Ruth Okediji and Jonathan Zittrain, and Dr. Laura DeNardis of American University. The panelists reflected on the paper, and where the field of cyberlaw has taken us over the last two decades, and they considered how some of the concerns raised in 1998 might apply today.

“I was sitting on that bench outside the Lewis building,” recollected Okediji of the day 20 years ago when she first read the paper, “and I will never forget both my sense of sheer terror that we were launching something that we had no idea where it would lead us, and then this sense of skepticism: ‘Well, how does he know he’s right?’” She explained that “The Laws of Cyberspace” led to her own work thinking about internet governance, social interaction on the net and the law. “It’s been 20 years, and Larry was right,” she said.

Lessig told the audience that the paper came in part out of a feeling of frustration. He feared that many internet enthusiasts were taking for granted that the freedom the internet allowed in 1998 was the freedom it would always allow, and he wanted to make the point that the regulability of place is a function of its architecture and thus not guaranteed. Without deliberate interventions, the lack of regulation that so many cherished in the early days of the internet could slip away.

“The architecture of the internet as it originally was made it really hard to regulate, but you might imagine the technology evolving to persistently watch everything you’re doing and enable simple traceability,” he said. “All of these evolutions in the architecture increase the regulability of the space, and then we’d need to decide, ‘Do we like that? Do we want that?’”

Lessig explained that even in 1998, governments and private markets seemed to be interested in increasing regulability and the ability to track what people were doing for the purposes of commerce and control.

“Arrangements of technical architecture are arrangements of power,” explained DeNardis. “This often has nothing to do with governments whatsoever.” For example, the World Wide Web Consortium designs accessibility for disabled people into their protocols, she said, which is an example of how technical architecture is determining public interest issues. DeNardis said that often it’s hard for people without a technical background to be involved in decisions like these, but that there’s currently a surge of people from beyond the technical sphere showing interest in participating in the decisions that shape our experience online and affect issues like identity and privacy. However, she said, this increase in public participation coincides with the proliferation of proprietary standards coming out of closed organizations such as the Internet of Things and social media platforms.

Lessig added that as the space of innovation moves into “islands of innovation,” such as the large tech platforms like Google and Facebook, the generativity of innovations become contingent on each platform’s permission, creating the potential scenario where someone would choose not to create something for fear that the company would “pull the rug out.” This is an example of “how technical change and legal ownership work together to change the basic opportunity to innovate,” he said.

DeNardis made the point that while certain platforms might be islands in terms of interoperability, they are tied together in the backend by the third parties that collect and aggregate data about us. It’s important to look below the surface, she said. “That’s where a lot of the power is. The power to do things like censor LGBT people, the power to restrict people based on architecture-embedded intellectual property rights, and the power to monetize us through big data that’s aggregated with companies we’ve never even signed terms of service with.”

Okediji noted that there’s been little innovation in contract law when it comes to technology. “It’s not just that we’re missing the mark in the area of cyberspace. The regimes that surround cyberspace also have not received the attention they should,” she said, suggesting that the rules and norms around what makes a contract and the practice of “signing away all these rights with a click” might not be ideal.

“What troubles me quite significantly is that we have this 911 mentality when it comes to policy,” said Okediji. “Avoiding something in the future requires us to be thinking about it today, not tomorrow when the problem occurs.”  Rather than dealing with problems only as they come up, she said, we need to ask ourselves ‘What’s the vision for what cyberspace should look like 20 years from now?’”

This article originally appeared in Harvard Law Today.


by gweber at May 17, 2018 03:16 PM

Our time has come

For the first time since we launched ProjectVRM, we have a wave we can ride to a shore.

That wave is the GDPR: Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Here’s how it looks to Google Trends:

It crests just eight days from now, on May 25th.

To prep for the GDPR (and to avoid its potentially massive fines), organizations everywhere are working like crazy to get ready, especially in Europe. (Note: the GDPR protects the privacy of EU citizens, and applies worldwide.)

Thanks to the GDPR, there’s a stink on surveillance capitalism, and companies everywhere that once feasted on big data are now going on starvation diets.

Here’s one measure of that wave: my post “GDPR will pop the adtech bubble” got more than 50,000 after it went up during the weekend, when it also hit #1 on Hacker News and Techmeme. And this Hacker News comment thread about the piece is more than 30,000 words long. So far.

The GDPR dominates all conversations here at KuppingerCole‘s EIC conference in Munich where my keynote Tuesday was titled How Customers Will Lead Companies to GDPR Compliance and Beyond. (The video is up, alas behind a registration wall. I’ll see if we can fix that.)

Ten years ago at this same conference, KuppingerCole gaveEIC award ProjectVRM an award (there on the right) that was way ahead of its time.

Back then we really thought the world was ready for tools that would make individuals both independent and better able to engage—and that these tools that would prove a thesis: that free customers are more valuable than captive ones.

But then social media happened, and platforms grew so big and powerful that it was hard to keep imagining a world online where each of us are truly free.

But we did more than imagine. We worked on customertech that would vastly increase personal agency for each of us, and turn the marketplace into a Marvel-like universe in which all of us are enhanced:

In this liberated marketplace, we would be able to

  1. Make companies agree to our terms, rather than the other way around.
  2. Control our own self-sovereign identities, and manage all the ways we are known to the administrative systems of the world. This means we will be able to —
  3. Get rid of logins and passwords, so we are simply known to others we grace with that privilege. Which we can also withdraw.
  4. Change our email or our home address in the records of every company we deal with, in one move.
  5. Pay what we want, where we want, for whatever we want, in our own ways.
  6. Call for service or support in one simple and straightforward way of our own, rather than in as many ways as there are 800 numbers to call and punch numbers into a phone before we wait on hold while bad music plays.
  7. Express loyalty in our own ways, which are genuine rather than coerced.
  8. Have an Internet of MY Things, which each of us controls for ourselves, and in which every thing we own has its own cloud, which we control as well.
  9. Own and control all our health and fitness records, and how others use them.
  10. Help companies by generously sharing helpful facts about how we use their products and services — but in our own ways, through standard tools that work the same for every company we deal with.
  11. Have wallets of our own, rather than only those provided by platforms.
  12. Have shopping carts of our own, which we could take from store to store and site to site online, rather than ones provided only by the stores themselves.
  13. Have real relationships with companies, based on open standards and code, rather than relationships trapped inside corporate silos.

We’ve done a lot of work on most of those things. (Follow the links.) Now we need to work together to bring attention and interest to all our projects by getting behind what Customer Commons, our first and only spin-off, is doing over the next nine days.

First is a campaign to make an annual celebration of the GDPR, calling May 25th #Privmas.

As part of that (same link), launching a movement to take control of personal privacy online by blocking third party cookies. Hashtag #NoMore3rds. Instructions are here, for six browsers. (It’s easy. I’ve been doing it for weeks on all mine, to no ill effects.)

This is in addition to work following our Hack Day at MIT several weeks ago. Stay tuned for more on that.

Meanwhile, all hands on deck. We need more action than discussion here. Let’s finish getting started making VRM work for the world.

by Doc Searls at May 17, 2018 04:33 AM

May 15, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Shaping Consumption: How Social Network Manipulation Tactics Are Impacting Amazon and Influencing Consumers


featuring Renee DiResta


This talk examines the ways that these same manipulative tactics are being deployed on Amazon, which is now the dominant product search engine and a battlefield for economically and ideologically motivated actors.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 15 2018 12:00pm to May 15 2018 12:00pm
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Harvard Law School campus

Narrative manipulation issues - such as manufactured consensus, brigading, harassment, information laundering, fake accounts, news voids, and more - are increasingly well-documented problems affecting the entire social ecosystem. This has had negative consequences for information integrity, and for trust. This talk examines the ways that these same manipulative tactics are being deployed on Amazon, which is now the dominant product search engine and a battlefield for economically and ideologically motivated actors.

About Renee

Renee DiResta is the Director of Research at New Knowledge, and Head of Policy at nonprofit Data for Democracy. Renee investigates the spread of disinformation and manipulated narratives across social networks, and assists policymakers in understanding and responding to the problem. She has advised Congress, the State Department, and other academic, civic, and business organizations about understanding and responding to computational propaganda and information operations. In 2017, Renee was named a Presidential Leadership Scholar, and had the opportunity to continue her work with the support of the Presidents Bush, President Clinton, and the LBJ Foundation. In 2018, she received a Mozilla Foundation fellowship and affiliation with the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to work on their Media, Misinformation, and Trust project. She is a Founding Advisor to the Center for Humane Technology, and a Staff Associate at Columbia University Data Science Institute.

Previously, Renee was part of the founding team of venture-backed supply chain logistics technology platform Haven, where she ran business development and marketing, and a co-founder of Vaccinate California, a parent-led grassroots legislative advocacy group. Renee has also been an investor at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), focused on hardware and logistics startups, and an emerging markets derivatives trader at Jane Street Capital. Her work and writing have been featured in the New York Times, Politico, Slate, Wired, Fast Company, Inc., and the Economist. She is the author of the O’Reilly book “The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business, and Brand”, and lives on the web at and @noUpside.

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by candersen at May 15, 2018 05:15 PM

May 10, 2018

The Law and Ethics of Digital Piracy: Evidence from Harvard Law School Graduates
Harvard Law School is one of the top law schools in the world and educates the intellectual and financial elites. Lawyers are held to the highest professional and ethical standards. And yet, when it comes to digital piracy, they overwhelmingly perceive file sharing as an acceptable social practice – as long as individuals do not derive monetary benefits from it. So should digital files be considered a commons? In this talk, Dariusz and Jerome identify and discuss the social and economic contexts in which file sharing is considered more or less acceptable by law practitioners. In the process, they foster a conversation on the possible changes in regulation that would allow us to catch up with the established social norm. Learn more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 10, 2018 08:37 PM

Governance and Regulation in the land of Crypto-Securities (as told by CryptoKitties)
Founding members of the CryptoKitties team, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, discuss the unique governance, legal, and regulatory challenges of putting cats on the Ethereum blockchain. CryptoKitties is an early pioneer in the space, and, having navigated securities law early on in its release, will share unique insights on classifications. They also discuss some of the more ethical challenges they've been facing, and best practices for approach. Learn more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 10, 2018 08:33 PM

Berkman Center front page
Art that Imitates Art: Computational Creativity and Creative Contracting


Jessica Fjeld and Mason Kortz, Cyberlaw Clinicians at Harvard Law


Join us for our last Tuesday Luncheon of the academic year! Cyberlaw Clinicians Jess Fjeld and Mason Kortz for a discussion about copyright in AI-generated works, the need for a shared understanding of what is and isn’t up for grabs in a license, and how forward-thinking contracts can prevent AI developers and artists from having their rights decided by our (often notoriously backwards-looking) legal system.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 22 2018 12:00pm to May 22 2018 12:00pm
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
[NEW LOCATION] 23 Everett Street,
Second Floor Conference Room

RSVP required to attend in person
Event will be recorded and posted here soon

Complimenary Lunch Served

Computational creativity—a subdomain of artificial intelligence concerned with systems that replicate or assist human creative endeavors—has been the  subject of academic inquiry for decades. Now, with recent improvements in machine learning techniques and the rising popularity of all things AI, computational creativity is a medium for critically and commercially successful works of art. From a 2016 Rembrandt to Jukedeck’s instant music (or muzak?), AI-assisted and AI-driven works are a reality. This raises mind-bending questions about the nature of creativity, the relationship between the artist and the viewer, even the existence of free will. For many lawyers, it also raises a more immediate question: who owns all of this art?

Join Cyberlaw Clinicians Jess Fjeld and Mason Kortz for a discussion about copyright in AI-generated works, the need for a shared understanding of what is and isn’t up for grabs in a license, and how forward-thinking contracts can prevent AI developers and artists from having their rights decided by our (often notoriously backwards-looking) legal system.

About Jessica

Jessica Fjeld is a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic. She works in diverse areas including intellectual property, media and entertainment (particularly public media), freedom of expression, and law and policy relating to government and nonprofit entities. Before joining the Clinic, Jessica worked in Business & Legal Affairs for WGBH Educational Foundation, and as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP focused in corporate transactions. She received a JD from Columbia Law School, where she was a James Kent Scholar and Managing Editor of the Journal of Law and the Arts; an MFA in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts; and a BA from Columbia University.

About Mason

Mason Kortz is a clinical instructional fellow at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, part of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. His areas of interest include online speech and privacy and the use of data products (big or small) to advance social justice. Mason has worked as a data manager for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a legal fellow in the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and a clerk in the District of Massachusetts. He has a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA in Computer Science and Philosophy from Dartmouth College. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, reading, and game design.



by candersen at May 10, 2018 04:29 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Two Bens and a Mark: a talk at Ben Franklin Hall in Philadelphia

I’m speaking today in Ben Franklin Hall in Philadelphia for a conference of Media Impact Funders. And, at the request of the organizers, I’m cosplaying the great hustler himself. My talk builds on one I gave a couple of years ago at Data & Society, but veers in some different directions as I wonder what Franklin might have told an audience of folks with money and good intentions about how to fix some of the problems of our contemporary media environment.

The event is being livestreamed here, if you’d like to tune in.

This is a talk about two Benjamins and a Mark. The first one should be obvious to you. I’m a Franklin fan, and not only because people have observed a resemblance. (Personally, I don’t see it, but whatever.)

Actually, if you’re going to have a favorite founding father, Ben Franklin is not a bad choice. He wasn’t just an inventor, a scientist, a printer and a diplomat — he was a hustler. (As the scholar P. Diddy might have put it, he was all about the Benjamin.) Ben was a businessman, an entrepreneur, and he figured out that one of the best ways to have financial and political power in the Colonies was to control the means of communication. The job he held the longest was as postmaster, starting as postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 and finally getting fired from his position as postmaster general of the Colonies in 1774, when the British finally figured out that he was a revolutionary who could not be trusted.

(You’d think this might have tipped them off – because Ben had franking privileges he could send letters for free by writing Free – B. Franklin, as he did on this note to John Hancock. But more often, he wrote B. Free Franklin, a coded message to show his support for independence.)

But free and subversive letters weren’t the only privileges Ben got from the post office. He had ample opportunities to hand out patronage jobs to his friends. But his real genius was in seeing the synergies between the family business — printing — and the post. Early in his career as a printer, Franklin bumped into one of the major challenges to publishers in the Colonies — if the postmaster didn’t like what you were writing about, you didn’t get to send your paper out to your subscribers. Once Ben had control over the post, he instituted a policy that was both progressive and profitable. Any publisher could distribute his newspaper via the post for a small, predictable, fixed fee.

What resulted from this policy was the emergence of a public sphere in the United States that was very different from the one Habermas describes, born in the coffee houses of the european bourgeoise. It was a distributed public sphere of newspapers and letters, one that was uniquely well suited to the American experiment. For a nation that spanned the distance between Boston and Charleston, a virtual, asynchronous public sphere mediated by print made more sense that one that centered around meeting face to face.

Franklin died in 1790, but physician and revolutionary – and fellow Philadelphian – Benjamin Rush expanded on Franklin’s vision for a post office that would knit the nation together and provide a space for the political discussions necessary for a nation of self-governing citizens to rule themselves. In 1792, Rush authored The Post Office Act, which is one of the subtlest and most surprising pieces of 18th century legislation that you’ve never heard of.

The Post Office Act established the right of the government to control postal routes and gave citizens rights to privacy of their mail — which was deeply undermined by the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but hey, who’s counting. But what may be most important about the Post Office Act is that it set up a very powerful cross subsidy. Rather than charging based on weight and distance, as they had before Franklin’s reforms, the US postal system offered tiered service based on the purpose of the speech being exchanged. Exchanging private letters was very costly, while sending newspapers was shockingly cheap: it cost a small fraction of the cost of a private letter to send a newspaper. As a result, newspapers represented 95% of the weight of the mails and 15% of the revenue in 1832. This pricing disparity led to the wonderful phenomenon of cheapskates purchasing newspapers, underlining or pricking holes with a pin under selected words and sending encoded letters home for the price of a paper rather than a letter.

The low cost of mailing newspapers as well as the absence of stamp taxes or caution money, which made it incredibly prohibitively expensive to operate a press in England, allowed half of all American households to have a newspaper subscription in 1820, a rate that was orders of magnitude higher than in England or France. But the really crazy subsidy was the “exchange copy”. Newspapers could send copies to each other for free, with carriage costs paid by the post office. By 1840, The average newspaper received 4300 exchange copies a year — they were swimming in content, and thanks to extremely loose enforcement of copyright laws, a huge percentage of what appeared in the average newspaper was cut and pasted from other newspapers. This giant exchange of content was subsidized by high rates on those who used the posts for personal and commercial purposes.

This system worked really well, creating a postal service that was fiscally sustainable, and which aspired to universal service. By 1831, three quarters of US government civilian jobs were with the postal service. In an almost literal sense, the early US state was a postal service with a small representative government and a tiny military attached to it. But the postal system was huge because it needed to be — there were 8700 post offices by 1830, including over 400 in my home state of Massachusetts alone, which is saying something, as there are only 351 towns in Massachusetts.

I should note here that I don’t really know anything about early American history — I’m cribbing all of this from Paul Starr’s brilliant The Creation of the Media. I also recommend Winnifred Gallagher’s How the Post Office Created America, which continues to modern day and looks at how the post office advances technologies like aviation and, indeed, the internet.

But I teach these stories about the 18th century every year to my students because it helps explain the unique evolution of the public sphere in the US. Our founders built and regulated the postal system in such a way that its function as a sphere of public discourse was primary and its role as a tool for commerce and personal communication was secondary. They took on this massive undertaking explicitly because they believed that to have a self-governing nation, we needed not only representation in Congress, but a public sphere, a space for conversation about what the nation would and could be. And because the US was vast, and because the goal was to expand civic participation far beyond the urban bourgeois, it needed to be a distributed, participatory public sphere. To be clear, this was far than a universal public sphere – the founders saw this as a space for propertied white men – but the infrastructures of post and mail created powerful tools for abolitionists, for newspapers that helped free black men connect across vast distances, that helped carry the case for women’s suffrage.

As we look at the challenge we face today — understanding the influence of algorithms over the public sphere — it’s worth understanding what’s truly novel, and what’s actually got a deep historical basis. The notion of a private, commercial public sphere isn’t a new one. America’s early newspapers had an important civic function, but they were also loaded with advertising — 50–90% of the total content, in the late 18th century, which is why so many of them were called The Advertiser. What is new is our distaste for regulating commercial media. Whether through the subsidies I just described or through explicit mandates like the Fairness Doctrine, we’ve not historically been shy in insisting that the press take on civic functions. The anti-regulatory, corporate libertarian stance, built on the questionable assumptions that any press regulation is a violation of the first amendment and that any regulation of tech-centric industries will retard innovation, would likely have been surprising to our founders.

An increase in inclusivity of the public sphere isn’t new — in England, the press was open only to the wealthy and well-connected, while the situation was radically different in the colonies. And this explosion of media led to problems of information overload. Which means that gatekeeping isn’t new either — those newspapers that sorted through 4300 exchange copies a year to select and reprint content were engaged in curation and gatekeeping. Newspapers sought to give readers what an editor thought they wanted, much as social media algorithms promise to help us cope with the information explosion we face from our friends streams of baby photos. The processes editors have used to filter information were never transparent, hence the enthusiasm of the early 2000s for unfiltered media. What may be new is the pervasiveness of the gatekeeping that algorithms make possible, the invisibility of that filtering and the difficulty of choosing which filters you want shaping your conversation.

Ideological isolation isn’t new either. The press of the 1800s was fiercely opinionated and extremely partisan. In many ways, the Federalist and Republican parties emerged from networks of newspapers that shared ideologically consonant information — rather than a party press, the parties actually emerged from the press. But again, what’s novel now is the lack of transparency — when you read the New York Evening Post in 1801, you knew that Alexander Hamilton had founded it, and you knew it was a Federalist paper. Research by Christian Sandvig and Karrie Karahalios suggests that many users of Facebook don’t know that their friend feed is algorithmically curated, and don’t realize the way it may be shaped by the political leanings of their closest friends.

And finally, fake news certainly wasn’t new. It certainly wasn’t new to Ben Franklin – in fact, fake news reached an early peak in the run up to the English civil war in the 1650s, a half century before Franklin’s birth. You remember, of course, that the English civil war broke out when Charles I married a Catholic, decided to rule without convening parliament, which basically tried to starve him out by denying him money to fight a war with Scotland, leading Charles to arrest five members of the House of Commons and the country to split into warring factions of royalists and parliamentarians, with led to a series of civil wars which the parliamentarians eventually won, executing Charles on 1649 and leading to Oliver Cromwell’s ascent as Lord Protector of the Realm and eventually to the restoration of the monarchy in 1661 by Charles’s son, Charles II. You know all that, of course.

What you may not know is that one of the causes of the civil wars was that Charles, broke and profoundly focused on his own survival, basically could no longer control the press. 1642 – the year the war broke out – “More printed material was published in the year 1642 than in the entire preceding 165 years since William Caxton set up the first London printing press in 1476.” What resulted was a fury of “obnoxious and unlicensed” publications which included satire, complaint literature, lots of radical religious texts. But perhaps the most important publications were “newsbooks”, irregular proto-newspapers, whose content was essentially user-generated, poorly sourced, highly partisan and often shockingly inaccurate. You had two rival orbits of newsbooks, with the parliamentarians in London and the Royalists in Oxford. You had reports of military defeats, reports that the king was dead, all of which were more or less impossible to verify in an age of slow travel on bad roads, long before the telegraph. And you had conspiracy theory – especially anti-Catholic conspiracies – ruling the day. Catholics, of course, were a small minority and an easy target for racial and ethnic hatred, convenient scapegoats for all that was wrong with the kingdom.

Basically, fake news was a significant cause of the English civil war. That’s the bad news. The good news is that England found some ways to recover from the avalanche of fake news. Some are methods we probably wouldn’t endorse – there’s amazing stories of pamphleteers being pilloried and having their ears removed – and the biggest factor in combatting fake news was probably the Great Fire of 1661… which would be like solving Facebook with a California earthquake. But there was also the establishment of the Royal Society.

Michael Hunter’s “Establishing the New Science”, makes the case that the Society was established in part to heal the country, to create a body of knowledge that wasn’t designed to promote either the royalists or the parliamentarians. Writing about the Royal Society, Stephen Marche points out that their motto was – and still is – “Nullius in verba” – take no man’s word for it. Marche suggests that we inscribe this motto on all the world’s cellphones.

When I think of a Royal Society for our age, I don’t think of a central body that checks our facts and tells us what’s true and what’s not – that’s absolutely not what the Royal Society was. Instead, it was a group of thinkers who through experimentation and careful study sought to understand the world how it actually was. This is awfully self serving, but when I look for parallels today, I look towards academics who are trying to build the tools and conduct the studies so that it’s not only the researchers inside Facebook and Twitter who understand these companies and can help hold them responsible.

I mentioned that this talk was about two Bens – Franklin and Rush – and a Mark. Much as we understand the decisions made in the founding of our democracy in terms of archetypical figures – Washington the noble warrior, Franklin the hacker entrepreneur – we think of our contemporary moment through similar personifications. Mark Zuckerberg is the techno-utopian geek we don’t quite trust. He’s very smart, and seems to truly believe that what he’s doing will make the world a better place, but he’s either shockingly naive or profoundly deceptive, because nothing else explains how many times he’s screwed up and how surprised he seems to be every single time something utterly predictable goes wrong.

I feel like the Bens have a lesson or two for Mark. Franklin was an entrepreneur, an inventor. a technical genius and a hustler, much like Mark. He was also a civic visionary, founder of libraries and volunteer fire companies, much as Mark seems to see himself becoming. Franklin ran many successful businesses, including those based around his inventions, but he also published widely, and his work was subject to vigorous public debate in Paris and London. Indeed, while Franklin was made one of the very few non-English members of the Royal Society, his work on lightning rods was the subject of a great deal of controversy, which Franklin followed closely. (As it turns out, he was wrong – pointy lightning rods, which he favored, don’t work as well as blunt ones. But it took over 200 years to figure that out.)

I’d like to see Mark – and the other tech pioneers he’s representing in this talk – do a better job of engaging with their critics, with civil society, with academia, with everyone who sincerely wants them to succeed in making the world a better place and worries they are badly off the mark. I’d like to see Mark learn from Parlio, a brilliant experiment from Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, a social network build around rules that encourage polite, respectful and serious debate. Or from Mastodon, a decentralized social network that allows different nodes with different rulesets. Or even from Gobo, a project from my lab that lets users control aspects of their newsfeeds – how serious or funny it is, how diverse the political viewpoints are, whether you’d like all the men to shut up and let the women talk for a change.

But I also would like to see us learn from Benjamin Rush, who really brought to fruition Franklin’s vision of the public sphere of print, using the superpower of bureaucracy, regulation and government subsidy to build a public sphere that allowed the peculiar genius of American democracy to evolve. It’s not always enough for a single genius to envision the world – sometimes we need pressure from governments, from activists, from civil society to demand that we live up to aspirations of our tools. Sometimes the free market needs a hand from regulators who have a vision of how they want the world to be, a way that’s more consonant with our vision of how democracy works. With projects like Gobo, I’ve argued that we need many social networks, not just one, and that they can have different rulesets, different audiences and different purposes. I’d love for at least one of those networks to focus on helping us prepare to be citizens in a diverse and complicated world. That network probably needs public support, much as children’s television needs public support if we want it to work well.

So I leave you with a Franklin aphorism: “Well done is better than well said.” It’s well and good for folks like you and me to speculate about what social media is doing well and doing poorly. What we need is vastly more doing, more experiments, more attempts to build the worlds we want to see. I’m glad you’re hearing next from Eli Pariser, a friend who’s both a thinker and an experimenter. And I hope he and I can challenge you to make sure we move from saying to doing, from watching to experimenting, from worrying to making the world better. Thanks for listening.

by Ethan at May 10, 2018 03:03 PM

May 09, 2018

Berkman Center front page
GAiA releases its annual report highlighting its effort to increase access to medicines to the world’s neediest


Global Access in Action (GAiA) launched its annual report today highlighting the major progress made in 2017 to expand access to medicines to the world’s neediest.

Cambridge, May 8, 2018 - Global Access in Action (GAiA) launched its annual report today highlighting the major progress made in 2017 to expand access to medicines to the world’s neediest.

2017 marked a year of significant progress made by GAiA in its effort to improve access to medicines to the vulnerable populations. The annual report showcases major projects undertaken by GAiA, its active engagement with various local and global stakeholders as well as organizational expansion in terms of staffing in the year of 2017.

One of the major projects undertaken by GAiA in 2017 was the expansion of a pilot project that aims to develop a public health sensitive legal framework that allows for sustainability of low-cost medicine supply while providing legal protections that are necessary to incentivize innovations to pharmaceutical companies. The project started in 2016 in Namibia and further expanded to two other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi and Mozambique. The initiative also involved collaboration with Global Good to fight substandard and falsified (S&F) medicines in sub-Saharan Africa with the use of field detection technology- miniature spectrometer.

While access to medicines is an issue at stake, the problem of S&F medicines can exacerbate the existing access challenge. In the introductory letter of the annual report, GAiA’s Co-Directors, William Fisher and Quentin Palfrey stressed that, “Even those who have access are at risk of consuming counterfeit medicines in many countries that often lead to lethal consequences.” GAiA is envisioning and working to establish a quality assurance network among the countries involved in the pilot project to allow for data sharing on S&F medical products.

Along with the expansion of the pilot project, GAiA also published a green paper, “Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach” in the April edition of Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy exploring practical strategies initiated by pharmaceuticals companies to solve the access barriers in low- and middle- income countries.

Click here to read more about annual report.

About Global Access in Action
Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, seeks to expand access to lifesaving medicines and combat the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations. We accomplish this by conducting action-oriented research, supporting breakthrough initiatives, facilitating stakeholder dialogue, and providing policy advice to both public and private sector stakeholders. GAiA seeks to foster dialogue across traditional boundaries between government, industry, civil society, and academia, and to promote new, innovative solutions amongst these parties to create better outcomes.

by gweber at May 09, 2018 12:38 AM

May 08, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Governance and Regulation in the land of Crypto-Securities (as told by CryptoKitties)


featuring founding members, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih


Join founding members of the CryptoKitties team, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, as they discuss the unique governance, legal, and regulatory challenges of putting cats on the Ethereum blockchain.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 8 2018 12:00pm to May 8 2018 12:00pm
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Law School campus

Founding members of the CryptoKitties team, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, discuss the unique governance, legal, and regulatory challenges of putting cats on the Ethereum blockchain. CryptoKitties is an early pioneer in the space, and, having navigated securities law early on in its release, will share unique insights on classifications. They also discuss some of the more ethical challenges they've been facing, and best practices for approach.

Notes from the talk

Cryptokitties, an online game centered around owning and breeding one-of-a-kind digital cats, is one of the first games to be based on blockchain technology. In a recent discussion led by moderator SJ Klein, Cryptokitties founders, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, discussed their business model, as well its as attendant issues of privacy and regulation.

Cryptokitties is unique because of its game design. Cryptokitties represent a form of “digital collectibles,” or “cryptocollectibles” which are distinct from cryptocurrencies. Shirley explained that, “right now, we’ve got what no one else has, which is users. Everyone else has investors or speculators.” However, this uniqueness leads to confusion with regulation.

Regulators have been unsure of how to classify digital collectibles like Cryptokitties. In early conversations with the company, regulators attempted to classify them as securities, but Shih explained, a securities model does not fit the function of Cryptokitties. Shirley further explained that most regulators are just now becoming familiar with how ICOs work, so that was the dominant narrative with which regulators were familiar when they entered into discussion with Cryptokitties. As of now, within North America, Cryptokitties are not classified as securities.

In addition to regulation, there have been questions about privacy. Both Shirley and Shih emphasized that with increasing collection of data about everything people do, society will have to rethink what privacy means. Shirley drew from venture capitalist Albert Wenger, suggesting that rather than a vague notion of privacy, what people truly want is freedom of thought and freedom from persecution, and those principles should guide further conversations about privacy protections.

Looking towards the future, Shirley is focusing on the Cryptokitties users, explaining, “we just want to make the game bigger and better.” Shih added that, “from a digital collectibles point, we’re really just scratching the surface. We’re still figuring out what that means. Our belief is gaming is a great way to build public knowledge and get consumers comfortable with this technology.”

Notes by Donica O'Malley

About Axiom Zen

Axiom Zen was named first among Canada’s Most Innovative Companies by Canadian Business. They pride themselves in diversity of talent: a team of ~80 creatives includes published authors, over a dozen former founders, diversity from 20+ national origins, and decades of collective experience at startups and Fortune 500s alike.

Axiom Zen is the team behind ZenHub, the world’s leading collaboration solution for technical teams using GitHub; and the developer of Timeline, named Apple’s Best App of the month, Editor’s Choice in 10 countries, and Best New App in 88 countries. Axiom Zen is the creator of Toby, recognized as Top Chrome Extension of the year by both Google and Product Hunt, and the parent company of Hammer & Tusk, a leader in the world of immersive experiences (AR/VR). Axiom Zen's work has been featured in TIME Magazine, The New York Times, and Fast Company.

About Dieter

Dieter is a partner and chief technical architect at Axiom Zen, an award-winning venture studio specialized in applying emerging technologies to unsolved business problems. Products developed by Axiom Zen have touched 200+ million consumers and are used by the world’s leading companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, and NASA, as well as by eminent academic institutions and government organizations.

Dieter is an original participant in the world of cryptocurrency, mining his first Bitcoin on his home computer in 2010. Since then he has served as a technical architect on a series of advanced blockchain projects including as co-founder of CryptoKitties, the most successful collectibles game on the blockchain. Dieter is also the founding CTO of Cornerstone, a real estate transaction platform being developed in partnership with Ross McCredie, former founder and CEO of Sotheby’s Canada, and Dave Carson, former COO at Sotheby’s Global.

About Alex

Alex Shih is General Partner and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Axiom Zen, an award-winning venture studio specialized in applying emerging technologies to unsolved business problems, including the team behind CryptoKitties, the world’s most successful blockchain application.

Prior to joining Axiom, Alex executed investment strategies across the capital structure in both public and private markets in roles with KKR and Highfields Capital. Alex holds a B.S. / M.S. in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University.


Download original audio or video from this event

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events series podcast

by candersen at May 08, 2018 05:22 PM

Your Guide to BKC@RightsCon 2018


Going to RightsCon in Toronto? Connect with members of the Berkman Klein community, and learn about their research

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Going to RightsCon in Toronto? Connect with members of the Berkman Klein community, and learn about their research


Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Is This a New Face of Info War? "Patriotic" Trolling and Disinformation -- the Iran Edition
Simin Kargar
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 10:30-11:45pm – 205A
Online harassment and smear campaigns are increasingly applied as a form of information control to curb free speech and exert power in cyberspace. Targeted harassment of dissidents on social media appears as the most recent form of strategic communication, where particular messages are crafted by state-affiliated actors to manipulate public opinion. This session addresses the circumstances under which these coordinated efforts are likely to emerge, the latest practices of Iran to extend its ideological arms across social media, and the ultimate goals that they pursue.

Young, Safe, and Free: Respecting Children's Online Privacy and Freedom of Expression
Patrick Geary,  Sarah Jacobstain, Jasmina Byrne, Fred Carter, Sandra Cortesi, Ariel Fox, Patrik Hiselius, Natasha Jackson
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 12:00-1:15pm – 206C
This is chance to talk about practical steps that companies and public authorities can take to protect and empower children online. Companies and Data Protection Authorities will share how they consider risks to children's privacy online while still providing children with full, open and enriching online experiences. Civil society organizations will highlight the work that remains to be done, and academic researchers will ground this in evidence about how children exercise their rights to privacy and freedom of expression online. 

Combatting Shutdowns with COST: A Data Driven Policy Tool for Internet Freedom
Arzu Gerbullayeva, Nighat Dad, Isik Mater, Peter Micek, Nicolas Seidler, Alp Toker
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 12:00-1:15pm – 202B
Internet shutdowns cost globally about $2.4 billion USD and cause untold harm to trade, industry, and communities that rely on the free flow of information for growth and prosperity. In this session, we will discuss and develop a concrete roadmap for the introduction of economic arguments into the day-to-day campaigning and policy-work using COST, a new data-driven policy tool that will automate the task of economic estimation. Our international panel brings together experts from legal, technology and policy backgrounds and invites active participation from the audience to better understand how a next-generation policy tool can impact internet freedom and digital rights community. How can we make policy work more visible to under-represented communities? How can we build advocacy tools that empower the general public?

Online Criticism, Falsified Court Orders & the Role of Intermediaries: Coping With Takedown Requests of Questionable Legitimacy
Adam Holland, Daphne Keller, Eugene Volokh
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 204B
Lumen is a research project devoted to collecting and analyzing requests to remove online materials. Recently, researchers and advocates, including Professor Eugene Volokh, have uncovered an alarming pattern of falsified court orders used to seek and often achieve the removal of online material. The Lumen team will open the workshop with a brief introduction to Lumen and to the site’s API. Once the attendees are familiar with Lumen, they will facilitate a discussion about the implications of falsified court orders within the takedown request landscape.

New Tools for Visualizing Communities, Projects, and Resources: Inspiring Engagement and Exploration
Sandra CortesiJustin Clark
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 200A
In this tech demo, we will present interactive tools that have been developed at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to visualizing communities, projects, and resources. 

Documenting ICT Companies' Impact on Civic Freedom & Human Rights Defenders
Rebecca Mackinnon, Jessica Anderson, Ellery Biddle, Peter Micek, Ana Zbona
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 200A
When internet, mobile, and telecommunications companies fail to put in place human rights-respecting commitments and policies, their practices may directly or indirectly result in the violation of users’ freedom of expression and privacy rights. These violations in turn intensify the global attack by governments and populist demagogues, and non-state actors, including companies, against human rights defenders and journalists. Highlighting this human impact of company policies and practices is crucial in making the case for why companies must institute—and policymakers should support—policies that foster and reinforce respect for internet users’ rights. Although stories of such violations sometimes make the news, until recently there were no systematic efforts to gather evidence in a way that helps all stakeholders better understand the scale and impact of the abuses and attacks.

Language Access and Humanitarian Response: A Matter of Human Rights
An Xiao Mina, Olly Farshi, Natasha Jimenez
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 205C
The world is seeing an unprecedented scale of migration due to conflict and climate-related natural disasters. People from different linguistic backgrounds are coming together in a number of humanitarian contexts, such as rapid response work and support in refugee sites. Without the ability to communicate effectively, both aid workers and beneficiaries stand to lose significantly. In this panel, members of Meedan and Outside will share their experiences in the field in dialogue with others who are looking at issues of language barriers in humanitarian work.


Teaching AI to Explain Itself
Suchana Seth
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 205A
A growing body of artificial intelligence algorithms are NOT black-box - they can explain their decision mechanisms. What do "good" explanations look like in the world of accountable algorithms - from the perspective of users, consumers, and regulators of AI? How do we set realistic expectations about explainable or interpretable machine learning algorithms?

Scrutinizing the Little Brothers: Corporate Surveillance and the Roles of the Citizen, Consumer, and Company
Katie McInnis, David O’Brien, Christopher Parsons
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 203B
In this session, we will bring together panelists from Toronto University’s Citizen Lab, the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, and Consumer Reports, each of whom are addressing issues of corporate surveillance and accountability. Panelists will share overviews of their organizations’ goals, challenges their programs face, and changes they hope their projects will effectuate. We will present three different perspectives: the consumer, the citizen, and the company. All three projects are responses to pervasive corporate surveillance and aim to lessen the imbalance between corporations and individuals.


Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Data Driven Decency: New, Collaborative Experiments to Diminish Online Hate and Harassment Online
Rob Faris, Susan Benesch
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 9:00-10:15am – 205C
In this session we will report on - and brainstorm new possibilities for - experimental methods for diminishing harassment and hate speech online. The speakers will describe the first academic research experiment with an Internet platform that committed in advance to sharing data and allowing publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Participants will be asked to share best practices from their own experiences with collaborative online research. In closing, the moderator will ask for ideas to continue research experiments that aim to diminish hate speech online. Afterward, we will circulate the newly generated ideas, and invite continued collaboration for their implementation.

Secure UX Principles: Let's Build a Checklist of User Security and Good Design
a panel moderated by An Xiao Mina
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 10:30-11:45 – 201C
We present a research and design checklist for people who are developing technologies to help communities at risk. This checklist is designed to promote human rights-centered design by streamlining the process of user research. We believe this resource will aid builders of tools, platforms, and services with limited resources and time. 

Beyond the Hype Cycle: What Does Blockchain Mean for Human Rights Online?
Chris Doten, Yasodara Cordova, Rachel Pipan
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 11:00-11:25– Village Main Stage
The panelists hope to foster a conversation on who is or would like to be using blockchain for human rights and democratic advocacy - and how. In particular, the discussion will include: Information on current pilot projects and lessons learned from the Blockchain Trust Accelerator; Open sharing of other blockchain initiatives, in whatever phase; Discussion of the ways in which blockchain can - and won’t - be useful to the RightsCon community; Ways the Blockchain Trust Accelerator or academic institutions like the Harvard Berkman Center may be able to assist social good-focused organizations.

Mind the Shark: Informational Flow in Natural Disasters, from Fake News to Rumors
An Xiao Mina, Olly Farshi, Natasha Jimenez, Antonio Martinez
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 12:00-1:15pm – 200B
While misinformation has risen to the top of the agenda in journalism, its impact on humanitarian workers has yet to be fully discussed. Misinformation during natural and human disasters is a consistent theme, causing confusion and leading people to miss access to critical resources - whether that’s the frequent false threat of sharks during hurricanes or confusion about where ICE is detaining people fleeing a disaster site. What are the challenges and opportunities in this space? How can we design solutions that address this? This conversation will look at specific cases of address misinformation after disasters, when rapid responders may not even have access to the most current accurate information.

Cross-Harm Collaboration: Building Strategic Responses to Risks and Harms Online
Nikki Bourassa, Chloe Colliver, Henry Tuck
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 1:20-2:20pm – 206D
Recent revelations linking the use of disinformation, fake accounts, and hate speech to sway elections, coupled with the rise of harm from cyber-bullying, coordinated online harassment, misogyny and child sexual exploitation, demonstrate the range of threats facing internet users. Tech companies are asked to tackle these issues, but often by a huge range of uncoordinated voices. In this workshop, ISD and the Berkman Klein Center will discuss the inefficiency of current silos in online harm prevention work, foster cross-sector collaboration on research and projects, and create actionable suggestions for ways to make collaboration successful and useful for CSOs and technology companies.

Translation Project: A Translation Suite for Humanitarian Organizations
An Xiao Mina, Olly Farshi, and Natasha Jimenez,
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 200A
As the global population of forcibly displaced people reaches record levels, the language barrier between refugees and those seeking to help them remains among the first challenges in serving their immediate relief needs. The Translation Project seeks to prototype and develop open-source technology and a community of translators to address this pressing need in a way that is scalable and sustainable.

Do Bots Have Rights? Do They Threaten Rights?
Dinah PoKempner, Camille Francois, David Kaye
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 203A
This session aims to uncover the potential of social botnets to both advance and to harm rights, and asks whether this type of speech should be protected by human rights law, when, and to what degree. Social bots are being developed for good purposes—such as language learning, practicing social skills, providing guidance, information or entertainment—as well as purposes that pose serious risk to rights, such as trolling, spreading ‘fake news,’ or improperly influencing elections. Artificial intelligence applications are attempting to make social bots more ‘human’ by the day.

Machine Learning, Human Understanding: AI and Access to Knowledge
Jan Gerlach, Maria Paz Canales, Rob Faris, Malavika Jayaram, Caroline Sinders
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 206B

This session explores the relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and access to knowledge. The panel examines AI’s potential for expanding human participation in the creation of knowledge online. Panelists will discuss the principle of “AI plus human review”, which can empower online communities to collaborate and make decisions collectively, e.g. on Wikipedia. The session will also discuss the effects that machine learning and automatic decision-making about content on internet platforms have on people’s ability to find, engage with, collect, contribute to, and share knowledge.

Reframed! Media Analysis for Digital Inclusion
Belen Febres-Cordero, Nikki Bourassa, Natalie Gyenes
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 200B
Access to media analysis tools has generally been limited to academic researchers and industry communications or media professionals. In the absence of tools accessible to community groups or advocacy organizations, there are limited opportunities for more marginalized or vulnerable communities to gather evidence-driven knowledge regarding how their own issues are covered in the media. Global Voices, in partnership with Media Cloud, is piloting an initiative that democratizes access to media analysis tools, bringing them to vulnerable populations so that they can understand, and possibly direct, their own representation in the media.

Internet of (Stranger) Things: Privacy Threats of the Next Generation of Vulnerable Devices
Rob Pegoraro, Ann Cavoukian, Bruce Schneier, Amie Stepanovich, Beau Woods
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 206C
As more internet-connected products become available on the markets globally, so, too, are the number of reports of data breach or security flaws of such devices skyrocketing. This session will showcase short presentations about the dangers of an insecure internet of things, highlight existing legal frameworks that do (or don't) provide adequate protections, and discuss proposed solutions, including rules for security and privacy by default, to ensure people and their data are protected.

When Repressive Authorities #KeepItOn
Arthur Gwagwa, Arzu Gerbullayeva, Grace Mutung'u, Alp Toker, Maria Xynou
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 204A
The session will debunk the notion that the internet needs to be "controlled" to be safe. This session therefore seeks to develop a stronger analytical and conceptual understanding of the strategies being pursued by the set of leading authoritarian powers in Africa and globally in controlling information online; to assess the nature of the challenge this presents to the Internet Freedom Community; and to determine what opportunities may be available to digital rights activists within these countries—and to those outside seeking to support them—that have not been adequately explored or exploited. It will also equip advocacy strategists with solid facts to lead the global fight against censorship and disruption of networks, information, and communication by presenting an opportunity to discuss other emerging trends in surveillance and censorship, such as new forms of surveillance by police officers and intelligence services such as social media intelligence (SOCMINT) and offer recommendations. 

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Countering Media Manipulation: Linking Research and Action
Robert Faris, Joan Donovan, An Xiao Mina, Claire Wardle
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 9:00-10:15am – 206D
Although widespread propaganda and disinformation is not a new phenomenon, its occurrence within today’s online networked environments has wrought new challenges for democracy. A mix of legitimate political entities and malicious actors have exploited and leveraged vulnerabilities in platform architectures to surreptitiously insert false news narratives into unwitting media environments. Worse, these campaigns are often coordinated to take advantage of platform algorithms and muddy the difference between genuine and false. Plentiful opportunities remain to foster greater collaboration within the research community and between researchers, journalists, and media watchdogs. In this workshop, we will identify and put into place better mechanisms to coordinate research efforts and to link researchers with practitioners.

Internet Monitor: Real-time Internet censorship research and visualization tools demo
Casey Tilton, Justin Clark
Details: Friday, May 18th, 2018, 2:30-3:45pm
Interested in learning more about the technology behind real-time Internet censorship research and contributing to the Internet Monitor project? In this session, researchers from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University will demo two tools developed by the Internet Monitor project. First up is the Internet Monitor Dashboard, a tool that compiles and visualizes data about Internet activity and content controls in over 100 countries. Next up is AccessCheck, a tool that lets users test in real time the availability of websites in countries around the world. Test results include a thumbs up/down notification indicating whether the website is available, as well as a screenshot and more detailed data on status codes, timings, and any errors encountered. In addition to testing single urls, AccessCheck allows users to test the availability of lists of country-specific websites that have been created by experts in the censorship practices of governments around the world

Have We Entered a Brave New World of Global Content Takedown Orders?
Vidushi Marada, Jennifer Daskal, Daphne Keller, Vivek Krishnamurthy, Stefania Milan, Jonathon Penney
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 206C
From the Supreme Court of Canada's Equustek decision to Germany's "NetzDG" law, concerns of a "race to the bottom" are mounting as every country seeks to enforce its national preferences on the global internet. Now that the brave new world of global content regulation is here, what do we do about it? When is it legitimate for a government to enforce its preferences on a global rather than a national basis? And where do private forms of governance, like algorithmic curation on and by social media platforms, fit into this picture? Join our panel of experts from North America, Europe, and South Asia for an update on some of the biggest recent developments in this area and a wide-ranging discussion of how all those who care about the open, global internet should best respond to these trends.

What Keeps a Security Professional Up at Night?
Camille Francois, Jen Ellis, Nathaniel Gleicher, Karl Holmqvist, Beau Woods
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 206B
The panel will open with brief introductions from panelists working on security at global companies. The first part of the discussion will then focus on the threat of state actors and their changing manifestations (through proxies, obfuscating their capabilities, etc.), as well as public policy and diplomatic options to respond to those threats. The second half of the conversation will then focus specifically on the implications of these changes, giving the audience an understanding of how stakes, restraint, and unintended consequences have and will continue to play out, as well as the challenges in applying existing and developing international norms and laws. Finally, all speakers will be asked to identify the most concerning emerging threats and trends that they see and to forecast how we must adapt to overcome them. An open round of questions with the audience will close the session.

Artificial Intelligence: Governance and Inclusion
Eduardo Magrani, Chinmayi Arun, Sandra Cortesi, Christian Djefal, Malavika Jayaram
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 201B
Even though the developing world will be directly affected by the deployment of AI technologies and services, policy debates about AI have been dominated by organizations and actors in the Global North.. As a follow up to the international event “Artificial Intelligence and Inclusion” held in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, this discussion will focus on development of AI, and its impact on inclusion in areas such as health and wellbeing, education, low-resource communities, public safety, employment, among others. The goal of this roundtable is to bring these debates to the RightsCon community, enlarging the conversation and deepening the understanding of AI inclusion challenges, governance and opportunities, to identify and discuss areas for research, education and action.

Something missing? Let us know at if you're a current member of the BKC community and your session isn't listed here!

by djones at May 08, 2018 03:11 PM

May 03, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Climbing Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is an enormous glaciated volcano in Washington state. It’s  4,392 meters tall (14,410 ft) and extraordinary prominent. The mountain is 87 km (54m) away from Seattle. On clear days, it dominates the skyline.

Drumheller Fountain and Mt. Rainier on the University of Washington CampusDrumheller Fountain and Mt. Rainier on the University of Washington Campus (Photo by Frank Fujimoto)

Rainier’s presence has shaped the layout and structure of Seattle. Important roads are built to line up with it. The buildings on the University of Washington’s campus, where I work, are laid out to frame it along the central promenade. People in Seattle typically refer to Rainier simply as “the mountain.”  It is common to here Seattlites ask “is the mountain out?”

Having grown up in Seattle, I have an deep emotional connection to the mountain that’s difficult to explain to people who aren’t from here. I’ve seen Rainier thousands of times and every single time it takes my breath away. Every single day when I bike to work, I stop along UW’s “Rainier Vista” and look back to see if the mountain is out. If it is, I always—even if I’m running late for a meeting—stop for a moment to look at it. When I lived elsewhere and would fly to visit Seattle, seeing Rainier above the clouds from the plane was the moment that I felt like I was home.

Given this connection, I’ve always been interested in climbing Mt. Rainier.  Doing so typically takes at least a couple days and is difficult. About half of people who attempt typically fail to reach the top. For me, climbing rainier required an enormous amount of training and gear because, until recently, I had no experience with mountaineering. I’m not particularly interested in climbing mountains in general. I am interested in Rainier.

On Tuesday, Mika and I made our first climbing attempt and we both successfully made it to the summit. Due to the -15°C (5°F) temperatures and 88kph (55mph) winds at the top, I couldn’t get a picture at the top. But I feel like I’ve built a deeper connection with an old friend.

Other than the picture from UW campus, photos were all from my climb and taken by (in order): Jennifer Marie, Jonathan Neubauer, Mika Matsuzaki, Jonathan Neubauer, Jonathan Neubauer, Mika Matsuzaki, and Jake Holthaus.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at May 03, 2018 11:59 PM

John Palfrey
Celebration of AfLatAm@50 at Phillips Academy

John Palfrey

Opening Remarks – Celebration of AfLatAm@50

April, 2018

Good evening.  Let me please begin by thanking Emily Ndiokho, Class of 2018, for her leadership tonight in MC-ing this event and also for her leadership throughout her time at Andover.  As president of AfLatAm this year — in fact, the 50th president of AfLatAm — as a CAMD scholar, and all-around wonderful leader on campus, Emily deserves all of our thanks and praise.  Let’s please have a round of applause for Emily.

I am delighted to welcome all of you — Andover students, alumni, current and former faculty and staff, and honored guests — as we launch the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the AfLatAm program. More than 300 alumni have traveled to campus to celebrate this milestone and—as importantly—to engage in discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion at our school and in our society at large.  I am particularly excited to hear tonight’s keynote address by Hafsat Abiola, class of 1992 and one of the very best speakers I’ve ever heard.  We are all in for a treat tonight!

I’d like also to take a brief moment to thank our colleagues who have worked so hard on this event.  There are too many to name everyone, but in particular I’d like to acknowledge LaShawn Springer, CAMD dean; Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness; and Jenny Savino from the Office of Alumni Engagement.  Their teams and colleagues have worked so hard to put this event together.  I’d like to acknowledge also the support of our current and former Trustees, who stand behind and make possible all we do here at Andover, five of whom are here tonight: Gary Lee, class of 1974 and Allison Picoctt, class of 1988, who are current board members, and three former board members: Chris Auguste, class of ’76; George Smith, class of ’83, and Rejji Hayes ’93.  Thanks to each of these trustees here tonight.

In its 240th year, Andover is animated by many of the same ideals that were set forth by the Phillips family in the 18th century.  Among those ideals, we take very seriously the charge that the school would be “ever equally open to Youth (of requisite qualifications) from Every Quarter.”

Of course, when our founders codified these words in the Constitution of Phillips Academy in 1778, the ideal was far from our aspiration for today’s modern school.  We don’t know exactly how Samuel Phillips and his co-founders truly defined “every quarter,” but they almost certainly meant white boys from local families.  What we do know is that they likely envisioned a school that would admit sons of the working classes, not just the wealthy – they described it as a “public free school” and the very first class of students included a boy who traveled from Jamaica.

Though our founders’ vision of the quarters from which youth might come to Andover would fall far short of what we embrace today, I believe that the real genius of those few words written down hundreds of years ago is their inherent challenge: that we should be “ever equally open.” This requires each new generation to strive to find students from every conceivable background as we seek to educate the future leaders who will change our world for good.

Andover is a place—a vibrant, living community. But it is also an idea. And in both spheres—that of the real and that of the ideal—it is imperfect, always changing, always seeking truth.

Fifty years ago, steeped in social movements that had impacted our country and our campus for decades, the Af-Lat-Am program emerged as both a marker of change and a beacon of hope to lead us further toward a greater inclusiveness. Those student and faculty pioneers strove for a greater understanding of the experience of African Americans and LatinX students, and a greater appreciation of how much more complete Andover could be when we continually strive to be “ever EQUALLY open to Youth from EVERY Quarter.”

Andover’s Need Blind Admission Policy, now in its 11th year, is one cornerstone of this commitment. Need-blind admission stands out as Andover’s single most important financial priority. Currently,

  • Nearly half of our students today receive financial aid.
  • Andover has awarded $22 million in scholarships in this year

We are extremely proud to be the only school of our kind that is need blind.  No other school can claim a financial aid program as comprehensive as ours. And it is the modern path by which we ensure access for all. These are important steps and we should be proud and grateful for the many people who have generously made it possible.

Yet access alone is not enough. Diversity alone is not enough.  These commitments are necessary, but they are not sufficient.

A few years ago, we embraced at Andover a strategic plan that called for a renewed focus not just on diversity but on equity and inclusion.

To lead our work in this area, Linda Carter Griffith – LCG to our students and families – began a new leadership role—the first position of its kind for independent schools—as Assistant Head of School for Equity and Inclusion (her title has since expanded to incorporate wellness).  Linda’s work focuses on supporting all members of the Andover community so they can achieve their full potential.  She brings the experience of a devoted teacher and seasoned administrator to this senior position at our school.

Why is LCG’s role and work so crucial?

From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Staten Island to Charlottesville, our country continues to struggle to come to grips with the enduring presence and legacy of white supremacy.  From every vantage point, we must all look anew at the history and structures of our institutions and the degree to which we have an extraordinary amount of work to do.  That includes at Andover.

Each year, Andover welcomes more than 1,100 students to campus with as many distinct experiences and points of view.  Emily and her fellow students come from nearly every state and 45 countries.

In a world marked by global unrest and political discord, we rely on the principles of equity and inclusion to guide our thinking and actions. Linda’s leadership has been incredibly important to our community.  Through partnership with the Community and Multicultural Development Office, student groups, and other faculty across campus, we’ve devoted ourselves as a community to probing matters of ideology, gender, identity, citizenship, and race.  Guest speakers have challenged us on politics and policy; students have joined the #NeverAgain movement advocating for tighter gun control, #MeToo to advocate for gender equality and an end to gender-based violence, and a host of social justice activities.

We can’t and we don’t shy away from those issues that challenge us to hear—and better understand—one another.  I truly believe that this is how we will grow and learn as a community.

Our commitment to equity and inclusion is fundamentally about keeping our promise to every student who comes here. It is our goal to ensure that everyone is valued equally and has an equal chance to thrive at Phillips Academy and beyond. I couldn’t be more excited about the young people at Andover today, nor more pleased with the strength of our faculty. Even as we remain deeply grounded in our founding values of 1778, in 2018 we are learning and growing as an institution in ways that directly benefit every student.

Where does this lead us? Guided by our core values, Andover will continue to thrive and struggle and lean into tough issues — issues on which members of our community are bound to disagree. And I hope that each of you will play a pivotal role in this.

This reunion, AFLATAM@50, is very much a celebration of our past—of student leaders who pressed us forward, of faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to address inequity—but it also is a commitment to the future and to the necessary, difficult, and extraordinarily important work that must still be done.  I look forward to continuing on this important journey with all of you, with our faculty and our staff and our students.  Thank you.

by jgpalfrey at May 03, 2018 07:12 PM

Justin Reich
Playing Games in Teacher Education: How Do Preservice Teachers Respond to Game-Based Learning.
Undergraduates at West Virginia University take on the role of school designers to better understand fundamental ideas in education and school design.

by Justin Reich at May 03, 2018 05:45 PM

May 01, 2018

Berkman Center front page
The Law and Ethics of Digital Piracy: Evidence from Harvard Law School Graduates


Featuring Dariusz Jemielniak and Jérôme Hergueux


When do Harvard law students perceive digital file sharing (and piracy) as fine?

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 1 2018 12:00pm to May 1 2018 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Law School campus

Harvard Law School is one of the top law schools in the world and educates the intellectual and financial elites. Lawyers are held to the highest professional and ethical standards. And yet, when it comes to digital piracy, they overwhelmingly perceive file sharing as an acceptable social practice – as long as individuals do not derive monetary benefits from it. So should digital files be considered a commons? In this talk, Dariusz and Jerome identify and discuss the social and economic contexts in which file sharing is considered more or less acceptable by law practitioners. In the process, they foster a conversation on the possible changes in regulation that would allow us to catch up with the established social norm.

About Dariusz

Dariusz Jemielniak is a Wikipedian, Full Professor of Management at Kozminski University, and an entrepreneur (having established the largest online dictionary in Poland,, among others). 

Dariusz currently serves on Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. In his academic life, he studies open collaboration movement (in 2014 he published "Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia" with Stanford University Press), media files sharing practices (among lawyers and free knowledge activists), as well as political memes' communities. 

He had visiting appointments at Cornell University (2004-2005), Harvard (2007, 2011-2012), and University of California, Berkeley (2008), where he studied software engineers' workplace culture.

About Jérôme

Jerome is an Assistant Research Professor at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), a Fellow at the Center for Law and Economics at ETH Zurich, and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. From 2011 to 2014, Jerome spent three years as a Research Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center, where he did most of his Ph.D. work.

Jerome is a behavioral economist operating at the boundaries between psychology, economics and computer science. In his research, he typically couples experimental methods with the analysis of big data to uncover how psychological and cognitive traits shape our behavior over the Internet, with a particular focus on online cooperation, peer production and decision making. He is strongly involved with Professor Yochai Benkler in the Cooperation project. He is also involved with the Mindsport Research Network, which he helped launch together with Professor Charles Nesson.

Jerome completed a Ph.D. in Economics at Sciences Po and the University of Strasbourg. He holds Master’s degrees in both International Economics and International Affairs from Sciences Po, and a B.A. in Economics & Finance from the University of Strasbourg.

Jerome originates from the French region of Alsace. He has lived in France, Egypt, the U.S., Jordan and Switzerland. Jerome speaks French, English and Arabic and is heavily interested in public policy and international affairs.

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by candersen at May 01, 2018 05:29 PM

April 29, 2018

Ethan Zuckerman
Because America’s Family Leave Policy Sucks, Too.

When my friends and colleagues began working on the first Make the Breast Pump Not Suck hackathon in 2014 (, they were focused on the machine itself. The breast pump has evolved very little from its hospital origins, and it’s widely hated as loud, painful, hard to clean, ugly and awkward. The hackathon they organized did amazing work to design better breast pumps, but it also revealed a larger problem: It’s not just the breast pump that sucks – America’s family leave policy sucks, too.

The breast pump often becomes such a problem because mothers don’t have paid family leave and some need to get back to work immediately after giving birth. This puts parents in impossible positions – they want to do what’s right for their baby, but everything in American society is stacked to prevent them from caring for their child.

When the hackathon team reloaded and started working on the 2018 hackathon, we added a policy summit, focused on questions of paid family leave policy, a two-day discussion focused on issues of equitable design of policy and practical strategies for winning paid leave at federal, state or company by company levels.

What’s remarkable to me as a newcomer to this movement is the coherence of the ask. The panelists we heard from today were unified on what family leave should include:

  • At least 12 weeks of paid leave
  • Robust coverage – at least 2/3rds of salary, up to $4000 a month
  • Universality – the benefit applies to everyone in the business, with no carve out for small employers. The same benefits apply to freelancers and self-employed people
  • Portable, so people in the gig economy can take the benefit from one job to another
  • Comprehensive – Family leave includes not just parental leave, but govers a wide range of issues. We need to care not just for new babies, but for aging parents or sick children
  • Secure against retaliation – we need to overcome the danger that someone loses employment for taking family leave

There’s also widespread support for the idea that family medical leave needs to happen at the federal level, if only because we know that many states won’t opt to offer the benefit, and those states are ones whose citizens need this support the most. The differences are around tactics. Vicki Shabo of National Partnership for Women and Families is seeking support for the FAMILY act, Co-sponsored by Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLaura. 32 bipartisan senators are now on board, as are 154 House members. The bill accomplishes most of the goals stated above and is funded through a small payroll tax on employees and employers (0.4%, split between the employer and employee) and administered through a new federal agency.

Sherry Leiwant of Better Balance pointed out that states are often the laboratories for policy experimentation where new ideas get worked through. She sees potential to build family leave around temporary disability insurance, which was instituted through payroll taxes in some states in the 1940s and 50s, but excluded pregnancy and childbirth until the late 1970s. But while TDIs give states a framework they could use to implement family leave, they aren’t universal, usually cutting out agricultural workers, seasonal workers and part time workers.

Some of the most exciting moves towards family leave policies have come from businesses. Erik Rettig of Small Business Majority points out that 85% of his member companies support paid family leave. Small businesses tend to be like families, he explains – they don’t want to lose employees that they have personal relationships with and have spent time training. But he notes that small businesses, individually, have little political power. As advocates, we should be targeting chambers of commerce, business leagues and other groups that can influence at scale.

Brianna Cayo Cotter of PL+US and Girshriela “Gigi” Green, OUR Walmart had the most powerful story about making change at scale through influencing corporations. Gigi explains that she and other Walmart associates began pushing the company for reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers as early as 2011. When she and colleagues learned that salaried managers were receiving 10 weeks paid maternity leave, and hourly associates were receiving none, she and colleagues started a petition campaign that ended up with more than 100,000 signatures.

Petitioning the company directly didn’t work. Gigi and Our Walmart, with support from PL+US, spoke in front of the Walmart shareholder meeting, addressing an audience of 15,000, demanding that the company implement fairer policies. Shortly after, Walmart agreed to offer equivalent benefits to full time associates, though they insisted that they made this decision without outside pressure.

The scale of this change is hard to overstate: Walmart is the largest employer of women in the world. The victory is far from complete. This isn’t true family leave, but maternity leave, and it doesn’t address part time workers who work full-time hours. But it’s an amazing step forward. Gigi chokes up talking about it, telling us that she’d worked with women whose children had died on Walmart properties because they had inadequate leave and support.

Brianna from PL+US believes that shareholders can be the most powerful voice for change within corporations. She’s begun working with a firm that invests hundreds of billions of dollars, and is using their leverage to push for change within the companies they support. “They’ve become very powerful activist voices, pushing for these rights within the companies they invest in.”

Today’s conversation pivots to tactics to reach these common goals. What campaigns, pressures and strategies will bring family leave to more Americans. Erik argues that we work best when we understand what businesses need, and how our asks are consistent with business priorities and processes. Brianna reminds us that businesses care about customers, investors and their board – pressure them and you can win. Gigi puts it simply: “I know what didn’t work. Going to them politely and asking for what was right didn’t work. It wasn’t until we petitioned and sooke out that change really happened.”

More to come, on the new strategies emerging from the policy summit, and new inventions from the hackathon.

by Ethan at April 29, 2018 02:21 PM

April 27, 2018

Force of Nature: Celebrating 20 Years of the Laws of Cyberspace
Professor Lawrence Lessig is joined by Professors Ruth L. Okediji, Laura DeNardis, and Jonathan Zittrain to reflect on the 20th anniversary of Professor Lessig's foundational paper "The Laws of Cyberspace," and how the landscape of Internet law has changed in the two decades since. Learn more about this event:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 27, 2018 08:32 PM

Honoring All Expertise: Social Responsibility and Ethics in Tech
Social scientists, computer scientists, historians, lawyers, political scientists, architects, and philosophers share some short glimpses into how we can better incorporate social responsibility and ethics into the development of new technology. More info about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 27, 2018 08:20 PM

Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code
Blockchain technology is ultimately a dual-edge technology that can be used to either support or supplant the law. This talk looks at the impact of blockchain technology of a variety of fields (finance, contracts, organizations, etc.), and the benefits and drawbacks of blockchain-based systems. Learn more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 27, 2018 08:11 PM

Justin Reich
From Pockets of Innovation to Systems of Inspired Learning
To move beyond pockets of innovation requires a shared language of pedagogy and a community dedicated to improvement.

by Beth Holland at April 27, 2018 05:07 PM

April 24, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Encryption Policy And Its International Impacts: A Framework For Understanding Extraterritorial Ripple Effects


This paper explores the potential international ripple effects that can occur following changes to domestic encryption policies.

Publication Date

2 May 2018

Thumbnail Image: 


This paper explores the potential international ripple effects that can occur following changes to domestic encryption policies.  Whether these changes take the form of a single coherent national policy or a collection of independent (or even conflicting) policies, the impacts can be unexpected and wide-ranging.  This paper offers a conceptual model for how the ripple effects from national encryption policies might propagate beyond national borders. And we provide a set of factors that can help policy-makers anticipate some of the most likely ripple effects of proposed encryption policies.

Read Ryan Budish's post from May 2, 2018, about the paper on Lawfare.

Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at April 24, 2018 03:10 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill
Hyak on Hyak

I recently fulfilled a yearslong dream of launching a job on Hyak* on Hyak.

Hyak on Hyak


* Hyak is the University of Washington’s supercomputer which my research group uses for most of our computation-intensive research.
M/V Hyak is a Super-class ferry operated by the Washington State Ferry System.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 24, 2018 01:58 AM

Mako Hate

I recently discovered a prolific and sustained community of meme-makers on Tumblr dedicated to expressing their strong dislike for “Mako.”

Two tags with examples are #mako hate and #anti mako but there are many others.

I’ve also discovered Tumblrs entirely dedicated to the topic!

For example, Let’s Roast Mako describes itself “A place to beat up Mako. In peace. It’s an inspiration to everyone!

The second is the Fuck Mako Blog which describes itself with series of tag-lines including “Mako can fuck right off and we’re really not sorry about that,” “Welcome aboard the SS Fuck-Mako;” and “Because Mako is unnecessary.” Sub-pages of the site include:

I’ll admit I’m a little disquieted.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 24, 2018 01:57 AM

Is English Wikipedia’s ‘rise and decline’ typical?

This graph shows the number of people contributing to Wikipedia over time:

The Rise and Decline of Wikipedia The number of active Wikipedia contributors exploded, suddenly stalled, and then began gradually declining. (Figure taken from Halfaker et al. 2013)

The figure comes from “The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration System,” a well-known 2013 paper that argued that Wikipedia’s transition from rapid growth to slow decline in 2007 was driven by an increase in quality control systems. Although many people have treated the paper’s finding as representative of broader patterns in online communities, Wikipedia is a very unusual community in many respects. Do other online communities follow Wikipedia’s pattern of rise and decline? Does increased use of quality control systems coincide with community decline elsewhere?

In a paper that my student Nathan TeBlunthuis is presenting Thursday morning at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI),  a group of us have replicated and extended the 2013 paper’s analysis in 769 other large wikis. We find that the dynamics observed in Wikipedia are a strikingly good description of the average Wikia wiki. They appear to reoccur again and again in many communities.

The original “Rise and Decline” paper (we’ll abbreviate it “RAD”) was written by Aaron Halfaker, R. Stuart Geiger, Jonathan T. Morgan, and John Riedl. They analyzed data from English Wikipedia and found that Wikipedia’s transition from rise to decline was accompanied by increasing rates of newcomer rejection as well as the growth of bots and algorithmic quality control tools. They also showed that newcomers whose contributions were rejected were less likely to continue editing and that community policies and norms became more difficult to change over time, especially for newer editors.

Our paper, just published in the CHI 2018 proceedings, replicates most of RAD’s analysis on a dataset of 769 of the  largest wikis from Wikia that were active between 2002 to 2010.  We find that RAD’s findings generalize to this large and diverse sample of communities.

We can walk you through some of the key findings. First, the growth trajectory of the average wiki in our sample is similar to that of English Wikipedia. As shown in the figure below, an initial period of growth stabilizes and leads to decline several years later.

Rise and Decline on Wikia The average Wikia wikia also experience a period of growth followed by stabilization and decline (from TeBlunthuis, Shaw, and Hill 2018).

We also found that newcomers on Wikia wikis were reverted more and continued editing less. As on Wikipedia, the two processes were related. Similar to RAD, we also found that newer editors were more likely to have their contributions to the “project namespace” (where policy pages are located) undone as wikis got older. Indeed, the specific estimates from our statistical models are very similar to RAD’s for most of these findings!

There were some parts of the RAD analysis that we couldn’t reproduce in our context. For example, there are not enough bots or algorithmic editing tools in Wikia to support statistical claims about their effects on newcomers.

At the same time, we were able to do some things that the RAD authors could not.  Most importantly, our findings discount some Wikipedia-specific explanations for a rise and decline. For example, English Wikipedia’s decline coincided with the rise of Facebook, smartphones, and other social media platforms. In theory, any of these factors could have caused the decline. Because the wikis in our sample experienced rises and declines at similar points in their life-cycle but at different points in time, the rise and decline findings we report seem unlikely to be caused by underlying temporal trends.

The big communities we study seem to have consistent “life cycles” where stabilization and/or decay follows an initial period of growth. The fact that the same kinds of patterns happen on English Wikipedia and other online groups implies a more general set of social dynamics at work that we do not think existing research (including ours) explains in a satisfying way. What drives the rise and decline of communities more generally? Our findings make it clear that this is a big, important question that deserves more attention.

We hope you’ll read the paper and get in touch by commenting on this post or emailing Nate if you’d like to learn or talk more. The paper is available online and has been published under an open access license. If you really want to get into the weeds of the analysis, we will soon publish all the data and code necessary to reproduce our work in a repository on the Harvard Dataverse.

Nate TeBlunthuis will be presenting the project this week at CHI in Montréal on Thursday April 26 at 9am in room 517D.  For those of you not familiar with CHI, it is the top venue for Human-Computer Interaction. All CHI submissions go through double-blind peer review and the papers that make it into the proceedings are considered published (same as journal articles in most other scientific fields). Please feel free to cite our paper and send it around to your friends!

This blog post, and the open access paper that it describes, is a collaborative project with Aaron Shaw, that was led by Nate TeBlunthuis. A version of this blog post was originally posted on the Community Data Science Collective blog. Financial support came from the US National Science Foundation (grants IIS-1617129,  IIS-1617468, and GRFP-2016220885 ), Northwestern University, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and the University of Washington. This project was completed using the Hyak high performance computing cluster at the University of Washington.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 24, 2018 01:54 AM

April 23, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code


A book talk featuring author, Primavera De Filippi


Blockchain technology is ultimately a dual-edge technology that can be used to either support or supplant the law. This talk looks at the impact of blockchain technology of a variety of fields (finance, contracts, organizations, etc.), and the benefits and drawbacks of blockchain-based systems.

Event Date

Apr 23 2018 4:00pm to Apr 23 2018 4:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Monday, April 23, 2018 at 4:00 pm
Harvard Law School campus

This talk will look at how blockchain technology is a dual-edge technology that could be used to either support or supplant the law. After describing the impact of this new technology on a variety of fields (including payments, contracts, communication systems, organizations and the internet of things), it will examine how blockchain technology can be framed as a new form of regulatory technology, while at the same time enabling the creation of new autonomous systems which are harder to regulate. The talk will conclude with an overview of the various ways in which blockchain-based systems can be regulated, and what are the dangers of doing so.

About Primavera De Filipi

Primavera obtained a Master degree in Business & Administration from the Bocconi University of Milan, and a Master degree in Intellectual Property Law at the Queen Mary University of London. She holds a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence, where she explored the legal challenges of copyright law in the digital environment, with special attention to the mechanisms of private ordering (Digital Rights Management systems, Creative Commons licenses, etc). During these years, she spent two months at the University of Buffalo in New York and one year as a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. Primavera is now a permanent researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), where she founded the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research on Internet & Society ( Primavera was a former fellow and current faculty associate at the Berkmain-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Visit here for additional bio information for Primavera including her online activities, research interests, recent publications, and online videos.


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by candersen at April 23, 2018 09:38 PM

April 19, 2018

Justin Reich
Five Answers About EdTech Experiments: A Response to Benjamin Herold
An argument for why it is a good thing when education technology providers test new ideas with small randomized controlled trials.

by Justin Reich at April 19, 2018 09:19 PM

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Former Clinic Students Present Harvard Law Review Student Notes

Of the four students whose work is represented in the Harvard Law Review’s April 2018 “Developments in the Law” issue, three are former students in the Cyberlaw Clinic and all have taken classes with our staff. The issue of the Law Review focuses on challenges posed by the vast amount of personal information that individuals now store digitally and with third party technology companies. The student authors, Audrey Adu-Appiah, Chloe Goodwin, Vinitra Rangan, and Ariel Teshuva, presented on their work to a packed room on Thursday, April 18, at the Law School, followed by a conversation moderated by Chris Bavitz.

Adu-Appiah presented on her Note, “The Video Privacy Protection Act as a Model Intellectual Privacy Statute,” arguing that while the VPPA is often seen as niche legislation and has been somewhat compromised by recent amendments, as originally passed it could be a strong model for a more general intellectual privacy regime which would apply to written materials as well as audio-visual ones.

Summarizing her Note, “Cooperation or Resistance? The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance,” Goodwin argued that the two narratives that dominate discussion of tech companies’ involvement in government surveillance — that they are either doormats or bulwarks, depending on your perspective — is a vast oversimplification. Goodwin calls for new regulation that will align these companies’ incentives with those of their users.

Teshuva presented on a related topic to Goodwin’s, but focused particularly on the issue of standing to challenge legitimate surveillance of foreign individuals that sweeps up the communication of people located in the U.S., which would otherwise require a warrant from law enforcement. Her Note, “Standing, Surveillance, and Technology Companies,” points out that the present state of the law makes it extremely difficult for individuals to gain standing to challenge these practices, and vests the protection of their interests largely in the tech companies whose platforms they are using.

In what she described as a “hard right turn,” Rangan looked at how trusts and estates law is being impacted by these same developments. In her Note “What is an ‘Electronic Will’?” she argued that state legislatures need to parse the various types of electronic wills in order to instruct probate courts on how to properly evaluate this evidence of testators’ intent.

Following the students’ presentations, Professor Bavitz led an engaging discussion, highlighting issues such as the role of individuals in effecting change that drew connections between all four of the Notes presented.

by jessicafjeld at April 19, 2018 06:04 PM

April 18, 2018

GDPR Hack Day at MIT

Our challenge in the near term is to make the GDPR work for us “data subjects” as well as for the “data processors” and “data controllers” of the world—and to start making it work before the GDPR’s “sunrise” on May 25th. That’s when the EU can start laying fines—big ones—on those data processors and controllers, but not on us mere subjects. After all, we’re the ones the GDPR protects.

Ah, but we can also bring some relief to those processors and controllers, by automating, in a way, our own consent to good behavior on their part, using a consent cookie of our own baking. That’s what we started working on at IIW on April 5th. Here’s the whiteboard:

Here are the session notes. And we’ll continue at a GDPR Hack Day, next Thursday, April 26th, at MIT. Read more about and sign up here. You don’t need to be a hacker to participate.

by Doc Searls at April 18, 2018 04:50 PM

April 17, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Honoring All Expertise: Social Responsibility and Ethics in Tech


featuring Kathy Pham & Friends from the Berkman Klein Community


Learn more about social responsibility and ethics in tech from cross functional perspectives featuring social scientists, computer scientists, historians, lawyers, political scientists, architects, and philosophers.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Apr 17 2018 12:00pm to Apr 17 2018 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Law School

Notes from the Talk

The Ethical Tech Working Group at the Berkman Klein Center, led by BKC Fellow Kathy Pham, meets weekly to discuss the ethics of technology and to bridge the gap between industry and academia. In their recent series of lightning talks, eleven members of the group share insights into issues related to technology, ethics, and social responsibilities, highlighting the value that each of their own disciplinary trainings bring to the table.

Luke Stark begins by explaining that ethics codes, “serve functions beyond deterring behavior.” They also establish moral authorities. Regarding technological innovation, Stark asks, “how do we as a community tackle these new devices and the issues they bring, within our own shared ethos?” Salome Viljoen suggests that, contrary to popular belief, regulation does not necessarily halt innovation—it can also lead to safer innovation. Regulation may offer a more “holistic means of ‘doing’ technology.” For rapidly growing industries in the past, regulation has proven valuable. The EPA, for example, has had some success in mediating the consequences of polluting industries.

A pervading theme across the talks is the need for social and computer sciences to collaborate. Mary Gray explains that both are interested in studying social life online; they deeply need each other. Social sciences offer “great tools for exploring society and human condition,” helping researchers build theories. Computer science offers “great tools for mapping and measuring networks/nodes/edges,” allowing researchers to test theories. Ben Green likewise speaks to the disciplinary split between so-called “hard” and “soft” sciences, based on his experience as a computer science graduate student, who wanted to understand social and policy work. At first, he was discouraged from doing so. However, by reaching out across the university, he found people, like those in the ethical tech working group, who shared an interest in collaborating across perspectives.

Jenn Halen’s research is influenced by similar experiences. She argues that people who make decisions about technology, like policy makers and tech procurement officers, can decide to use technology in a way that “gets them closer to the world they want to live in.” However, they need to make these decisions within a “complex puzzle of human interactions,” and social science is a valuable tool for analyzing these interactions. An example of this research is Boaz Sender and Dean Jansen’s reflection on ethics in the open source movement. The original goal was, “to deeply empower individuals and put them in control of their computing destiny.” However, the social benefits of the movement have not been evenly distributed, and overall, corporations and their shareholders are the largest beneficiaries—not individuals. The continuing shift from personal computing to the cloud has exacerbated this inequality. Joanne Cheung wants more of this community-focused research on technology, rather than research that focuses solely on human-computer interaction. Cheung turns to Greek mythology for inspiration, suggesting that we shift from a view of ourselves as “users” to “muses.”

Several speakers also make calls for interventions within higher education. Doaa Abu-Elyounes argues that to bridge the legal, professional, and technological worlds, law school courses must be modified to include technological considerations, such as analyzing self-driving cars in a unit on transportation law. Jenny Korn recommends mandating critical race theory coursework within computer science curricula. She asks, “how might ethics related to considerations of race help us to improve society, not repeat injustices?” Korn reminds the audience that without active discussions of race and building of spaces for people of color, we reproduce whiteness in both the academy and technological industries. Like Korn, Kathy Pham wants engineers and technologists to learn humanistic and social science perspectives that will influence their decision-making processes. Pham began the working group because she wanted to think more deeply about the social responsibility of technologists. Based on her career experiences at a big tech corporation and in the federal government, she saw that decisions are often made without users in mind—this inevitably causes problems. The interdisciplinary conversations like those happening in the Ethical Tech Working Group seek to intervene in the current state of technological ethics and offer solutions derived from diverse perspectives.

Notes by Donica O'Malley

Event Description

The Ethical Tech Working Group at the Berkman Klein Center will host a series of lighting talks exploring social responsibility and ethics in tech. Speakers will draw on their perspectives as computer scientists, critical race and gender scholars, designers, ethnographers, historians, lawyers, political scientists, and philosophers to share reflections on what it will take to build more publicly-accountable technologies and how to bridge diverse expertise from across industry and academia to get there. Please join us and add your voice to the discussion.  

Doaa Abu-Elyounes

Doaa Abu-Elyounes is a second year S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, where she researches the effect of artificial intelligence algorithms on the criminal justice system. Before starting her S.J.D, Doaa Completed an LL.M at Harvard Law School. Doaa is originally from Israel, where she completed an LL.B and LL.M in the University of Haifa with a special focus on law and technology. After law school, Doaa worked at the Supreme Court of Israel as a law clerk; and at the Israeli Ministry of Justice as an advisor to the Director General of the Ministry. During her time in the Berkman Center, Doaa will focus on algorithmic accountability and governance of AI in criminal justice. In particular, she will analyze the impact of risk assessment tools involving AI on the criminal justice system.

Joanne Cheung

Joanne K. Cheung is an artist and designer. Her work focuses on how people, buildings, and media contribute to democratic governance. She enjoys thinking across scales and collaborating across differences. 

She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College, M.F.A. from Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, and is currently pursuing her M.Arch at Harvard Graduate School of Design. 

Mary Gray

Mary L. Gray is a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research. She chairs the Microsoft Research Lab Ethics Advisory Board. Mary maintains a faculty position in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering with affiliations in Anthropology, Gender Studies and the Media School, at Indiana University. Mary’s research looks at how technology access, social conditions, and everyday uses of media transform people’s lives.  Her most recent book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America, looked at how youth in the rural United States use media to negotiate their identities, local belonging, and connections to broader, political communities. Mary’s current project combines ethnography, interviews, and survey data with large-scale platform transaction data to understand the impact of automation on the future of work and workers’ lives. Mary’s research has been covered in the popular press, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian. She served on the American Anthropological Association’s Executive Board and chaired its 113th Annual Meeting. Mary currently sits on the Executive Board of Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R). In 2017, Mary joined Stanford University’s “One-Hundred-Year Study on Artificial Intelligence” (AI100), looking at the future of AI and its policy implications.

Ben Green

Ben Green studies the intersections of data science with law, policy, and social science, with a focus on cities. He is a PhD Candidate in Applied Math at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Ben's research focuses on the uses of data and technology by city governments; the intersection of data, algorithms, and social justice; and the impacts of algorithms and technology on society. He is currently writing a book about the politics and sociology of smart cities. Outside of academica, Ben has extensive experience working in municipal government. He recently spent a year working for the Citywide Analytics Team in the City of Boston, where he developed analytics to improve public safety operations and civic engagement strategies for the City’s new open data program. Ben previously worked as a Fellow at the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, and partnered with the City of Memphis, TN using machine learning to identify blighted homes. He also worked for a year at the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking. Ben completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematics & Physics at Yale College. His graduate work has been funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the Herbert Winokur SEAS Graduate Fellowship.

Jenn Halen

Jenn Halen is a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center. She works on research and community activities for the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative. Jenn is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota and a former National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Her research broadly focuses on the ways that new and emerging technologies influence, and are influenced by, politics. She will study the complex social and political implications of advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, especially as it relates to issues of governance. She also works on issues of cyber security, human rights, and social justice. Jenn enjoys ballet, almost everything geek-related, and good vegan food.  She makes excellent vegan mac and cheese, and she will probably tell you about it.

Jenny Korn

Jenny Korn is an activist of color for social justice and scholar of race, gender, and media with academic training in communication, sociology, theater, public policy, and gender studies from Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She will examine identity and representation through online and in-person discourses, focusing on how popular concepts of race and gender are influenced by digital interactions, political protest, and institutional kyriarchy.

Kathy Pham

Kathy Pham is a computer scientist, cancer patient sidekick, product manager, and leader with a love for developing products, operations, hacking bureaucracy, building and and leading teams, all things data, healthcare, and weaving public service and advocacy into all aspects of  life.  As a 2017-2018 fellow at the Berkman Klein Center, Kathy will explore artificial intelligence, and the ethics and social impact responsibility of engineers when writing code and shipping products. Most recently, Kathy was a founding product and engineering member of the of the United States Digital Service, a tech startup in government at the White House, where she led and contributed to public services across the Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, Talent, and Precision Medicine. She sits on the advisory boards of the Anita Borg Institute local, and the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” initiative. Previously, Kathy held a variety of roles in product, engineering, and data science at Google, IBM, and Harris Healthcare Solutions. In the non-work world, Kathy founded the Cancer Sidekick Foundation to spread Leukemia knowledge and build a cancer community, started Google's First Internal Business Intelligence Summit, founded Atlanta United For Sight, placed first at the Imagine Cup competition (basically the World Cup but for tech geeks) representing the United States with a news Sentiment Analysis engine, spoke at the White House State of STEM 2015, and invited as of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Guest at the 2015 State of the Union address. She has also been spotted at the gaming finals for the After Hours Gaming League for StarCraft II, speaking at tech conferences, and hosting food themed Formula 1 Racing hangouts. Kathy holds a Bachelors and Masters of Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, and from Supelec in Metz, France.

Luke Stark

Luke Stark is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College, and studies the intersections of digital media and behavioral science. Luke’s work at the Berkman Klein Center will explore the ways in which psychological techniques are incorporated into social media platforms, mobile apps, and artificial intelligence (AI) systems — and how these behavioral technologies affect human privacy, emotional expression, and digital labor. His scholarship highlights the asymmetries of power, access and justice that are emerging as these systems are deployed in the world, and the social and political challenges that technologists, policymakers, and the wider public will face as a result. Luke holds a PhD from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and an Honours BA and MA from the University of Toronto; he has been a Fellow of the NYU School of Law’s Information Law Institute (ILI), and an inaugural Fellow with the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Technology, Society, and Policy (CTSP). He tweets @luke_stark; learn more at

Salome Viljoen

Salome is a Fellow in the Privacy Initiatives Project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Salome’s professional interest is the intersection between privacy, technology and inequality. Before coming to the Berkman Center, Salome was an associate at Fenwick & West, LLP, where she worked with technology company clients on a broad variety of matters. She has a JD from Harvard Law School, an MsC from the London School of Economics, and a BA in Political Economy from Georgetown University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and hanging out with her cat.

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Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events series podcast.

by candersen at April 17, 2018 05:28 PM

April 16, 2018

THEFT! A History of Music
Again and again there have been attempts to police music; to restrict borrowing and cultural cross-fertilization. But music builds on itself. To those who think that mash-ups and sampling started with YouTube or the DJ’s turntables, it might be shocking to find that musicians have been borrowing — extensively borrowing — from each other since music began. Then why try to stop that process? The reasons varied. Philosophy, religion, politics, race — again and again, race — and law. And because music affects us so deeply, those struggles were passionate ones. They still are. Professors James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins (Duke Law School) discuss Theft! A History of Music, their graphic novel about musical borrowing. Learn more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 16, 2018 06:09 PM

April 15, 2018

John Palfrey
Head of School Bookshelf, 2017-2018

Each term as head of school at Phillips Academy, I’ve put out a series of books for the faculty to enjoy.  Colleagues are free to keep the books, pass them along to others, or bring them back to the bookshelf in the head of school’s office.  I choose titles that relate in one way or another to the mission of our school and conversations underway on our campus.  I thought I’d post the list for all three terms at once this year:

Spring, 2018 main selections:

Julia Alvarez (Abbot Academy ’67), In the Time of the Butterflies (Algonquin, Reprint edition, 2010)

Mary Beard, Women and Power (Liveright, 2017)

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (Vintage, Reprint edition, 2017)

Chris Hughes (Phillips Academy ’02), Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn (St. Martin’s Press, 2018).

Alex Soojung Kim Pang, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (Basic Books, 2016)

David Schwartz (Phillips Academy ’72), The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of The Nuclear Age (Basic Books, 2017)

Bonus choices for Spring 2018 (a few copies of each set out for faculty):

Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (Liveright, 2015) (we bought 1000+ copies to share with all on campus interested in reading it in advance of Prof. Allen’s May 9, 2018 All School Meeting, one in the year-long series of discussions of citizenship)

Malinda S. Blustain and Ryan Wheeler, Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) (Congrats to the team at the Peabody!)

Michael Lewis, Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life (W.W. Norton, Reprint edition 2008)

Craig A. Miller, This is How it Feels (CreateSpace, 2012) (trigger warning: about surviving suicide; mentioned by Riverside Trauma Center suicide prevention trainings on our campus.)

Winter 2018 Main Selections:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (One World, 2017)

Jeffrey J. Froh and Giacometti Bono, Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character (Templeton Press, 2015) (h/t to faculty member Allen Grimm who gave me an inscribed copy)

Julie Lythcott-Haims, Real American: A Memoir (Henry Holt, 2017)

Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) (editorial comment: I think it is safe to say that this book has not resonated as fully with our faculty as many of the other titles I offered have.  I thought the perspective of a Republican US Senator on raising young people in this country was worth offering all the same.)

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel (Random House, 2017)

Eli Shafak, Three Daughters of Eve (Bloomsbury USA, 2017)

Winter 2018 Bonus Selection:

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014) (this book appeared on a previous HOS Bookshelf as careful watchers of this space will recall; Prof. Rankine spoke at Andover in January as part of our MLK, Jr., Day celebration)

Fall 2017 Main Selections:

Danielle Allen, Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (Liveright, 2017)

Robert Gottlieb, Avid Reader: A Life (FSG, 2016)

Ian Haney Lopez, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (Oxford University Press, 2015, rev. ed.)

John McPhee, Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process (FSG, 2017)

Jessica Shattuck, The Women in the Castle (William Morrow, 2017)

Fall 2017 Bonus Selections:

Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, 2016) (why: previously on HOS bookshelf; brought back with additional copies given her visit to campus early in the Fall)

Erwin Chemerinsky & Howard Gilman, Free Speech on Campus (Yale University Press, 2017) (why: alternate take on the book I just wrote)

Sigal Ben-Kamath, Free Speech on Campus (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) (why: ditto)

I also put out copies of the book I wrote, called Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education (MIT Press, 2017).

by jgpalfrey at April 15, 2018 09:08 PM

Berkman Center front page
Force of Nature


Celebrating 20 Years of the Laws of Cyberspace


Join us as we celebrate 20 years of the Laws of Cyberspace and the ways in which it laid the groundwork for our Center's field of study.

Event Date

Apr 16 2018 4:00pm to Apr 16 2018 4:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Monday, April 16, 2018 at 4:00 pm 
Harvard Law School

Celebrating 20 years of the Laws of Cyberspace and how it laid the groundwork for Berkman Klein Center's field of study.

Please join us as we recognize the 20th anniversary of the paper The Laws of Cyberspace (Taipei March '98) by Professor Lawrence Lessig. Join Professor Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, along with Professor Ruth L. Okediji, the Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center, and Dr. Laura DeNardis, Professor in the School of Communication at American University, with moderator, Professor Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Director of the Harvard Law School Library, and Faculty Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. 

About Professor Lessig

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school’s Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Lessig serves on the Board of the AXA Research Fund, and on the advisory boards of Creative Commons and the Sunlight Foundation. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation’s Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American’s Top 50 Visionaries. Lessig holds a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale.

About Professor Okediji

Ruth L. Okediji is the Jeremiah Smith. Jr, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center. A renowned scholar in international intellectual property (IP) law and a foremost authority on the role of intellectual property in social and economic development, Professor Okediji has advised inter-governmental organizations, regional economic communities, and national governments on a range of matters related to technology, innovation policy, and development. Her widely cited scholarship on IP and development has influenced government policies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America. Her ideas have helped shape national strategies for the implementation of the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). She works closely with several United Nations agencies, research centers, and international organizations on the human development effects of international IP policy, including access to knowledge, access to essential medicines and issues related to indigenous innovation systems.

About Dr. DeNardis

Dr. Laura DeNardis is a globally recognized Internet governance scholar and a Professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. She also serves as Faculty Director of the Internet Governance Lab at American University. Her books include The Global War for Internet Governance (Yale University Press 2014); Opening Standards: The Global Politics of Interoperability (MIT Press 2011); Protocol Politics: The Globalization of Internet Governance (MIT Press 2009); Information Technology in Theory (Thompson 2007 with Pelin Aksoy), and a new co-edited book The Turn to Infrastructure in Internet Governance (Palgrave 2016). With a background in information engineering and a doctorate in Science and Technology Studies (STS), her research studies the social and political implications of Internet technical architecture and governance. 

She is an affiliated fellow of the Yale Law School Information Society Project and served as its Executive Director from 2008-2011. She is an adjunct Senior Research Scholar in the faculty of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a frequent keynote speaker at the world’s most prestigious universities and institutions. She has previously taught at New York University and Yale Law School. 

About Professor Zittrain

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at the Harvard Law School Library, and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education.

He performed the first large-scale tests of Internet filtering in China and Saudi Arabia, and as part of the OpenNet Initiative co-edited a series of studies of Internet filtering by national governments: Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet FilteringAccess Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace; and Access Contested: Security, Identity, and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Board of Advisors for Scientific American.  He has served as a Trustee of the Internet Society and as a Forum Fellow of the World Economic Forum, which named him a Young Global Leader. He was a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Federal Communications Commission, and previously chaired the FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee. His book The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop Itpredicted the end of general purpose client computing and the corresponding rise of new gatekeepers.  That and other works may be found at <>.


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Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events series podcast.

by candersen at April 15, 2018 09:07 PM

April 12, 2018

Justin Reich
Pockets of Innovation - The Quest for Inspired Learning
Though most examples of innovation highlight big projects or new courses, inspired learning may occur in more subtle, nuanced ways.

by Beth Holland at April 12, 2018 06:19 PM

Remedies for Cyber Defamation: Criminal Libel, Anti-Speech Injunctions, Forgeries, Frauds, and More
“Cheap speech” has massively increased ordinary people’s access to mass communications — both for good and for ill. How has the system of remedies for defamatory, privacy-invading, and harassing speech reacted? Some ways are predictable; some are surprising; some are shocking. Prof. Eugene Volokh (UCLA) lays it all out. Learn more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 12, 2018 04:52 PM

April 11, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
The Cyberlaw Clinic Prepares for Final Stage in 1201 Exemption Proceedings

Still of YouTube Video of Section 1201 RoundtablesThe Cyberlaw Clinic is preparing for the last segment in the seventh triennial proceeding for exemptions to the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA—the oral hearings, which are to be held on April 12th, at 2:00 p.m. ET in Washington, D.C and will be livestreamed online here.  At this hearing, there will be two panels of testifying witnesses—one in support of the exemption, the other in opposition—appearing before a panel of Copyright Office representatives. The Clinic is coordinating the efforts of the supporting experts, which includes Cyberlaw Clinic Instructional Fellow Kendra Albert, Jessica Meyerson of the Software Preservation Network, Henry Lowood of the Stanford University Libraries, Lyndsey Jane Moulds of Rhizome at the New Museum, and Jonathan Band of the Library Copyright Alliance. The majority of the time will be spent addressing specific questions posed by the Copyright Office during the hearing.

These upcoming oral hearings follow the last round of comments, for which the Cyberlaw Clinic filed a reply comment on behalf of the Software Preservation Network. (Thank you to Austin Bohn, Erin Thomas, and Erika Herrera for their hard work on the reply comment.)

The comment focused on responding to arguments and objections raised by the plethora of opposition comments submitted on February 12th. The opposition comments were an opportunity for parties opposing the exemption to submit arguments following the initial comment submitted in December. Hearteningly, opponents generally agreed that the preservation of digital works is a worthwhile effort and that current systems are ineffective. To that end, there was general support for an exemption to further enable software preservation, but the disagreement came in the practical details and scope of the proposed exemption.

In its reply, the Clinic continued to emphasize the urgent need to preserve the software and digital works that are continually becoming more vital parts of society. As mentioned in a prior blog post,  software loss is an urgent problem that is only worsening as new content and information are “born digital.” The research and study of software history, the development of future software, and the preservation of software-dependent works rely on the institutions that engage in software archival pursuits.

Narrowing the exemption

The class of works proposed in the original comment was limited by both use and user, requiring the user be a library, museum, archive, or other cultural heritage institution using it for the purposes of preservation.  But in order to further address the opponents’ concerns that the exemption is too broad, the Clinic proposed a compromise: limiting the class of works to software that is “no longer reasonably available in the marketplace.” Adding this constraint reduces the number of works covered by the exemption to those most urgently in need of preservation and reduces the already minimal risk of market impact. Meanwhile, it remains a workable standard that preservationists can easily apply to digital works—an important characteristic to enable their urgent work.

The Clinic further argued that the exemption for software preservation should include all software, including video games, despite pushback from the the Entertainment Software Association. In both the original comment and the recent reply, the Clinic provided examples of non-infringing preservation activities regarding video games that are not covered under the existing video game exemption. The proposed exemption should apply to video games that are not covered under an existing exemption, so long as the other limitations of exemption are met. Overall, the Clinic proposed a compromise in an effort to address the concerns of the opposition while advocating for a workable and sustainable standard that gives certainty to preservationists as they apply it to digital works.

In addition to considering the class of works that the exemption applies to, the exemption is also limited to non-infringing uses of those works.  The Clinic argued that many activities undertaken by cultural institutions to preserve software are fair use, and as such, the software preservation exemption should not be limited to the contours of § 108. The opposition comments did not provide any contrary doctrinal analysis, instead focusing on the breadth of the proposed exemption.

In sum, the reply brief focused on responding to the oppositions’ concerns and identifying compromises where possible. Ultimately, the Clinic is most concerned about obtaining an exemption that enables traditionally conservative, risk-averse software preservationists to focus on their important—and urgent—work of software preservation rather than worry about their potential legal liability.

Next Steps for the Cyberlaw Clinic

The upcoming oral hearing is the final formal stage in the exemption proceedings and the only opportunity for opponents to respond to the final reply comment submitted by the Clinic. After concluding the hearings, the Register will produce a recommendation that influences the Librarian’s Final Decision, both of which are anticipated to be published in early fall of this year.


by Clinic Staff at April 11, 2018 02:19 PM

April 10, 2018

Berkman Center front page
THEFT! A History of Music


Professors James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins (Duke Law School) discuss Theft! A History of Music, their graphic novel about musical borrowing.


Theft! A History of Music is a graphic novel laying out a 2000-year long history of musical borrowing from Plato to rap.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Apr 10 2018 12:00pm to Apr 10 2018 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

You can download the book here.

Notes from the Talk

Artistic musical expressions like mash-ups and sampling are often thought of as unique and new phenomena emerging from participatory culture in the digital age. However, as James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, Professors of Law at Duke University, argue in their recent talk, “remix isn’t America’s future; remix is America’s past.” Boyle and Jenkins drew from their comic book, Theft: A History of Music, in which they tell the story of 2,000 years of musical borrowing.

Boyle and Jenkins chose to tell this story in a comic book format for two reasons. The first was to make scholarship accessible to a wider audience, outside of academia. The second was to use “remix in the service of talking about remix.” In other words, in the book, they use copyright limitations and exceptions within their own writing and art, in order to explain these same phenomena.

Two recent developments in copyright and its applications in the music industry concern Boyle and Jenkins. The more recent is the “Blurred Lines” case, in which a jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams infringed on the copyright of “Got To Give it Up” by Marvin Gaye. The verdict was recently upheld by the 9th Circuit. The other development is a lawsuit involving unlicensed sampling of Funkadelic’s “Get Off Your Ass and Jam,” wherein the sample is largely unrecognizable, but the court still ordered that sampling more than one note requires a license. These developments are reflective of Lawrence Lessig’s idea of a “permission culture,” in which every time we “re-make” culture, we need to pay a fee, get a license, or at least ask permission.

Boyle and Jenkins ask the audience to consider the fact that if we had applied today’s legal rules during the times of jazz, blues, and rock 'n roll, we would likely not have these musical genres. Boyle summarizes this point, asking about the future: “what forms of music will we not have, and not know that we didn’t have, because we didn’t have them?” Overall, however, Boyle and Jenkins maintain some optimism for the outlook of music in American culture. They conclude with a quote from their book that expresses this confidence: “The staff of music is long, but it bends to harmony.”

notes by Donica O'Malley

Event Description

This comic book lays out 2000 years of musical history. A neglected part of musical history. Again and again there have been attempts to police music; to restrict borrowing and cultural cross-fertilization. But music builds on itself. To those who think that mash-ups and sampling started with YouTube or the DJ’s turntables, it might be shocking to find that musicians have been borrowing—extensively borrowing—from each other since music began. Then why try to stop that process? The reasons varied. Philosophy, religion, politics, race—again and again, race—and law. And because music affects us so deeply, those struggles were passionate ones. They still are.

The history in this book runs from Plato to Blurred Lines and beyond. You will read about the Holy Roman Empire’s attempts to standardize religious music with the first great musical technology (notation) and the inevitable backfire of that attempt. You will read about troubadours and church composers, swapping tunes (and remarkably profane lyrics), changing both religion and music in the process. You will see diatribes against jazz for corrupting musical culture, against rock and roll for breaching the color-line. You will learn about the lawsuits that, surprisingly, shaped rap. You will read the story of some of music’s iconoclasts—from Handel and Beethoven to Robert JohnsonChuck BerryLittle RichardRay Charles, the British Invasion and Public Enemy.

To understand this history fully, one has to roam wider still—into musical technologies from notation to the sample deck, aesthetics, the incentive systems that got musicians paid, and law’s 250 year struggle to assimilate music, without destroying it in the process. Would jazz, soul or rock and roll be legal if they were reinvented today? We are not sure and that seems...  worrying.

About James

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and the former Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons. He has written for The New York TimesThe Financial TimesNewsweek and many other newspapers and magazines. His other books include The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the MindShamans, Software and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society, and Bound By Law a comic book about fair use, copyright and creativity (with Jennifer Jenkins).  

About Jennifer

Jennifer Jenkins is a Clinical Professor of Law at Duke Law School and the Director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Apart from her legal qualifications, she also plays the piano and holds an MA in English from Duke University, where she studied creative writing with the late Reynolds Price and Milton with Stanley Fish. Her most recent book is Intellectual Property: Cases and Materials (3rd ed, 2016) (with James Boyle). Her recent articles include In Ambiguous Battle: The Promise (and Pathos) of Public Domain Day, and Last Sale? Libraries’ Rights in the Digital Age.


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by candersen at April 10, 2018 05:10 PM

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