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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.

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June 16, 2019

Harry Lewis
History of the Bureau of Study Counsel
There is a bit of a tussle going on about the history of the Bureau of Study Counsel, and the ways in which the new Academic Resource Center represents a clean break from what the Bureau used to be. The history may be significant as it relates to whether the ARC is a new new thing, and therefore it is proper to let go all the Bureau staff since their jobs no longer exist, or is a repackaging of some of the Bureau's functions, in which case some greater continuity might have been expected.

Harvard Magazine's account of the closing of the Bureau of Study Counsel has been expanded at the bottom by a substantial comment by former counselor Ann Fleck-Henderson. Here is part of her comment correcting some of the history as it was related to the Magazine by the College administration:

The Bureau of Study Counsel began in 1947 as a collection of academic support services: tutoring (then called supervision), help with English writing and with speedier reading. It was not built, as Dean Revuluri claims, on a model “... of mental health services.” It was overseen by a committee of faculty and administrators with the intent of feeding back to those most responsible for the curriculum whatever was learned from students with whom the Bureau staff (originally of two) consulted. It is inaccurate to characterize the Bureau as “creating a long-term, one-on-one counseling relationship to talk about coping with academic stress.” The Bureau was designed to be an academic support service. It has offered, from the start and continuing today, a variety of individual and group academic services (eg, tutoring, reading course, study strategies, exam-taking skills), which have varied in different eras as student populations and needs have changed. From prior work as a teacher and administrator Bill Perry, the Bureau’s founder, knew that some well-advised and well-supported students continued to struggle. Those were the students for whom “study counsel” was recommended.
In other words, BSC always had the academic support function that is being described as the sole agenda of the ARC. To sharpen this comment on the Bureau's history a little more, the organization was originally started in 1939 and at that time was called the Bureau of Supervision. (The 1947 vote was just a name change.) From the 1938-9 President's Report:
On June 19, 1939, the [Administrative] Board presented to the Faculty a tentative plan for setting up a supervisory service under the control of the College and recommended that there be established a standing Committee on the Supervision of Students, which should exercise a general oversight of the activities having to do with the provision of special assistance to students who need help in solving their academic difficulties. … The Bureau operates on the principle that students should be taught how to do their own work rather than to have information handed out to them. Some exceptions to this rule are made according to individual needs, particularly in the elementary languages, elementary sciences, and other fields where work of the current assignment is directly dependent upon a knowledge of previous assignments. 
The report emphasizes that the advising would be individualized, since the staff "have been selected … as the most competent persons available to assist students to meet their particular problems." (The 1947 report does specifically mention veterans: "The services of the Bureau have been particularly valuable in this period of large classes and heavy burdens on instructors when so many students have been handicapped by wartime interruptions of their academic careers.") Even in 1938 it was clearly understood that personal and academic counseling were intertwined.
The conference rooms are equipped inan informal fashion - simulating studies or living rooms - sothat the student will feel entirely free of official restraint in his relations with the supervisor. Often the troubles of a boy who has a poor scholastic record are partly personal rather than purely academic, and they may be frankly revealed in an informal atmosphere which will inspire confidence between the student and the supervisor.
So the Bureau's homey furnishings, on which I commented in my first post on this subject, were part of the original design and philosophy, from 80 years ago.  

Does Harvard really believe that the College student body does not need something of this philosophy, that academic difficulties often can't be remediated without personal counseling? The new Academic Resource Center, which it seems will be focused exclusively on academic skills to the exclusion of personal counseling, and will emphasize group rather than individualized academic counseling, does seem to mark a clean break with the past on mission as well as furniture, in the sense that the mission has been shrunk. But that transition leaves it unclear if personal counseling as it relates to academic struggles will be available anywhere, except at the Counseling and Mental Health Services, and if not, where troubled students can be directed if their emotional problems are primarily developmental or if they are unwilling to go to CAMHS because of the shame that is for some still attached to mental distress.

It seems that Harvard is not so much setting a new direction as shrinking its vision, and in the process losing eight decades of institutional memory and significant human resources in areas where the ARC will need to staff up---because, in essence, the BSC staff have personal counseling skills Harvard is, however unwisely, declaring it no longer needs.

by Harry Lewis ( at June 16, 2019 11:12 PM

June 13, 2019

Wayne Marshall
Wave Count

I’m happy to announce that MIT’s Stefan Helmreich and I have been collaborating on a mega-mix devoted to music that evokes or otherwise represents ocean waves. Building on Stefan’s anthropological work with ocean scientists and my ideas about telling musical stories musically, this mix carefully stitches together 70 pieces in a 3 movement, 44 minute montage. The pieces were composed between 1830-2018 and range across a wide number of genres and approaches — classical, romantic, modernist, minimalist, electronic and experimental, not to mention surf rock, reggae, bossa nova, jazz, and techno.

We’re very pleased to have the mix published via The Wire as a Wire Mix, and I’m grateful to Stefan for putting together a video — see below — which tracks and traces the appearances and layering of each piece in the mix (including full credits) as well as for taking the lead on the brief, evocative essay that accompanies the video (reprinted below, with tracklist). It’s been a wonderful collaboration, over a year in the making — and, no doubt, the most intricate mega-mix I’ve ever worked on — and we’re thrilled to share it with the world and to see what sort of waves, in turn, this mix may make.

Thanks, always, for listening along. Here’s an MP3 (100mb, 44min) if you’d prefer to listen “offline,” whatever that means these days.

WAVE COUNT is a montage, in serial and parallel, of mostly instrumental musical pieces meant by their composers to evoke or represent the sense and sound of ocean waves. Selections range from the years 1830 to 2018 and include classical, modernist, electronic, and experimental compositions, with pieces drawn primarily, though not exclusively, from traditions in European art music, American avant-garde composition, Afrodiasporic musics, and Japanese experimental work. The sequence rolls out common and uncommon wave-inspired phrases, turns, and arrangements — cataloging and connecting recurring formal musical motifs (or “topics”) as well as the more acoustic, sonic, timbral, and onomatopoetic qualities that have come to texture compositional representations of waves.[1]

The montage charts shifts across three loose epochal moments. Movement 1: Species of the Sublime, begins with Romantic composers’ attempts formally and texturally to represent the timbre and sublimely relentless arrival of ocean waves (and see Kieffer 2015), spooling out instances that suggest storms, martial enterprise, dreams of maritime glory, and fears of drowning, outlining the multiple meanings of the sea as a space of reverie, fantasy, memory, violence. Movement 2: Electricity and Experiment, charts more abstracted mid-to-late 20th century electronic-music emphases on the periodic, spectral, or mathematical quality of ocean waves, tracking compositions that treat waves as abstractions that might be lifted out of the water and given a parallel life in, say, synthesizer reproductions.[2] Movement 3: Thalassocene, maps early 21st century trends to revisit and repurpose canonical wave motifs, but also registers how, with the rise of sound art and compositions based on empirical field recording and sonified data, waves have been pressed to get “back in the water.” In such compositions, listeners might almost be hearing the sound of waves with no human presence around to hear them — underscoring a concern with today’s ecological disasters and with a post-Anthropocene time to come, where waves wash over history and relic buoys send signals to no one.

Ocean waves — stormy, sublime, frightening, regular, rippling, underwater — manifest across the montage as untamed wildness, as meditative nature, as forces of foreboding, as abstract inspiration, and as harbingers of a world in the wake of death. At every moment, waves are represented or audited through conventions of listening; the splash, hiss, surge, and more are not mere facts of waves, but implicate shifting and varied cultural modes of hearing, experiencing, and thinking about the music, sound, and noise of waves.

by Stefan Helmreich and Wayne Marshall,
version of May 2019

Full discography with credits to performers and record labels at end.


1. Sometimes composers have mobilized musical icons: signs (and groups of signs) that they imagine to have some likeness to the way ocean waves sound or appear (think of arrangements of notes, chords, or rhythms — or of the timbre of specific instruments). At other moments, they have worked through indices: signs composers take to have a causal or existential relation to the waves they represent (think of field recordings of waves or of captures of frequency spectra of a crashing wave). At still other moments, composers have approached the matter through symbols: signs that stand for their object by convention (think of military march music to represent dynamics of disciplined, steady succession). Often enough, they have done all at once, rendering the distinction between those key semiotic terms — icon, index, and symbol — blurry, awash in overlaps and confusion. See Schweitzer 1911 on a “wave motive” (76) in Bach’s cantata, Siehe, ich will viel Fiscer aussenden (No 88). And see also Monelle 2000, which argues that “the commonest musical icons — portrayals of waves, clouds, storms, horses — are not at all ‘pure,’ but are dependent upon well-known conventions” (77), underscoring the porosity of musical icon, index, and symbol.

2. We are prompted to this recognition by the pathbreaking writings of electronic musician Tara Rodgers (2011), who has examined how sound waves have been given biographies — “lives” — in electronic composition.


Kieffer, Alexandra. 2015. “The Debussyist Ear: Listening, Representation, and French Musical Modernism.” 19th-Century Music 39(1): 56-79.

Monelle, Raymond. 2000. The Sense of Music: Semiotic Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rodgers, Tara. 2011. “‘What, for Me, Constitutes Life in a Sound?’: Electronic Sounds as Lively and Differentiated Individuals.” American Quarterly 63 (3): 509–530.

Schweitzer, Albert. 1911. J.S. Bach, Volume II. London: Breitkopf and Härtel.


Thanks to Ian Condry, Walker Downey, Raviv Ganchrow, Marta Gentilucci, Josh Levine, Keeril Makan, David Novak, Emily Richmond Pollock, Tara Rodgers, Nika Son, and Evan Ziporyn.

First Movement: Species Of The Sublime
Johann Sebastian Bach Preise Dein Glücke, Gesegnetes Sachsen, BWV 215 (1734)
Felix Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture, Op 26, Fingal’s Cave (1830)
Camille Saint-Saëns Prelude To Le Déluge, Op 45 (1875)
Richard Wagner Das Rheingold, Prelude And Scene 1: Das Rheingold: Scene I: In The Depths Of The Rhein: Weia! Waga! Woge Du Welle (1869)
Edvard Grieg 12 Melodies, Op 33 (Arranged For Piano), III Du Fatter Ej Bolgernes Evige Gang (You Cannot Grasp The Wave’s Eternal Course) (1873–80)
Giuseppe Verdi Otello, Act 1: Una Vela! (1887)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov By The Sea, Op 46, No 1 The Wave Breaks Into Spray (1897)
Wilhelm Peterson-Berger Frösöblomster (Frösö-Flowers), Book 2: No 5 Vagor Mot Stranden (Waves Against The Shore) (1896–1914)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov By The Sea, Op 46, No 5 The Waves Rise Up Like Mountains (1897)
J?zeps V?tols Song Of The Waves, Op 41, No 2 (1910)
Iosif Ivanovici The Waves Of The Danube (1880)
Juventino Rosas Sobre Las Olas (Over The Waves) (1888)
Claude Debussy Jeux De Vagues (La Mer, L 109, No 2) (1903–05)
María Grever A Una Ola (1903)
Ethel Smyth The Wreckers, Overture (1902–04)
Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony No 1, A Sea Symphony: III Scherzo: The Waves (1903–10)
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Meg Blane, Rhapsody Of The Sea, Op 48 (1902)
Max Reger 4 Tondichtungen Nach Arnold Böcklin, Op 128, No 2 Im Spiel Der Wellen (Waves At Play) (1913)
Béla Bartók The Wooden Prince: Dance Of The Waves (1914–16)
Jean Sibelius 2 Schybergson Songs, JS 224: No 2, Brusande Rusar En Våg (The Roaring Of A Wave) (1918)
Rued Langgaard Music Of The Spheres, BVN 128: IV Like The Refraction Of Sunbeams In The Waves (1919)
Ernest Bloch Poems Of The Sea: I Waves (1922)
Henning Mankell 3 Preludes, Op 56 No 1 Waves (1923)
Jean Sibelius Tempest, Op 109, Overture: The Ship Sinks Beneath The Waves (1925–26)
Heitor Villa-Lobos Seventh Symphony, Odisséia Da Paz (A Peace Odyssey) (1945)
Fletcher Henderson Tidal Wave (1934)
Nikos Skalkottas Island Images, III Sea Waves (1943)
Margaret Bonds Troubled Water (1952–67)

Second Movement: Electricity And Experiment
Vladimir Ussachevsky Underwater Waltz (1951)
Benjamin Britten Peter Grimes, Op 33, Glitter Of Waves (1944)
Xenakis Polla Ta Dhina For Children’s Choir & Orchestra (1962)
Guo Tai Gong On The Docks – Beijing Opera Symphonic Suite: A Single Stone Has Stirred Up Innumerable Waves (1964–65)
Dick Dale Tidal Wave (1964)
The Upsetter Tidal Wave (1969)
Yoko Ono Don’t Stop The Waves (1971)
Antonio Carlos Jobim Wave (1967)
Takehisa Kosugi Wave Code #E-1 (1975)
Luigi Nono ….Sofferte Onde Serene…. For Piano And Magnetic Tape (1975–77)
R Murray Schafer String Quartet No 2, Waves (1978)
La Monte Young/Marian Zazeela Oceans (1969)
Lisan Wang Impressions Of Paintings By Higashiyama Kaii: IV The Sound Of Waves (1979)
Patti Smith Wave (1979)
Barry Truax Wave Edge (1983)
Aaron Jay Kernis Symphony In Waves: IV. Intermezzo (1989)
Drexciya Wavejumper (1995)
Huichang Yan Fighting The Waves/Dauntless Spirit/Cuihua/Confronting The River (1994)
Tristan Murail Le Partage Des Eaux (1997)
Drexciya Digital Tsunami (2001)

Third Movement: Thalassocene
Kaija Saariaho Près (Pour Violoncelle Et Dispositif Électroacoustique) (1992)
Robert Paterson Deep Blue Ocean, III Accents And Waves (2010)
Mary Ellen Childs First Wave (2013)
John Luther Adams Dark Waves (2007)
Ying Wang Wave In D (2008)
Yuko Ohara The Wave Transformation (2013)
Bob Chilcott, Iain Farrington & The Sirens Making Waves (2009)
Keiko Abe The Wave (2008)
Ying Wang Wave In D (2008)
Peter Bruun Spejlbolger (Waves Of Reflection): IV Wave (2000)
Vijay Iyer Mutation VI: Waves (2013)
Annea Lockwood Water And Memory (2017)
Mary Ellen Childs Second Wave (2013)
Alexis Kirke Sound Wave (2012)
Justin Lombardi reverses Kanye West Waves (2016)
Nika Son The Wildness Of Waves (2016)
Jana Winderen bára (2017)
Ayako Sato Namimani (Among The Waves) (2011)
John Melillo/Algae & Tentacles Waves 1 (2013)
Bob Sturm Pacific Pulse (2003)
Spanner (Paul Bendza and Rob Power) Wave (2006)
Lou Hoyer Symphony For Wind And Waves (2018)

by wayneandwax at June 13, 2019 05:44 PM

June 11, 2019

Harry Lewis
Independence and self-sufficiency at Harvard: An essay from a world we have lost
In the course of mourning the death of the Bureau of Study Counsel, and with it the extirpation of any sense that the personal development of students was (except in its clinical manifestations) a matter in which Harvard might need some professional expertise, I was reminded of the report of the Dean of Harvard College from 1983–84, reproduced in full below. It has a good section on the Bureau, quoting from its founder Bill Perry, but more importantly, it puts the Bureau's work in the larger context of Harvard's role in educating students to take responsibility for their own lives, with all the tensions that educational process carries with it.

It's also just a lovely essay. It is hard not to smirk at the idea of "the College's withdrawal … from a regulatory role in students' social lives," given that the College now prescribes what kinds of private clubs students may honorably join. And it probably has a few other anachronisms. But the very idea that the dean would write such a thoughtful report to the President -- and thus to the entire University community -- seems sadly anachronistic in itself. Compare this to the announcement, via a Gazette story, of the shutdown of the Bureau.

Added evening of June 11: Read the comment by retired BSC counselor Ann Fleck-Henderson on the Harvard Magazine story, correcting Harvard's official explanation of the Bureau.


To the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences:

Sir --I have the honor to present a report on Harvard College for 1983-84.

I should like to consider in this report the topics of independence and self-sufficiency in the College.

The College has long been more concerned with the intellectual growth of its students, and the development of their capacity to think for themselves, than with inculcating information. Over the years, of course, there has been evolution both in the ways in which that broad objective has been understood and in the ways in which it has been expressed.

Yet in the past decade or so some observers have come to feel that the College has become too "neutral' in the advising of students, questioning whether our practices effectively serve our broad educational purposes. I believe this is an opportune moment to reflect on those concerns and to consider what guidance is appropriate and how it might be offered more effectively.

Before taking up those questions, I shall say a little about how the College's thinking has developed over time. Some of the agencies through which the College advises students exemplify our approach particularly well, and have provided us with a useful vocabulary through which to understand it. Finally we shall consider the new expectations of students and others, and how we might respond to them.

The value of independent thinking has long been honored at Harvard. Some of her chroniclers have even recognized it as a goal of the early, provincial College. In this 'century, President Pusey could write: "...never has Harvard tried to teach a single narrow orthodoxy in any field, nor does she now. From the time our first president, Henry Dunster, was dismissed for unorthodoxy, it has been her chief purpose to call men to think for themselves."

It was, however, only in the nineteenth century --when Harvard had become an independent, secular institution --that the curriculum began to require any significant exercise of choice. The introduction of the "elective system" during the presidency of Charles William Eliot (1869-1909) offered students some choice in their courses and more courses from which to choose. Increasingly, didactic methods of teaching were replaced by inductive methods, in the belief that an active process of learning could produce well-educated individuals in a very broad range of disciplines. This shift was one of great significance, and not merely because it expanded the number of fields whose study might be considered part of a liberal education. Students became more active participants in the design and process of their own educations, beginning with their choice of fields and courses to pursue.

In the decades since Eliot's tenure, the belief in the responsibility of individual students which seems so characteristic of the College today has informed many changes. Two major innovations of Eliot's successor, A. Lawrence Lowell (1909-1933), the tutorial system and the Houses, have served to stimulate the independence of students.

At the same time as such changes have extended the responsibility of students for themselves, the College has developed a number of institutions intended to assist students in the wise exercise of choice. The establishment in 1888 of a formal system for the advising of freshmen --the ancestor of the present Board of Freshman Advisers --and, in 1890, of the Administrative Board mark the beginning of our present advising system. Both of these agencies, like others to which we shall give particular attention, operated from the outset on the basis of certain assumptions which continue to characterize the College.

Among them is an idea which has the ring of nineteenth century Utilitarianism: that the individual student is the person best able to act on his own behalf. According to this thinking, the making of wise choices cannot be delegated to others: one must learn to seek and use help intelligently in order to take responsibility for one's own life.

The common goal of those agencies and individuals who, together, comprise a counseling "network" is neither to make decisions for students nor simply to impress them with the burden of personal responsibility, but to enable them to make choices well and to believe that they can do so. That last element --the confidence in one's capacity to think and choose for oneself --has sometimes been referred to as a sense of "personal efficacy." That phrase suggests how far we have come from regarding the development of independent thinking as an exclusively academic process. We have come to see it instead as a process of growth involving the whole self, without which intellectual growth is likely to be seriously hampered.

The work of the Bureau-of Study Counsel has been critical to our understanding of that process of growth. Established in its present form in 1947, the Bureau has developed both a rhetoric and a counseling approach which still typify its work. They find full expression in the writing of its first director,William Perry.

Two aspects of his thinking about the nature and purposes of advising have been particularly important to the College. One is the scheme he constructed to describe the personal and intellectual growth of students in the College. (The reader interested in this topic is urged to consult Perry's most complete work on the topic, Perry, W.G., Jr., Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,1970.) The other Perry theme of special importance to us centers around the question of the role the College should take in guiding its students. It may be helpful first to describe briefly Perry's developmental scheme, based on decades of observation of students and their conversations in the Bureau.

Perry discerns nine cognitive stages through which students may pass in their intellectual and ethical development. The nine stages may be grouped into broader, more abstract, categories of dualism, relativism and commitment within relativism. In the earliest stages, notions of right and wrong --as they pertain to ethical questions as well as to academic ones --are seen in simple "black and white" terms. In the middle stages, values and the validity of answers are seen to be "relative"; that is, they are objectively equally valid, and their validity is assigned to them by the individual. In the most advanced stages, the student comes to see values and answers in much more complex terms. The process through which values are reached can be viewed objectively as better or worse. Their validity derives especially from their consonance with other values and beliefs held by the individual. These last stages admit a good deal more freedom than is available to the student in stage one, and are characterized by a much more fully developed sense of responsibility for choices than the middle stages. At this point, the individual is aware of, and may constantly reassess, the context of values in which he or she has chosen to operate.

I have suggested above that in Perry's engaging descriptions of the advising system, he has developed a language which can help us comprehend the College's approach as it operates today. His emphasis on cognitive development (which finds its counterpart in Lowell's belief in the importance of fostering the development of the "whole man,") the recognition of students' differing "learning styles" and of the importance of learning "in one's own voice" --all these have powerfully informed the College's thinking in the past few decades.

The other aspect of Perry's work to which I have alluded has been equally significant for the College. The themes of personal efficacy and self-reliance run throughout Perry's writing on advising. He sees students in a "synergistic" relationship with the College, asserting that the wrongquestion to ask is "what does college do for a person?" In his view, education results from the individual's interaction with the environment.

Although the Bureau is a key part of the College's formal system of advising, Perry is never unaware of the coexistence of an "informal" advising system, through which students receive valuable counsel, perhaps of an even more essential nature. The Bureau and other agencies and individuals comprising the formal network recognize that students, like others, will seek out those whom they respect and find congenial, and that they may consult different people for different concerns. Perry appreciatively describes our elaborate and overlapping advising structure:

A corollary of diffusion and decentralization is diversity. The advising "system," like most systems at Harvard, developed as a loosely organic community of experiments which, at a minimum, never demonstrated such gross evidence of failure as to require them to be stopped. This office, the Financial Aid Office, the Office of Career Services and Off Campus Learning, the Psychiatric Service, the Office of Instructional Research and Evaluation and so on may be thought of as professional and semi-professional resources binding the periphery, rather than forming the center, of the advising circle. At a particular time, a student may seek out someone from this circle, or someone else --such as a proctor, a teaching fellow, a coach or a clergyman --and that person may become for a while the "center" of the student's advising circle.

The other offices comprising the advising "system" of which Perry writes take much the same approach to students' concerns. The objective has been, and remains, to be of assistance when students ask for it, but to permit them to determine when and how they wish to do so.The Office of Career Services --like the Bureau of Study Counsel, the product of periodic re-combination of agencies --emphasizes its educational role. The present-day Office of Career Services and Off-CampusLearning offers the services of a large staff of professional counselors specializing in a full range of career and educational fields, and an incomparable resource library. Although the office maintains employment listings and helps to arrange interviews with recruiters, it is not a mere placement office. It strives, instead, to teach people how to make career choices in a broad context, and how to capitalize on, and even create, opportunities. The emphasis on teaching "self-help" comes from the recognition that many, perhaps most, people will make a series of career decisions as their interests and talents develop throughout their lives, and will need the skills to do so independently.

The advising system for freshmen finds its origins about a century ago. As with the Bureau of Study Counsel and the Office of Career Services, the development of self-reliance has been articulated as an objective of freshman advising. Writing in the Harvard Advocateof October 1928, Dean A. Chester Hanford describes three possible approaches to the challenge of acclimating freshmen to college life, using the metaphor of a river separating the secondary school from the college. Citing the increased unevenness of academic preparation in entering freshmen, Hanford rejects as impracticable the laissez-faireapproach of "sink or swim." Neither, he claims, would much be gained by carrying the student across. Accordingly, he says, Harvard has chosen to bridge the river so students might traverse it themselves.

The "bridge" offered today by the Freshmen Dean's Office features an especially dense advising system. Its purpose is to provide an intensive "course" for new students in the effective use of the College's resources, on one's own behalf.

I have emphasized the fact that the College makes a great effort to encourage students to learn how to seek and use advice effectively. For many, having achieved academic success for years before coming to Harvard, this is a hard lesson to learn. Most Harvard students believe in the importance of self-reliance, and some interpret the need for counsel as a failure of self-reliance. The subtle balance with which this essay has been concerned --between, on the one hand, the College's provision of advice in various forms and from various sources and, on the other, its commitment to the value of autonomy and even of making mistakes --is difficult to appreciate when one is under pressure to navigate this complicated environment.

It does, therefore, happen from time to time that students fail to thrive in the College. Some who seek suitable and timely help are unable to translate it into action appropriate to their circumstances. Some seek help too late to avoid a crisis, and others do not seek it at all. The College intervenes actively on behalf of students who have shown themselves unable to act effectively on their own behalf.

In cases of academic failure, this intervention rarely comes as a surprise to the student. His or her Allston Burr Senior Tutor (or Senior Adviser and Freshman Adviser if the student is a freshman) usually hears well before the end of the term from instructors who are worried about a student. Such communication gives the Senior Tutor and the student a chance to discuss the student's options, which might include withdrawing from the course, "bagging" the course in order to concentrate on remaining courses, or, simply, engaging a tutor or otherwise making an effort to recover the course. Such conversations with the Senior Tutor are, in a sense, a form of intervention, but their result depends on the student's own choice of a course of action. And a successful outcome --by which I mean the student's taking control of his circumstances, even if this means a voluntary withdrawal from College --is possible only if the conversation takes place before the student's overall situation is irretrievable.

When a student has been unable to function successfully in the College, as demonstrated, for example, by the achievement of successive unsatisfactory records or a single extremely poor record, active intervention, such as requirement to withdraw, will result. The assumption is that time away and paid employment will give the student new perspective and, even more important, will increase his confidence in his ability to manage his own life. Our experience in finding such apparently drastic interventions very successful strengthens our belief that personal initiative and responsibility are the essential ingredients for success in the College.

As we have seen, the College has tended more and more to emphasize the importance of individual responsibility. Yet we seem to be encountering a desire on the part of students for better help and, ultimately, for wiser choices. One might construe such wishes as a mandate for more "directive" advising. I think, however, that to adopt a much more directive approach would run counter to our fundamental educational objectives as I have tried to articulate them.

It seems to me appropriate here to reflect on an imbalance that dates back a decade or so. By the late1960s and early 1970s, the College had withdrawn from the last vestiges of the regulation of the personal lives of students, abolishing parietal and dress rules. Contemporary with this trend was a withdrawal by parents from an obviously directive role in their children's lives at the College, and a greater willingness to view students as independent adults. Yet it seems that we may not have compensated for this marked relaxation of external authority with enough of the kind of guidance necessary to help students conduct their own affairs.

Such guidance is, of course, not easy to provide. Rules and regulations are much simpler to formulate, and, if well conceived, they may protect against mistakes. -But the observation of an institution's rules does not, by itself, foster the kind of personal development we have hoped to encourage. In addition to freedom --the absence of constraints --that kind of growth requires the College and schools and families to work actively with students in developing a context in which they can make appropriate choices. This is, of course, the approach to which the College has long been committed in principle, but it is undeniably a relatively inefficient way to advise. Moreover, without some sense of shared purpose in schools and families, it is nearly hopeless, because one cannot start constructing personal goals and values from scratch at the age of eighteen.

Nevertheless, for whatever combination of reasons, we have found that advisers in the College are called on for more of the kind of counsel that many students a generation ago might have sought from home. More particularly, even in extremely serious circumstances in which a student might find himself --an overwhelming academic failure, for example, or an incapacitating personal crisis --parents may hesitate to intervene. This phenomenon has been paralleled, and perhaps fostered, by federal legislation (most notably the Privacy Act, known as the Buckley Amendment) limiting the amount of information that may ordinarily be shared with parents.

In most situations, neither the new legal regulations nor the willingness of parents to honor students' independence present difficulties for the College. Indeed, it should by now be apparent that they are in harmony with our own approach to encouraging self-sufficiency. But because today's parents may feel acutely their own distance, when they learn of problems their children may encounter, they may be quicker to insist that the College "take charge." Another factor which seems to have complicated our understanding of the proper degree of autonomy for students arose, too, in the world beyond the College. Beginning perhaps in the late 1960s, and becoming quite standard in the 1970s, a rhetoric developed in which" love" and "caring" were paramount values. Institutions came to be perceived as intrinsically "cold" and" impersonal": to many, it seemed necessary explicitly to reassure that advisers and faculty members were genuinely concerned for the well-being of students.

The challenge for Harvard --and other colleges for which the encouragement of self-reliance was a major objective --was to demonstrate that institutional concern is consistent with the non-directive approach which this essay has sought to articulate. The literature distributed to students by the College in the past fifteen years reveals little of the rhetoric of love and caring. But members of the College's staff can recollect a growing tendency in conversations, not only with students but among advisers and faculty members themselves, to use such terms and to treat them as actual goals in themselves. Certainly the College's publications of the past fifteen years do show an increased emphasis on the availability of "helping" agencies and individuals. I think the overall trend --outside the College and in informal discussion among students and those who counsel them --has contributed to increased expectations that the College should adopt a more "interventionist," even "protective," role vis a vis its students (though few would use those terms.)

For all these reasons, in both of the spheres of students' experience to which we have given attention-- academic education and more personal concerns --the College has been urged to take a more directive approach. I shall now try to suggest why I believe that, in both those areas, we should resist that temptation.

On the academic side, several factors have been at work. In certain fields there is the concern that course choices are both so complicated and so critical that advising must be expert. Departments have been called on to provide better counsel and, with the growth of a preference for "expertise," the burden of course selection has shifted perceptibly away from individual students. Part of the actual responsibility for choice --not simply for offering informed advice --seems to have been assumed by advisers. This development is more pronounced in fields with highly structured curricula and comparatively competitive academic environments, such as the natural sciences. But even in other concentrations, students who feel pressure, from whatever sources, to maximize the value of each course choice they make do expect foolproof academic advising. The pressure may result from anxiety about achieving the best possible record in anticipation of graduate school application, or simply from a wish to use one's time most effectively. Whatever the reason, it has begun to seem to many that our traditional belief in the value of learning from mistakes is an antiquated luxury, and that it is incumbent on the institution to be more vigilant in preventing wrong choices.

It is not hard to appreciate the appeal of the simplest, straightforward response --to prescribe the courses of study to be followed by students, thereby avoiding academic missteps. However, for those of us who believe that intellectual and psychological self reliance must continue to be among the College's fundamental goals, such a solution would be counter-productive. If we elect to reaffirm the principle that students themselves must be responsible for their choices, we shall be choosing the more difficult course. We should need to ensure that wise and informed advice is available to each student from a variety of sources and, just as important, that the environment encourages consultation. For this approach to work effectively, the roles of families and of secondary schools are critical, because it is under their guidance that our future students begin to develop their capacity for making coherent choices.

I think that advising in the College, even on the simpler academic topics, cannot be effective without a better consensus about the respective responsibilities of students and advisers. I have emphasized our belief that final responsibility for choices should lie with individual students. I believe, too, that few choices, once made, can be considered to be genuine mistakes, if only because the processes of making them and then evaluating them are often in themselves useful. Indeed I think certain shortcomings in our advising might be remedied in accord with those principles.

For example, some members of the community worry that we have grown too reluctant to urge students to explore new possibilities, and thereby to take risks, for fear that that advice --for which advisers feel responsible --will turn out to be mistaken. Others are concerned that in emphasizing the student's own responsibility we may shirk the important duty of expressing our own views, for fear, perhaps, that to do so will impinge on the student's freedom. According to these lines of thinking, our academic advising has become so neutral that it limits itself to what can be regarded as information: that is, that a particular choice will lead to some particular consequence. In addition to depriving the student of a subjective view, this "scientific" approach may actually reinforce the natural tendency of those embarking on adult life to believe that they should strive toward a predetermined goal, usually a career goal, as efficiently as possible. It may be that we should re-examine our deliberate neutrality and perhaps more aggressively encourage students to take full advantage of academic opportunities, and not to confine themselves to those steps that lead in a predetermined direction. And we may not have permitted ourselves --faculty members and administrators who talk with students --to share enough of our individual perspectives on the actual value of many academic "mistakes."

Other examples can be found in the sphere of social and interpersonal relations where, too, I think we are not in a state of perfect equilibrium. I have referred above to the College's withdrawal, over the past couple of decades, from a regulatory role in students' social lives. This trend seemed to meet the unqualified approval of students and has gained general acceptance in the community. Yet there has been pressure --as in academic matters --to return to a system of clear rules governing social behavior. Particularly in the past several years, the College has been called upon more and more often to extricate students from personal relationships which have developed over time into situations of real complexity.

The institution has never abandoned its interest in the behavior of students and has always regarded it as appropriate in serious circumstance to intervene. Whenever a student is said to have acted improperly, either in violation of a specific College rule or, more broadly, in a manner "unbecoming a Harvard student," the Administrative Board considers the case and may make a disciplinary response. Although the Board is prepared to hear allegations of any kind of wrong-doing at the College by students, it has not sought to mediate ordinary inter-personal difficulties, unless a College rule has been broken or a generally accepted standard of conduct breached. 

The dilemma arises because some students wish the College to take a closer look at the conduct of their peers than we have done recently. With growing frequency (though still by no means often) the Administrative Board has begun to hear complaints from students concerning intimate personal relationships. Because there is not a clear consensus on what conduct is appropriate in romantic and sexual relationships between students, for example, it is particularly difficult for the Board to feel confident that it can respond equitably in such situations. A failure to respond --at least to offer its opinion on which party was "right" and which "wrong" --may be interpreted as tacit approval of behavior of which Board members may not, in fact, approve. Many members, and others outside the Board as well, worry that its procedures may in such cases tend to polarize the views of the parties involved, and lead away from the process of reflection and mutual communication that would enable them to learn from the experience.

Even when students bring such concerns informally to advisers or other officers, they may expect the College to intervene on their behalf in ways that, fifteen years ago, might have been greatly resented by both parties. The most difficult situations are those in which a student has engaged in a relationship over a period of time and asks for help only at the point where a crisis seems to have occurred. Seeking advice earlier is almost always more effective --because the situation-will be more fluid --and more appropriate because that fluidity leaves more control in the student's own hands.

Although I believe there is still broad support for the principle that students should enjoy discretion in their relationships with peers and that they should bear responsibility for their own conduct, I think we must begin to examine the questions that have recently been raised. Probably it would be a mistake too readily to interpret students' requests for help and intervention as requests for more specific rules of conduct. It seems more likely that we are being asked for better guidance: in the creation of a broader consensus about the division of responsibility in relationships and, perhaps equally Important, in the formulation of a vocabulary with which to convey expectations of behavior. If there is any area of experience in which communication is critical for students, it is in relationships with peers, who arrive with a great diversity of assumptions and values. Both actions and words can have very different significance to another; students and those charged with advising them would surely find it useful to seek ways to overcome the resulting barriers to communication.

In both academic and the more personal spheres of experience, I have suggested that we --students, faculty members and other officers alike --should take the time to re-examine our assumptions and practices with which we engage in the process of advising. The preferences and perceptions of students would be important factors, because the advising process is, at its best, a dynamic one in which both the adviser and the advisee are participants. The ways in which one seeks help, evaluates and acts on it, are critical to the endeavor.

If we do consider these questions seriously, I think we shall face the choice to which I have already alluded: we can contrive more rigid academic requirements and regulations for the various aspects of student life; or we can seek to improve, at every level (including families and schools) the guidance and support we provide for our students. The latter course is by far the more difficult, but I think it offers more to our students, for whose competence and resourcefulness we have high hopes as they assume responsibilities beyond the College.

John B. Fox, Jr.

by Harry Lewis ( at June 11, 2019 09:21 PM

June 09, 2019

Harry Lewis
Watch Hong Kong
I no longer visit Hong Kong regularly, as I once did, so it has fallen off my blog. But the coincidence of the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre and the massive protests over the prospect of a law allowing extradition to mainland China are too important to let pass without a mention--especially in the current US political climate.

China is attempting to rewrite the history of June 4, 1989, at an unprecedented scale and with unprecedented success. One of the strangest days of my traveling life was June 4, 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. I awoke in Shantou on the mainland, where I had given a talk at a university the day before. A normal day, both at the university and at the airport. When I arrived in Hong Kong the air was alive with protest and remembrance. I attended the events in Victoria Park that night, and blogged about how far US universities would go toward self-censorship to avoid offending their Chinese benefactors. Here is my photo of that evening.

It is reported that the protests were muted this year, as the countermeasures were stronger than ever--vigorous Internet censorship, and rounding up dissidents before the date of the event, rather than responding to actual protests. And of course no one under the age of 35 remembers those events first hand. I attended a panel about June 4 at Harvard recently, at which a Chinese student asked why the panelists should be believed, since the government insisted that the events they described never occurred--no one was killed, and a small number of counterrevolutionaries were responsible for the myth that this was an organic, large scale student movement in pursuit of basic rights. 

America, watch Hong Kong. We don't want a state-run TV network, as the US president has proposed, rewriting history to the liking of the powers that be.

The courageous Rowena He, who was present for the massacre and has devoted her life to preserving its memory, has written four columns to mark the occasion. In the Guardian, she has published a compelling short narrative, China continues to deny Tiananmen, but we won't let the world forget.
It speaks in the voices of some of the participants, documenting China's efforts to falsify the record. So does Remembering the unknown fallen of 1989 China, in an Italian newspaper, explaining the suppression of every detail about the event, even the number killed (at least 203, probably much larger). So drastic are the consequences of even mentioning June 4 Tiananmen that a wife fears to whisper to her husband that her brother perished there. Rowena also published Surviving Tiananmen: The price of dissent in China, in the Nation, and False Identity? Forced Identity? Taiwan in China's post-Tiananmen nationalism, in the online magazine of the Taiwan Studies program and the University of Nottingham. Given the price of dissent, as Rowena terms it, writing on such subjects is deeply admirable.

America should stand with the million people of Hong Kong who turned out to protest the extradition law. The separate legal system of Hong Kong notwithstanding, that law would surely be used to imprison or execute, under Chinese law, those in Hong Kong that the mainland labels as guilty of vaguely defined crimes against public order or societal harmony.

Including American college professors attending June 4 memorials, as I did a decade ago. Of course, were such a thing to happen to Americans, the US government would probably come to their aid with the same negligible vigor it has shown in holding Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder in Istanbul of US permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi.

America, watch Hong Kong. The struggle between free and authoritarian government is playing out there in front of our eyes, and there is little reason to think that the US government, infatuated as it is with authoritarian regimes, cares much who wins.

by Harry Lewis ( at June 09, 2019 05:44 PM

June 07, 2019

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Introducing the Principled Artificial Intelligence Project

Full visualization available at

Alongside the rapid development of artificial intelligence, we’ve seen a proliferation of AI “principles,” or guidelines for how AI should be built and used. Governments, companies, advocacy groups, and multi-stakeholder initiatives have all advanced perspectives. This project emerged from our curiosity about these principles. Were they wildly divergent, or was there enough commonality to suggest the emergence of sectoral norms? Some were framed as ethical in nature; others drew from human rights law. How did that impact their content? We wanted a way to look at the principles documents side by side, to assess them individually and identify important trends, so we built one.

Our current dataset includes 32 such principles documents. We collected up to 80 data points about each one, including the actor behind the document, the date of publication, the intended audience, and the geographical scope, as well as detailed data on the principles themselves. A large variety of actors are represented, from individual tech companies’ guidelines for their own implementation of AI technology, to multi-stakeholder coalitions, to publications from national governments that incorporate ethical principles as part of an overall AI strategy. We expected to find some key themes, and indeed we uncovered eight: accountability, fairness and non-discrimination, human control of technology, privacy, professional responsibility, promotion of human values, safety and security, and transparency and explainability. Many of the documents address all of these themes; all hit at least a few. We also collected data on whether and how the principles documents referenced human rights, which just under half did.

It is our hope that the Principled Artificial Intelligence project will be a starting point for further scholarship and advocacy on this topic. To that end, we have created a data visualization that summarizes our findings. We are excited to share this visualization in draft form and invite you to provide feedback and ask questions by filling out this form.

This summer, we will publish the final data visualization along with the dataset itself and a white paper detailing our assumptions, methodology and key findings. If you would like to be notified when the white paper is published, sign up here. You can also visit to view publications related to the Principled Artificial Intelligence Project and the Berkman Klein Center’s previous project Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights: Opportunities & Risks.

For more information, feel free to get in touch with Jessica Fjeld at

by hhilligoss at June 07, 2019 07:19 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill

I’d like to use “sinonym” as another word for an immoral act. Or perhaps to refer to the Chinese name for something. Sadly, I think it might just be another word for another word.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 07, 2019 06:58 PM

Harry Lewis
The end of the Bureau
The Bureau of Study Counsel was Harvard's counseling service. It served as both a study-skills advisory resource, and as a personal counseling service for troubled Harvard students. Most of the staff had backgrounds in education, counseling, and psychology, but were not physicians. Harvard also has a mental health service as part of the University Health Services, staffed with trained and licensed clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. The Bureau was located in a welcoming and slightly decrepit Victorian house with overstuffed, sometimes tattered sofas and comfy chairs; the mental health service is in what is now known as the Smith Campus Center, and used to be Holyoke Center---a modern concrete-and-glass structure of ten stories, with lots of clean white walls and scrubbable tile floors.

Following the standard protocol for announcements that need to be made but are hoped will go unnoticed, Harvard disclosed after Commencement that the Bureau would be closing. Or rather, the announcement says that a new "Academic Resource Center" would be opening and mentions the closing of the Bureau in paragraph 9. The ARC will have modern, untattered furniture which seems tio have been selected, like the color scheme of Dunkin Donuts, to make people not want to linger there too long. (Harvard Magazine has a good account of the plan.)

The Bureau was an act of genius, and was run by a series of wise leaders---Bill Perry, Kiyo Morimoto, Charlie Ducey, and most recently Abigail Lipson. These people were superb diagnosticians and interpreters of adolescent development. The basic idea of conflating academic and personal counseling always was, it seems to me, that Harvard students are much more comfortable seeking help for their academic problems than for their personal problems, even though the problems they have with studying may be due to their relationship issues. And many of their relationship problems are subclinical; they are ill, if anything, with the condition called growing up and breaking away from parents and other aspects of their origin.

Counselors at the Bureau have seen it all. I directed a student to the Bureau because his girlfriend was pregnant and he was in severe distress but had no one to talk to. I directed a student to the Bureau because her mother was tracking her electronically and she thought that was normal. The Bureau took all comers, and also had a diverse staff that proved especially helpful to students who were having trouble making the adjustment from socially conservative cultures in which they had been raised. Created in 1947, the strange name ("bureau" was of a piece with wartime vocabulary; "counsel" was often misspelled as "council," even by recent deans) was helpfully confusing; students could seek and get counseling without telling their families what kind.

The relation of the Bureau to the mental health service was never simple, and grew more complex as worries increased about the risks and liabilities of having seriously emotionally or mentally disturbed individuals in treatment while in the residential college. I don't want to suggest that the division of labor was ever right, or will be wrong in the future. But I do worry about those students who simply would never see someone labeled as a mental health professional; even if they can be reassured that there is no stigma in doing so, their parents may not be.

And in the short run, some students will return in the fall to find that the Bureau counselors with whom they developed relationships are no longer available to them. And it is not clear where faculty will be urged to send students who need caring guidance with the conflicts in their lives before their inner turmoil turns pathological.

As has also become standard in these matters, there is no suggestion that faculty were consulted in the decision, except for the relevant deans. That faculty are left out of such decisions is not surprising given recent trends in the administration of student affairs. Still, it seems to me to mark a new low that there was not even a whisper about this decision at the last faculty meeting of the year, given that the Bureau was created by vote of the faculty.  In the old days, you needed a faculty vote to undo a decision the faculty had taken, even decades earlier in allegedly simpler times.

Added 6/9. For some reason I am having trouble replying to Bill Gasarch's comment, so here goes.

Well, Dean Khurana said, "Harvard needs an academic learning center that can help our students engage fully in the educational opportunities on campus. By enhancing the College’s support for our students’ intellectual transformation, we hope to foster the conditions for social and personal transformation as well.” Now it's true that students who are academically more confident feel more at home at Harvard, and are less likely to act out their academic frustrations as personal conflicts. But for many students this is putting the cart before the horse. If you feel trapped because your father insists on having your email password, he might well want you to take a speed reading course, but it's not going to get at the root of your academic problems.

I suspect that what has happened is that the normal stages of adolescent development have become medicalized. Psychiatry has names for things, and protocols and treatments. In this litigious society, when something goes wrong, some self-harm for example, lawyers and courts want to know if all the procedures have been carried out by the book. If there is a pill for it, they want to know that the pill was prescribed. I bet Harvard's lawyers decided that the medical profession runs a tighter ship than the developmental counseling profession, and consolidating all emotional counseling under the CAMHS (counseling and mental health service) would reduce risk and liability.

There is also a hint that the Bureau's study skills programs, which were superb, were not up to date, did not represent "the most recent research and practice in academic support," as the announcement haughtily sniffs. That  phrase is another marker that the Bureau was considered OLD, and what is coming will be NEW, and NEW is obviously better than OLD.

Finally, Harvard just doesn't want to be nonstandard. It is remarkable how fearful we are of looking different. We never hear about why things are as they are, we instead hear constantly about "best practices." We no longer have Senior Tutors, we have resident deans. We no longer have Masters we have faculty deans. (Never mind that we create as many confusions as we resolve with such renamings.) We no longer have the stock of the Puritans, we have the stars in the firmament. And we no longer have a Bureau, we have a Center. We will not rest until Harvard is precisely exactly, indistinguishable from every other American college. What an exasperating aspiration.

by Harry Lewis ( at June 07, 2019 06:58 PM

June 06, 2019

Ethan Zuckerman
Sir Tim versus Black Mirror

On a sunny summer morning in June, professor Jonathan Zittrain is hosting Sir Tim Berners-Lee in a Harvard Law School classroom. The audience is a smattering of visiting scholars at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and a few local techies involved with open source software development. I’d come to the room half an hour early to snag a seat, but I needn’t have bothered, as the crowd to see the man who invented the World Wide Web is attentive, but thin.

Jonathan Zittrain, one of the world’s leading scholars of creativity in an internet-connected universe, points out that Sir Tim’s current work is attempting to make a second correction in the arc of the internet. His first innovation, thirty years ago, was “the conceptualization and the runaway success of the World Wide Web.” Sir Tim’s current idea is a protocol – Solid – and a company – Inrupt – which want to make the Web as it is now significantly better. Just what are Solid and Inrupt? That’s what a smattering of us are here to find.

Sir Tim draws an arc on the chalkboard behind him. “People talk about the meteoric rise of the web – of course, meteors go down.” Referencing internet disinformation expert Joan Donavan, sitting in the audience, he notes “If you study the bad things on the web, there’s hundreds and thousands to study.” Almost apologetically, he explains that “there was a time when you could see things that were new [online], but not the ways they were bad.” For Sir Tim, the days of blogs were pretty good ones. “When you made a blog, you tried to make it high quality, and you tried to make your links to high quality blogs. You as a blogger were motivated by your reading counter, which led to a virtuous system based on custodianship as well as authorship.” Wistfully, he noted, “You could be forgiven for being fairly utopian in those days.”

What came out of this moment in the web’s evolution was a “true scale-free network, based on HTTP and HTML.” (Scale-free networks follow a Pareto distribution, with a small number of highly connected nodes and a “long tail” of less-connected nodes.) “It was extraordinary to discover that when you connect humanity, they form scale-free networks at all different levels. We put out HTTP and HRTML and ended up with humanity forming scale-free networks on a planetary – okay, a tenth of a planet – scale.”

Sir Tim noted that much of what was most interesting about the web was in the long tail, the less connected and less popular nodes. Zittrain invokes philosopher David Weinberger’s maxim, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 people” to acknowledge this idea, and Sir Tim pushes back: “That’s not scale free. What’s possible is that for n people on the planet, we might have root-n groups. We’re not trying to make one network for everyone, not trying to design something for Justin Bieber tweeting.”

So why doesn’t blogosphere still work? Sir Tim blames the Facebook algorithms which determine what you read, breaking network effects and leading to a huge amount of consolidation. Zittrain wonders whether Facebook’s power is really all that new – didn’t Google’s search algorithm have similar effects? Sir Tim demurs – “Google just looks at all links and takes an eigenvector – it’s still using the web to search.” There’s a fascinating parenthetical where Sir Tim explains that he never thought search engines were possible. “Originally, we thought no one would be able to crawl the entire web – you would need so much storage, it wouldn’t be possible. We hadn’t realized that disk space would become ridiculously cheap.” Jonathan Zittrain likens the moment when Google comes into being as a science fiction moment, where our ability to comprehend the universe as limited by the speed of light suddenly allows us to transcend those barriers – prior to search, we might only know our local quadrant of the web, while search suddenly made it possible to encounter any content, anywhere.

Sir Tim brings us back to earth by discussing clickbait. “Blogging was driven by excitement around readership. But eventually ads come into play – if I am writing, I should have recompense.” What follows is content written specifically to generate money, like the fake news content written by Macedonian bloggers that might have influenced US elections. Zittrain generously references my “The Internet’s Original Sin” article, and Sir Tim notes that “some people argue that if you start off with advertising, you’re never going to have a successful web.”

The consequence of a monetized web, Sir Tim believes, is consolidation, designed to give advertisers larger audiences to reach. That consolidation leads to silos: “My photos are on Flickr, but my colleagues are all on LinkedIn? How do I share them? Do I have to persuade all my friends to move over to the platform I’m on?”

Zittrain offers two possible solution the problem: interoperability, where everything shares some common data models and can exchange data, or dramatic consolidation, where LinkedIn, for instance, just runs everything. Sir Tim isn’t overly optimistic about either, noting that totalitarian societies might be able to demand deep interop, but that it seems unlikely in our market democracy. And while consolidation is easier to work within, “consolidation is also incredibly frustrating. If you want to make a Facebook app, you need to work within not only the Facebook API, but the Facebook paradigm, with users, groups, and likes. Silos are very bad for innovation.”

Returning to the arc he’s drawn on the blackboard, Sir Tim notes that the meteor is crashing into earth. “We don’t need to imagine future web dystopias. We’ve got a television show where every single episode illustrates a different form of dysfunction.” The arc of the Web is long and it leads towards Black Mirror.

In March of this year, Sir Tim launched the #ForTheWeb campaign to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Web. For Tim, the campaign was meant to feature the web worth saving, not to demand that either governments or Facebook fix it for us. “We need to fix networks and communities all at once, because it’s a sociotechnical system,” he explains. “We need to work inside the companies and inside the government. Some things are simple to fix – net neutrality, cheaper broadband, those were relatively simple. This isn’t simple. Free speech and hate speech are complicated and need complex social processes around them.” And while #ForTheWeb is a space for articulating the key values we want to support for a future direction of the web, that new direction needs a technical component as well. We need a course correction – what’s the White Mirror scenario?

Sir Tim pushes up the blackboard featuring the web as a meteor crashing back to earth. On the board below it, he starts drawing a set of cylinders. Solid is based around the idea of pods, personal data stores that could live in the cloud or which you could control directly. “Solid is web technology reapplied,” Sir Tim explains. “You use apps and web apps, but they don’t store your data at all.”

Returning to his photo sharing scenario, Sir Tim imagines uploading photos taken from a digital camera. The camera asks where you want to store the data. “You have a Solid pod at home, and one at work – you decide where to put them based on what context you want to use them in. Solid is a protocol, like the web. Pods are Solid-compatible personal clouds. Apps can talk to your pod.” So sharing photos is no longer about making LinkedIn and Flickr talk to each other – it’s simply about both of them talking to your pod, which you control.

“The web was all about interoperability – this is a solution for interoperability,” explains Sir Tim. “You choose where to store your information and the pods do access control, There’s a single sign on that leads to a WebID. Those WebIDs plus access controls are a common language across the Solid world.” These WebIDs support groups as well as individuals… and groups have pages where you can see who belongs to them. Apps look up the group and deliver information accordingly. The content delivery mechanism underneath Solid is WebDAV, a versioning and authoring protocol that Sir Tim has supported from very early on as a way of returning the Web to its read/write roots, though he notes that Solid plans on running on protocols that will be much faster.

Zittrain picks up the legal implications of this new paradigm: “Right now, each web app or service has custody of the data it uses – LinkedIn has a proprietary data store behind it. But there might also be some regulations that govern what LinkedIn can do with that data – how does that work in a Solid world?”

Ducking the legal question, Sir Tim looks into ways we might bootstrap personal data pods. “Because of GDPR, the major platforms bave been forced to create a way for people to export their content. You’d expect that Google, Facebook and others would fight this tooth and nail – instead they’re cooperating.” Specifically, they’re developing the Data Transfer Project, a common standard for data export that allows you not only to export your data, but to import it into a different platform. “They’ve gone to the trouble of designing common data models, which is brilliant from the Solid point of view.”

Zittrain suggests that we can think of Solid’s development in stages. In Stage 0, you might be able to retrieve your data from a platform, possibly from the API, possibly by scraping it, and you might get sued in the process. In Step 1, you can get your data through a Data Transfer dump. In Step 2, companies might begin making the data available regularly through Solid-compatible APIs. In Step 3, the Solid apps start working off the data that’s been migrated into personal pods.

Sir Tim notes that exciting things start to happen in Step 3. “My relationship with a bank is just a set of transactions and files. I can get a static copy of how the bank thinks of my current relationships. What I would like is for all those changes to be streamed to my Solid pod.” He concedes, “I probably don’t want to have the only copy.” Much of what’s interesting about Solid comes from the idea that pods can mirror each other in different ways – we might want to have a public debate in which all conversations are on the record and recorded, or an entirely ephemeral interaction, where all we say to one another disappears. This is one of many reasons, Sir Tim explains, “Solid does not use Blockchain. At all.”

Zittrain persists in identifying some of the challenges of this new model, referencing the Cambridge Analytica scandal that affected Facebook. “If the problem is privacy, specifically an API that made it easy to get not only my data, but my friends’ data, how does Solid help with this? Doesn’t there need to be someone minding controls of the access lists?”

Solid, Sir Tim explains, is not primarily about privacy. Initially, people worried about their personal data leaking, a compromising photo that was supposed to be private becoming public. Now we worry about how our data is aggregated and used. The response shouldn’t be to compensate people for that data usage. Instead, we need to help combat the manipulation. “Data is not oil. It doesn’t work that way, it’s not about owning it.” One of Sir Tim’s core concerns is that people offer valuable services, like free internet, in exchange for access to people’s datastream.

Zittrain points out that the idea that you own your own data – which is meant to be empowering – includes a deeply disempowering possibility. You now have the alienable right of giving away your own data.

Sir Tim is more excited about the upsides: “In a Solid world, my doctor has a Solid ID and I can choose the family photo that has a picture of my ankle and send it to the doctor for diagnosis. And I can access my medical data and share it with my cousin, if I choose.” Financial software interoperates smoothly, giving you access to your full financial picture. “All your fitness stuff is in your Solid Pod, and data from your friends if they want to share it so you can compete.” He imagines a record of purchases you’ve made on different sites, not just Amazon, and the possibility of running your own AI on top of it to make recommendations on what to buy next.

A member of the audience asks whether it’s really realistic for individuals to make decisions about how to share their data – we may not know what data it is unsafe to share, once it gets collected and aggregated. Can Solid really prevent data misuse?

“The Solid protocol doesn’t tell you whether these services spy on you, but the spirit of Solid is that they don’t,” offers Sir Tim. Apps are agents acting on your behalf. Not all Solid apps will be beneficent, he notes, but we can train certified developers to make beneficent apps, and offer a store of such apps. Zittrain, who wrote a terrific book about the ways in which app stores can strangle innovation, is visible uncomfortable and suggests that people may need help knowing who to trust in a Solid world. “Imagine a party able to be designated as a helper with respect to privacy. Maybe a grandchild is a helper for a grandmother. Maybe we need a new role in society – a fiduciary whose responsibility is to help you make trust decisions.” Zittrain’s question links Sir Tim’s ideas about Solid to an idea he’s been developing with Jack Balkin about information fiduciaries, the idea that platforms like Facebook might be required to treat our personal data with the legal respect that doctors, lawyers and accountants are forced to apply to personal data.

Another question wonders who will provide the hardware for Solid pods. Zittrain points out that Solid could run on Eben Moglen’s “Freedom Box”, a long-promised personal web server designed to put control of data back into users hands. Sir Tim suggests that your cable or ISP router might run a Pod in the future.

My question for Sir Tim focuses on adoption. Accepting for the moment the desirability of a Solid future – and, for the most part, I like Sir Tim’s vision a great deal – how do we get from here to there? For the foreseeable future, billions of people are using proprietary social networks that surveil their users and cling to their data. When Sir Tim last disrupted the Internet, it was an academic curiosity, not an industry worth hundreds of billions. How do we get from here to there?

Sir Tim remembers the advent of the web as a struggle. “Remember when Gopher was taking off exponentially, and the web was growing really slowly? Remember that things that take off fast can drop off fast.” Gopher wasn’t free, and its proprietary nature led it to die quickly; “People seem locked into Facebook – one of the rules of Solid is not to disturb them.” People who will adopt Solid will work around them, and when people begin using Solid, that group could explode exponentially. “The billion people on Facebook don’t affect the people using a Solid community.”

Returning to the 80s, Sir Tim notes that it was difficult for the Web to take off – there were lots of non-internet documentation systems that seemed like they might win. What happened was that CERN’s telephone directory was put on the web, and everyone got a web browser to access that directory. It took a while before people realized that they might want to put other information on top of the directory.

“We don’t want everyone using Facebook to switch to Solid tomorrow – we couldn’t handle the scale.” Instead, Sir Tim offers, “We want people who are passionate about it to work within it. The reward is being part of another revolution.”

There’s something very surreal about a moment in which thousands of researchers and pundits are studying what’s wrong with social media and the Web, and surprisingly few working on new models we can use to move forward. The man who built the web in the first place is now working on alternative models to save us from the Black Mirror universe and the broader academic and professional world seems… surprisingly uninterested.

I can certainly see problems with Solid apps – your Pod will become a honeypot of private information that’s a great target for hackers. Apps will develop to collect as much of your Pod data as possible, unless they’re both regulated and technically prevented from doing so. Unless Pods are mostly on very fast cloud services, apps that draw from multiple pods will be significantly slower than the web as it operates today.

But there’s so much to like in Sir Tim’s vision. My lab and I are working now on the idea that what the world needs now is not a better Facebook, but thousands of social networks, with different rules, purposes and community standards. Like Sir Tim, we’re not looking to replace Facebook but to create new communities for groups of 5 to 50,000, self-governing and capable of different behaviors than the communities with hundreds of millions of users and central corporate governance are capable of. There’s no reason why the networks we’re imagining couldn’t live atop Solid.

It’s hard to remember how small and strange an experiment the web was in 1989, or even in 1994. I remember dropping out of graduate school to work on a web startup. My motivation wasn’t that I might make a lot of money – that seemed extraordinarily unlikely. It was that someone was willing to pay me to work on something that seemed… right. Like a plausible and desirable future. And for me, at least, Solid seems plausible and desirable in much the same way. It also seems roughly as hard to love as the Web was in 1994, with its grey backgrounds and BLINK tag – Solid.Community allows you to register an ID, which at present doesn’t seem to let you do anything, though you can read the Github repository and see how you might create a chat app atop Solid.

Can Sir Tim revolutionize the Internet again? I have no idea. But someone needs to, because a web that crashes to earth is a Black Mirror episode I don’t want to see.

by Ethan at June 06, 2019 10:44 PM

June 03, 2019

Auditing for Bias in Resume Search Engines with Christo Wilson
There is growing awareness and concern about the role of automation in hiring, and the potential for these tools to reinforce historic inequalities in the labor market. In this work, Wilson performs an algorithm audit of the resume search engines offered by several of the largest online hiring platforms, to understand the relationship between a candidate's gender and their rank in search results. He and his team audit these platform with respect to individual and group fairness, as well as indirect and direct discrimination. For more info about this event, visit

by the Berkman Klein Center at June 03, 2019 05:40 PM

May 22, 2019

Ethan Zuckerman
Rest in peace, Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina died last night in a hospital in Nairobi at the age of 48. We lost him far, far too soon, but Bin spent his brief time on earth remarkably well, and packed more insight and discovery into his time than many people who survive twice as long.

Binyavanga Wainaina, photographed by Victor Dlamini for The JRB.

Like many people, I learned of Binyavanga’s work first from his remarkable and cutting essay, “How to Write About Africa”, a compendium of clichés that infect a great deal of writing about Africa, especially writing by well-meaning, liberal white westerners like myself. We met in person at TED Africa in Arusha in June, 2007, where he gave a funny and rollicking speech that touched on the rapid changes Kenya was going through, and the need for an African literary scene not centered around London or New York. (TED recently released his talk from the archives – it’s a wonderful picture of his thinking and his passions at the time.)

He and I found ourselves on the conference circuit together – searching around today, I found a video of us on a panel at PICNIC in the Netherlands in 2008. We got to know each other better that fall, when he came to Williams College – about ten miles from where I live – and was a scholar in residence for a year, and we met a few times for coffee and chats about politics. Looking back on his writing at that time, I can see his thinking move from the politics of the moment in Kenya to larger issues of the legacy of colonialism, the emergence of new pan-African identities, and the ways in which his own biography illustrated those themes. Writing in the Guardian, Helon Habila describes his autobiography, One Day I Will Write About This Place, as “subtle”, a coming of age story that helps explain how he became the brilliant and incisive commentator he was as a grown man.

What Helon and other readers didn’t know was that Bin had left a key part out of that autobiography: his identity as a gay man. In 2014, he came out in a “missing chapter” from that book, a letter to his late mother titled “I am a homosexual, mum”. In it, he explains that it took him until he was 39 to self-identify as gay, and until he was 43 to come out publicly. His coming out was a deeply brave act, as homosexuality is not recognized under Kenyan law, sexual acts between men are a felony, and there are no legal protections against discrimination for gay citizens. Over the last few years, he’s been an extremely visible LGBT activist, using the combination of his ever-sharp wit and his increasing fabulousness to bring the issue of LGBT equality to new levels of prominence and visibility in Kenya. It’s a terrible irony of his death that the Kenyan high court is about to issue a ruling that may recognize rights for LGBT Kenyans.

I sent Bin congratulations after his coming out, but the next exchanges I had with him were around his health, which took a sharp turn for the worse in 2015, with a series of strokes. Friends helped raise money for him to seek treatment in India, and he recovered well enough to tour and speak. Unfortunately, it was another stroke that felled him last night.

I am reaching the age where I am starting to lose peers. Not lots of them yet, thank god, but enough that I have noticed a pattern. I search my email and look at what we talked about and when. With Binyavanga, it’s logistics: where might we meet up and when? There’s a long exchange about Kenyan musicians Just a Band and helping find them gigs at US colleges, thoughts on what US schools are good places to spend a semester as a writer.

Today I realized that I am looking not just for memories, but for reassurance that I didn’t leave a last email unanswered. And while I’m glad that my last exchange with Binyavanga was one where he asked a question and I answered, I’m angry at myself that I hadn’t reached out in the last couple of years to ask him a question: how he was, what he was doing and thinking, his thoughts on the high court case.

Binyavanga was an inspiration as a thoughtful, brave, colorful, provocative, passionate and wise man. His transformation into a fuller, happier version of himself as he became an avatar of queer Africa was remarkable to watch, and an inspiration to think about what transformations I want to make in my own life as a mostly het, cis-gendered, middle-aged white dude. I regret that I didn’t have a last chance to talk with Binyavanga, waiting as he rolled a cigarette, collected his thoughts and declaimed his truths.

Rest in peace.

Daily Active Kenya has a fine collection of photos and quotes from Binyavanga.

by Ethan at May 22, 2019 10:29 PM

May 21, 2019

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
A Guide to Fourth Estate v.

Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act states that “no civil action for [copyright] infringement…shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made.”[1] In other words, copyright owners must “register” their copyrights before suing for copyright infringement. In Fourth Estate v., decided in March 2019, the Supreme Court clarified that “registration” for the purposes of Section 411(a) occurs only when the Copyright Office registers a copyright and provides a certificate of registration and not when an applicant files for copyright registration.[2] Under this decision, copyright owners must wait for the Copyright Office to decide on their registrations before they are allowed to sue others for infringement. This decision could potentially create a substantial time lag during which copyright owners, especially those with limited budgets, are able to enforce their copyrights. This blog post summarizes the Fourth Estate case and its reasoning, the implications of the new rule, and some ways for copyright owners to respond, including how to register for copyright.

Summary of the Case

Fourth Estate is a news organization that licensed journalistic works to, a news website. Wall-Street eventually canceled the licenses but continued to display Fourth Estate’s works on its website without Fourth Estate’s consent. Fourth Estate then submitted copyright registration applications for these works and immediately sued Wall-Street for infringement. Wall-Street moved to dismiss the suit because the Copyright Office had not yet acted on Fourth Estate’s applications. The key dispute of this case is whether the Section 411(a) requirement of “registration” was met when Fourth Estate submitted a completed registration application or would only be met when the Copyright Office actually acted on the application. The Supreme Court sided with Wall-Street, holding that registration only occurs when the Copyright Office acts.

Circuit Split

Before the Fourth Estate decision, there existed a circuit split on this question. Some courts in the Fifth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits followed the “application approach,” where the submission of a completed application to the Copyright Office was sufficient to meet the Section 411(a) requirement that “registration…has been made.”[3] Fourth Estate was a proponent of the “application approach.”

On the other hand, the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits followed the “registration approach,” which required the Copyright Office to make a decision on the application to meet the Section 411(a) requirement.[4] Wall-Street was a proponent of the “registration approach.” Because the Fourth Estate case was originally brought in the Eleventh Circuit, the trial court and court of appeals both followed the “registration approach” and ruled in favor of Wall-Street.[5]

Supreme Court’s Reasoning

In Fourth Estate, the Supreme Court resolved the circuit split in favor of the “registration approach.” In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Ginsburg,[6] the Court’s reasoning focused primarily on the statutory interpretation of Section 411(a) and the legislative history of the Copyright Act.

First, the Court focused on the basic statutory interpretation principle of keeping definitions consistent within a single statutory provision. The first sentence of Section 411(a) prohibits the initiation of an infringement suit until “registration…has been made.” The second sentence of Section 411(a) allows for the copyright applicant to initiate an infringement suit even if “registration has been refused” as long as the applicant serves notice to the Copyright Office.[7] In the second sentence, registration can only be refused if the word “registration” refers to a decision by the Copyright Office. Therefore, consistent with the principle that words within a single statutory provision should retain the same meaning, the Court reasoned that “registration” in the first sentence of Section 411(a) must require a registration decision by the Copyright Office, and cannot refer to the mere submission of a registration application.[8] The Court also looked to other Copyright Act provisions that use the term “registration” to support its interpretation and applied the principle of avoiding statutory interpretations that create superfluous language.[9]

Second, the Court looked to legislative history. It found that, when Congress revised the Copyright Act in 1976, it endorsed the rule that an action by the Copyright Office is required to trigger a copyright applicant’s entitlement to sue.[10] Specifically, the addition of the second sentence of Section 411(a) in the 1976 revisions would be unnecessary if Congress meant to allow copyright owners to sue upon submitting an application. In addition, in 1993, Congress considered but declined to adopt a change that would allow a copyright applicant to sue immediately after submitting a registration application.[11] These pieces of legislative history supported the Court’s decision in favor of

The Court also dismissed Fourth Estate’s policy arguments. It found that waiting for registration from the Copyright Office would not deprive copyright owners of their rights, because once the Copyright Office decided on the application the applicant could still win damages for past infringements that occurred before registration.[12] The Court also pointed to preregistration (discussed in more detail below) as a way for time-sensitive works to acquire more protection.[13] Lastly, the Court noted that the long registration processing times at the Copyright Office cannot be a reason to interpret §411(a) differently. It said that the backlog is due to “staffing and budgetary shortages that Congress can alleviate, but courts cannot cure.”[14]

In sum, the Supreme Court adopted the “registration approach,” which means that copyright owners do not automatically have the right to sue once they submit a completed registration application but, rather, must wait until the Copyright Office actually provides a certificate of registration (or denial thereof).[15]


The Fourth Estate decision is likely to have at least five major sets of implications:

    • Impact on Copyright Owners. One crucial implication of the Fourth Estate decision is that it reduces the leverage of copyright owners by taking away their ability to threaten and initiate immediate legal action if they have not yet obtained registration decisions from the Copyright Office. Currently, it takes between one and seven months, with an average of five months, for the Copyright Office to process an application.[16] Copyright owners may be unable to seek preliminary injunctions that prohibit alleged infringers from using their work during that time. However, as the Supreme Court noted, the decision does not change the ability of copyright owners to eventually recover damages from infringement that occurred before registration and from the infringer’s profits.[17]
    • Inequitable Impact on Small Copyright Owners. Although the Fourth Estate rule applies to all copyright owners, the impact of the rule may disproportionately harm small copyright owners. As explained below, the Copyright Office offers an “expedited process” that costs $800 per registration and provides a registration decision much more quickly than the regular process. When faced with infringement, deep-pocketed corporate copyright owners are much more likely to be able to afford the expedited process than small and individual copyright owners. Moreover, the Fourth Estate registration rule favors copyright owners that have the resources to consistently register their works for copyright over those who would be hard-pressed to register each of their works.
    • DMCA Takedowns. It may also be more difficult for copyright owners to sustain a DMCA takedown request. After a copyright owner files a DMCA takedown to remove allegedly infringing work from the Internet,[18] an alleged infringer can file a counter-notice and have the work reinstated.[19] After a counter-notice has been filed, platforms or Internet service providers may refuse to respond to a second DMCA takedown notice unless the copyright owner presents proof that it has initiated a court proceeding. If a copyright owner cannot initiate court proceedings absent a copyright registration, the intermediary may put content back up before a lawsuit can be commenced.
    • More Registrations. Now that merely filing a registration application is not enough to bring suit, copyright owners are more incentivized to apply for registration as soon as possible. Before Fourth Estate, some copyright owners filed for registration only when they were planning to sue for infringement. Now, the Fourth Estate rule may cause an influx of registrations (both regular and expedited) at the Copyright Office, which could cause processing times to increase beyond the current average of five months. On the other hand, Fourth Estate has brought the issue of administrative lag at the Copyright Office to the attention of some senators, and could potentially lead to Congress’s provision of more resources to the Office and relieving some of the backlog.[20]
    • Less Forum Shopping and Fewer Frivolous Claims. Under Fourth Estate, the registration rule is now consistent throughout the country, which means that plaintiffs will no longer have an incentive to bring infringement cases in circuits where the rule was favorable to them. Moreover, the higher barrier to bringing copyright infringement suits may stop plaintiffs from bringing frivolous or peripheral copyright claims in order to threaten high statutory damages.

All in all, Fourth Estate does not change the copyright landscape drastically, because copyright owners have always had to register their works before suing for infringement and they can still recover all monetary damages, even those incurred before registration. The primary difference now is that there may be a substantial delay between application for registration and filing an infringement suit.

How Should Copyright Owners React? Register for Copyright.

Under Fourth Estate, a copyright owner must have a registration decision from the Copyright Office before it can sue someone for infringing its copyrightable work. If a copyright owner applies for registration only after it finds out about the infringement, the copyright owner could be waiting five or more months before the Copyright Office registers your work.

There are three ways for copyright owners to avoid the wait.

First, a copyright owner can apply for registration as soon as its works are published, so that it will have a registration decision from the Copyright Office at the ready. Early submission of registration applications may turn out to be the best and simplest approach for copyright owners in the wake of the Fourth Estate. Although this will not necessarily decrease the copyright owner’s total wait time, it could mean that the copyright owner will have a certificate of registration ready if its work is ever infringed, and it will not feel pressured to expedite the registration process. Moreover, registration also provides other benefits. For example:

    • Registration is prima facie evidence of the validity of copyright, which means that courts will presume that that the copyright owner’s work is protected by copyright.
    • When registration is made within the first three months of publication, the copyright owner will be eligible to win statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in an infringement suit, potentially making the threat of a lawsuit more alarming for the infringer.
    • Registration creates a public notice of the fact that a work is protected and of the identity of the copyright owner. This could help people who want to license the work to find the copyright owner.[21]

Registrations can be done online through the Electronic Copyright Office Registration System (called eCO) as well as through mail-in paper applications. Electronic applications are, however, cheaper and are reviewed faster than paper applications. Currently, the most basic application, which is for a single work owned by a single claimant who is also the author of that work, costs $35. Other online filings cost $55, while paper applications cost $85 or more. Photographers may be able to register up to 750 published photographs in one application under the Group Registration for Published Photographs procedure, as long as they were created by the same author in the same calendar year. For more information on how to register copyrights, see the two following guidance documents published by the Copyright Office: “Registering a Copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office” and “Copyright Office Fees (Circular 4).”

Second, for certain types of time-sensitive works, a copyright owner can apply for preregistration, which allows one to sue for infringement even before the works are published. Like registration, preregistration allows a copyright owner to initiate an infringement suit.[22] But, preregistration is limited to only a few types of works that tend to be infringed prior to authorized commercial distribution—specifically motion pictures, sound recordings, musical compositions, books, computer programs, and advertising or marketing photographs.[23] Other types of works are not available for preregistration. Moreover, preregistration is not a replacement for normal registration, so a copyright owner must still complete a registration application after publication. Preregistration is only available online and currently costs $140 per application.[24] For more information on preregistration, see the Copyright Office’s webpage.

Lastly, if necessary, a copyright owner can utilize the expedited application process and obtain a decision from the Copyright Office with much less delay. Expedited registration — which the Copyright Office calls “special handling” — is available for all types of works but is only granted in some specific circumstances. One such circumstance is where there is pending or prospective litigation.[25] For a registration with a special handling request, the Copyright Office “will make every effort to complete its examination of the claim…within five working days” of the request being made. But, it cannot guarantee that every claim will be registered within that time frame.[26] A copyright owner can request special handling when it first submits an application, as well as for an application that is already submitted.[27] Special handling for registration currently costs a hefty $800 per claim in addition to the regular application fee.[28] For more information on special handling, see the guidance document “Special Handling (Circular 10)” published by the Copyright Office.

Sylvia Zhang (HLS JD 2019) was an advanced clinical student in the Cyberlaw Clinic during the spring semester 2019. Note:  This post is informational and does not constitute legal advice; if you have questions about the applicability of the Fourth Estate decision to your own copyright registration activities, please consult a lawyer.

Copyright Symbol Image Courtesy of Pixabay, Pixabay License

[1] 17 U.S.C. § 411(a) (2017).

[2] 139 S. Ct. 881, 892.

[3] See, e.g., Apple Barrel Prods. v. Beard, 730 F.2d 384, 386-87 (5th Cir. 1984); Action Tapes, Inc. v. Mattson, 462 F.3d 1010, 1013 (8th Cir. 2006); Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. v. IAC/Interactive Corp., 606 F.3d 612, 621 (9th Cir. 2010).

[4] See, e.g., LaResolana Architects v. Clay Realtors Angel Fire, 416 F.3d 1195, 1200-01 (10th Cir. 2005); M.G.B. Homes, Inc. v. Ameron Homes, Inc., 903 F.2d 1486, 1488 note 4 (11th Cir. 1986).

[5] See Fourth Estate Pub. Ben. Corp. v., No. 16-60597, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 187499, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 23, 2016); Fourth Estate Pub. Ben. Corp. v., LLC, 856 F.3d 1338, 1341 (11th Cir 2017).

[6] Fourth Estate Pub. Ben. Corp. v., LLC, 139 S. Ct. 881, 886 (2019).

[7] 17 U.S.C. § 411(a).

[8] See Fourth Estate, 139 S. 889.

[9] See id.

[10] See id. at 890-91.

[11] Id. at 891.

[12] See id. at 891.

[13] See id. at 892.

[14] Id. at 892.

[15] If the Copyright Office refuses registration, the applicant is allowed to sue for infringement as long as it serves a copy of the complaint to the Register of Copyrights (i.e. the director of the Copyright Office). In such a suit, the presiding court will also decide on the issue of registrability. See 17 U.S.C. § 411(a) (2017).

[16] Registration Processing Times, U.S. Copyright Office (2019),…. See also FAQs, Copyright Office,… (last visited May 19, 2019).

[17] See Fourth Estate, 139 S. Ct. at 891; 17 U.S.C. § 504 (2017).

[18] See 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3) (2017).

[19] See id. at § 512(g)(3).

[20] See Steve Brachmann, Senators Tillis and Coons Express Concerns with Fourth Estate in Letter to Copyright Office, IP Watchdog (Mar. 26, 2019), See also Letter from Sen. Thom Tillis and Sen. Christopher Coons to Karyn Temple, Acting Register of Copyright (Mar. 14, 2019), 

” title=”

” target=”_blank”>…

[21] See U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1: Copyright Basics 5 (2017),

[22] 17 U.S.C. § 411(a).

[23] Preregistration, U.S. Copyright Office, (last visited May 19, 2019).

[24] U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 4: Copyright Office Fees 3 (2018),

[25] U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 10: Special Handling 1 (2017),

[26] Id. at 2.

[27] Id. at 5.

[28] Id. at 2.

by Sylvia Zhang at May 21, 2019 05:36 PM

May 20, 2019

Everyday Chaos - A Book Talk with author David Weinberger and Joi Ito
The Internet and AI are not only changing the future, they're changing our ideas about how the future arises from the present. In his new book, Everyday Chaos, David Weinberger points to accepted ways we work on the Internet that in undo our old assumptions about how the future works. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 20, 2019 03:41 PM

May 15, 2019

Harry Lewis
EPIC Events on June 5
I have the honor to serve on the board of directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, aka EPIC. Based in Washington, DC, EPIC is the nation's leading privacy organization. It is a nonprofit and does lots of good work with a very small staff. I am most familiar with their litigation efforts. For example, it was EPIC that prevented the "Voter Fraud Commission" from inducing states to upload their voter lists; that court victory pretty much was the end of the Commission. EPIC is active right now on the Census citizenship question issue (the Census Bureau did not do the legally required privacy impact assessment). EPIC has just published a version of the Mueller Report it obtained under FOIA, with all the redactions marked with their justifications. Not only that, this version of the report is in a large format, so the type is readable!

June 5 is EPIC day in DC. Two important events are open to the public. From 1-3pm at the National Press Club, I will be moderating a panel discussion on "AI and Human Rights" with a distinguished group of panelists (free, but register at that link). And that evening at the same location will be the EPIC Champions of Freedom Awards dinner (there are several sponsorship levels for this event).

Hope to see you in DC. Or you can just donate to EPIC--it is a very worthy cause, and heaven knows privacy needs defending!

by Harry Lewis ( at May 15, 2019 01:46 AM

May 13, 2019

Benjamin Mako Hill
The Shifting Dynamics of Participation in an Online Programming Community

Informal online learning communities are one of the most exciting and successful ways to engage young people in technology. As the most successful example of the approach, over 40 million children from around the world have created accounts on the Scratch online community where they learn to code by creating interactive art, games, and stories. However, despite its enormous reach and its focus on inclusiveness, participation in Scratch is not as broad as one would hope. For example, reflecting a trend in the broader computing community, more boys have signed up on the Scratch website than girls.

In a recently published paper, I worked with several colleagues from the Community Data Science Collective to unpack the dynamics of unequal participation by gender in Scratch by looking at whether Scratch users choose to share the projects they create. Our analysis took advantage of the fact that less than a third of projects created in Scratch are ever shared publicly. By never sharing, creators never open themselves to the benefits associated with interaction, feedback, socialization, and learning—all things that research has shown participation in Scratch can support.

Overall, we found that boys on Scratch share their projects at a slightly higher rate than girls. Digging deeper, we found that this overall average hid an important dynamic that emerged over time. The graph below shows the proportion of Scratch projects shared for male and female Scratch users’ 1st created projects, 2nd created projects, 3rd created projects, and so on. It reflects the fact that although girls share less often initially, this trend flips over time. Experienced girls share much more than often than boys!

Proportion of projects shared by gender across experience levels, measured as the number of projects created, for 1.1 million Scratch users. Projects created by girls are less likely to be shared than those by boys until about the 9th project is created. The relationship is subsequently reversed.

We unpacked this dynamic using a series of statistical models estimated using data from over 5 million projects by over a million Scratch users. This set of analyses echoed our earlier preliminary finding—while girls were less likely to share initially, more experienced girls shared projects at consistently higher rates than boys. We further found that initial differences in sharing between boys and girls could be explained by controlling for differences in project complexity and in the social connectedness of the project creator.

Another surprising finding is that users who had received more positive peer feedback, at least as measured by receipt of “love its” (similar to “likes” on Facebook), were less likely to share their subsequent projects than users who had received less. This relation was especially strong for boys and for more experienced Scratch users. We speculate that this could be due to a phenomenon known in the music industry as “sophomore album syndrome” or “second album syndrome”—a term used to describe a musician who has had a successful first album but struggles to produce a second because of increased pressure and expectations caused by their previous success

This blog post (published first on the Community Data Science Collective blog) and the paper are collaborative work with Emilia Gan and Sayamindu Dasgupta. You can find more details about our methodology and results in the text of our paper, “Gender, Feedback, and Learners’ Decisions to Share Their Creative Computing Projects” which is freely available and published open access in the Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 2 (CSCW): 54:1-54:23.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at May 13, 2019 11:18 PM

VRM is Me2B

Most of us weren’t at the latest VRM Day or IIW (both of which happened in the week before last), so I’ll fill you in on a cool development there: a working synonym for VRM that makes a helluva lot more sense and may have a lot more box office.

That synonym is Me2B.

And by “we” I mean Lisa Lavasseur, who in addition to everything behind that link, runs the new Me2B Alliance, which features the graphic there on the right, (suggesting an individual in a driver’s seat). She is also is the Vice Chair of the  IEEE 7012 Standard for Machine Readable Personal Privacy Terms, a new effort with which some of us are also involved.

Lisa led many sessions at IIW, mostly toward solidifying what the Me2B Alliance will do. If you stay tuned to, you can see how that work grows and evolves.

The main thing for me, in the here and now, is to share how much I like Me2B as a synonym for VRM.

It is  also a synonym for C2B, of course; but it’s more personal. I also think it may have what it takes to imply Archimedes-grade leverage for individuals in the marketplace. For more on what I mean by that, see any or all of these:EIC award

I’m also putting this up to help me prep for mentioning Me2B tomorrow during this talk at the  2019 European Identity & Cloud Conference. It was at this same conference in 2008 that ProjectVRM won its first award. That’s it there on the right.

It’s becoming clear now that we were were way ahead of a time that finally seems to be arriving.

by Doc Searls at May 13, 2019 05:19 PM

May 12, 2019

Harry Lewis
The political execution of Dean Sullivan
Professor Ron Sullivan and his wife are out as faculty deans of Winthrop House, following the pattern of the Christakises at Yale. (I thought this might happen.) Sullivan, like Erika Christakis, was convicted of a political crime, and then publicly guillotined. The graceless announcement came yesterday in a letter that cynically invokes the notion of “dignity.” 

I know the counternarrative. The Crimson reported that there were problems with Sullivan long before l’affaire Weinstein. And so there may have been. But Harvard intentionally made Sullivan’s defense of Weinstein the tipping point of the decision to let him go. In the aftermath of Domínguez, the University decided that it couldn’t let the opportunity pass to make a very public #MeToo statement—even though it cut against the core principles of legal defense and the concept of separating professional activity from personal identity.

To explain, I need to refer back to a couple of old documents.

A recent "announcement" for Faculty Dean positions (included below) states, “Faculty Deans are appointed for a term of 5 years, beginning July 1st of the year following their appointment. These appointments are renewable for one additional 5-year term contingent upon a successful House review and approval from the Dean of Harvard College.” So the first question is why the decision to end Sullivan's tenure as faculty dean was not made simply on the basis that his ten years were up, given that the "position announcement" strongly suggests that these positions are limited to ten years. If the ten-year limitation is widely ignored, Harvard may have felt it needed a stronger rationale to remove him. So let’s assume that continuation beyond ten years is now routine. Still, it is clear from the announcement of Sullivan’s departure that he is not actually being removed; his term is up and he is not being reappointed. Under what conditions are faculty deans not reappointed?

Note in the “position announcement” the reference to “a successful House review.” That is to say, a normal review happens every five years, intended not just to review the performance of the faculty dean but to uncover other areas of concern and opportunities for improvement in the House. I don’t know what these “House reviews” consist of today; I include below a document showing what they looked like twenty years ago. A small committee talked to lots of people and reported back to the dean. The details don’t matter. The point is that there was—and according to the current “position announcement,” still is—a routine way to take the temperature of the House. Depending on the outcome of that review, the dean of the College would have the opportunity to sit down with the faculty deans and tell them, “Here is what the review turned up. I think you will agree that it makes more sense for you to announce your decision to move on to the next phase of your lives than for me to explain to the community what we have learned about your performance.” One of the reasons for term limits and reappointment reviews is to provide for the graceful and dignified handling of forced exits of people who will long remain in the community.

So why was there an out-of-the-ordinary, Orwellian “climate review” of Sullivan in Winthrop House? There should have been an ordinary quinquennial House review. That review would have uncovered whatever problems the climate review brought to light.

I can see only two possible answers. One is that those quinquennial reviews don’t actually happen, in spite of the "position announcement" stating that they do. In that case the dean of the College would simply reappoint whomever he wishes, independent of any pretense of informed evaluation. The very decision to conduct a “climate review” would then be political. Or else the normal review process took place and the “climate review” was added only in order to conduct a political trial of Sullivan’s decision to defend Weinstein.

It seems odd to characterize either possibility as "political," since Sullivan’s personal politics have not even come to light, and he seems to have defended a great many clients with whom the left would sympathize. By “political,” I mean the term in its latter-day, Domínguez-colored, #MeToo sense.

Consider an alternative political scenario, in which Sullivan defended a physician on trial for murder after performing an abortion. Committed students from Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, and Kentucky, spurred to action by recent decisions of their state legislatures and governors, protest that they don’t want to be handed their diplomas by someone who defends infanticide. Or suppose that some other faculty dean had an abortion herself, and angry students spray-painted the word “MURDERER” on her door. 

Would Harvard conduct an extraordinary climate review under those circumstances and then announce that, coming on top of other performance problems, the climate created by the decision to defend an abortionist or to have an abortion was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I doubt it. Instead we would have much rhetoric about learning to live in a diverse community with people who have different values, cultures, and ideals than our own. That no climate review would occur under those scenarios makes the decision to terminate Sullivan a statement of Harvard’s political preferences.

And since Sullivan was let go in part for political reasons, forgive my skepticism about the entire counter narrative – that is, whether the other alleged deficiencies in his leadership were major considerations in the decision not to keep him on. Certainly the students who were most vocal about Sullivan's defense of Weinstein are accepting the outcome as a victory for the #MeToo movement.

I hope Professor Sullivan does as well in his new life as Professor Nick Christakis has in his. And I hope Harvard can at some point think about what lessons such decisions are teaching its students (see Harvard's educational role and A teachable moment).

by Harry Lewis ( at May 12, 2019 10:03 PM

May 11, 2019

Harry Lewis
Harvard succeeds in crushing the women's clubs
I long ago told the Faculty that the social club sanctions would hurt women more than men. At the year's final meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on May 7, I asked Dean Khurana the following question about that:
Dean Khurana, my question concerns the policy you announced 3 years ago in order to push certain off-campus social clubs to go co-ed, a policy that this Faculty discussed at some length. You were quoted in the Crimson on February 22 to the effect that you were pleased with the success of the policy. The Crimson also reported, however, that while the policy has wiped out almost all the women’s clubs, it has had only a small impact on the men’s clubs. So that the faculty may know the facts of the matter without relying on the Crimson, can you tell us as of today, how many of the men’s clubs have gone co-ed (perhaps under a new name), how many went out of business, and how many remain all-male; and similarly for the women’s clubs, how many went co-ed, how many went out of business, and how many remain all-female? 

Harvard Magazine explains the question and reports Dean Khurana's reply.
The point of his question was that the policy has made it difficult for women to maintain their recently established social organizations, while the long-established male final clubs (including those with private facilities in Harvard Square, and in some cases significant endowment resources built up over many decades), have been relatively less affected to date—an outcome perhaps different from the one Khurana sought, or that faculty members who voted for the policy in late 2017 intended. Khurana pointed to data available from the dean of students office. Among 13 social organizations now qualifying as gender-neutral (and therefore recognized, so that membership does not expose a student to the sanctions), he said, four were former fraternities; eight were former sororities; and one was a final club. Seven final clubs or similar male fraternal organizations had not become gender-neutral, and therefore remain unrecognized social organizations, whose members are subject to the new policy’s sanctions.
A knowledgeable undergraduate helped me parse the accuracy of this answer.
  • The statement that "eight were former sororities" can't be right, since there have never been more than four sororities at Harvard.
  • The statement that "one was a final club" seems to refer to the Spee. But some women's final clubs went co-ed, so it seems that when Khurana refers to "final clubs" he is referring only to the male final clubs. Perhaps he is equating the formerly women's final clubs with sororities, even though they do not have national parent organizations. But the numbers still don't seem to add up.
  • And it is hard to reconcile the statement that "Seven final clubs or similar male fraternal organizations ha[ve] not become gender-neutral" with the facts that six male final clubs remain all-male (AD, PC, Fly, PSK, Owl, and Fox, none of which is applying for recognition) and two fraternities (SX and SAE) remain all male and have sued Harvard. (The Fox at one point promised to go co-ed and then reversed course. The Delphic, a men's final club, and the Bee, a women's final club, seem to have effectively merged to form a recognized co-ed club.)

Bottom line: there seem to be eight all-male clubs left and zero all-female clubs, while there used to be thirteen all-male clubs and ten all-female clubs. And at gender-neutral Harvard, this counts as success.

Added May 11: One of the sororities that shut down seems to have technically re-opened, with almost no members, mainly to join the fraternities in their lawsuit against the University. Last spring a new female final club was reported to have been formed, but I can't find any recent information about its status.

by Harry Lewis ( at May 11, 2019 02:40 AM

May 10, 2019

IGNITE talks - Featuring Members of the BKC Community
Berkman Klein community members Elettra Bietti, John Collins, Andrew Gruen, Daniel Jones, Mariel Garcia Montes, Jasmine McNealy, Sabelo Mhlambi, Sarah Newman, Kathy Pham, and Salome Viljoen share their research, passions, and musings in five minute Ignite Talks. Topics include the data economy in the European Union, maternal health around the world, youth and privacy online in Latin American, Ubuntu as an ethical framework for AI, collecting secrets, and more. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 10, 2019 07:28 PM

May 08, 2019

Juan Carlos De Martin
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky: "In difesa della Costituzione"
L’inizio della difficoltà in cui si è venuto a trovare il Salone del Libro non è nella concessione di uno stand anche alla fascisteggiante editrice Altaforte. Pochi avrebbero notato il suo banchetto di libri e il suo catalogo avrebbe interessato chi già ne condivide l’orientamento, senza vero effetto di proselitismo. Ma il ministro dell’Interno ha ora pubblicato una sua intervista proprio dalla casa editrice vicina a CasaPound. È questo l’incredibile fatto scatenante le reazioni e i problemi che gli organizzatori del Salone si trovano ad affrontare. All’ingiusto danno che il grande evento culturale subisce, si unisce un effetto negativo anche più rilevante: l’oscuramento del gesto del ministro Salvini e dell’ennesimo segnale che egli lancia all’estrema destra, con la possibilità offerta ai compagni di governo di far finta di niente.

Ora il problema che si è posto con la presenza di Altaforte e dei suoi libri accanto ai tanti altri editori, ridotto all’essenziale è un problema classico, che, una volta emerso nel dibattito pubblico, va affrontato rigorosamente richiamandosi ai principi liberali, che sono propri della Costituzione e del diritto europeo delle libertà fondamentali. La libertà di espressione è uno dei fondamenti essenziali della società democratica. Come più volte ha detto la Corte europea dei diritti umani, essa vale non soltanto per le informazioni o le idee che sono accolte con favore o sono considerate inoffensive o indifferenti, ma anche per quelle che urtano, colpiscono, inquietano lo Stato o una qualunque parte della popolazione. Il senso dei principi costituzionali nella materia non è diverso. Propria delle società liberali democratiche è la fiducia nel dibattito, che vede contrapporsi argomento ad argomento, fa emergere quella parte di verità o almeno di accettabilità che può trovarsi anche nell’opinione che si combatte. Persino la falsità o l’insuperabile debolezza dell’opinione dell’avversario, messa in luce dal confronto, contribuisce alla ricerca di ciò che è vero, giusto, opportuno. La censura priva entrambi i contendenti del confronto di idee e del valore del suo esito. Nel caso che ora si pone al Salone del Libro, occorre accettare la fatica e il fastidio della discussione argomentata. E quindi ricordare la vicenda del fascismo in Italia e in Europa, raccontarla soprattutto ai giovani che non l’hanno vissuta e a chi non legge abbastanza.

Certo alla libertà di espressione vi sono limiti; limiti oltre i quali è possibile che si applichi la legge penale o che comunque quella libertà non trovi protezione. Ma occorre che si sia in presenza di apologia o istigazione o incitamento all’odio, alla violenza, al razzismo, all’intolleranza e alla discriminazione. E non può trattarsi solo dell’espressione di opinioni, ma devono derivarne rischi in concreto di spingere a condotte pericolose. In sostanza non si puniscono le opinioni, per quanto deplorevoli. E ciò vale per tutta l’area del c.d. delitti di opinione, secondo la costante applicazione che di quelle norme fanno i giudici nazionali e quelli europei. In particolare non è vietato esser fascisti o dire di esserlo. Vietato è farne apologia in modo da creare il pericolo di ricostituzione del partito fascista.

Va però detto ciò che da tempo in Italia sembra esser dimenticato. Non tutto ciò che è consentito e non punito è anche apprezzabile, opportuno o irrilevante. Oltre la legge penale vi è la dimensione politica. Mescolare i piani, far dipendere le valutazioni politiche dall’esito di vicende penali produce confusione e porta all’indifferenza etica e politica. Cioè alla connivenza. E se la democrazia sconta qualche possibile debolezza, che le deriva dalla tolleranza delle opinioni di chi la denigra e combatte, tuttavia pretende rigore nel definire ciò che è politicamente inaccettabile. Su quel piano ogni atteggiamento di vicinanza, tolleranza, noncuranza per le posizioni che si richiamano al fascismo è radicalmente incompatibile con la lettera e lo spirito della nostra Costituzione.

Licenza Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

"La Stampa", 8 maggio 2019, p. 21.


by Juan Carlos De Martin at May 08, 2019 02:46 PM

April 30, 2019

Benjamin Mako Hill
New Research on How Anonymity is Perceived in Open Collaboration

Online anonymity often gets a bad rap and complaints about antisocial behavior from anonymous Internet users are as old as the Internet itself. On the other hand, research has shown that many Internet users seek out anonymity to protect their privacy while contributing things of value. Should people seeking to contribute to open collaboration projects like open source software and citizen science projects be required to give up identifying information in order to participate?

I was part of a team led by Nora McDonald that conducted a two-part study to better understand how open collaboration projects balance the threats of bad behavior with the goal of respecting contributors’ expectations of privacy. First, we interviewed eleven people from five different open collaboration “service providers” to understand what threats they perceive to their projects’ mission and how these threats shape privacy and security decisions when it comes to anonymous contributions. Second, we analyzed discussions about anonymous contributors on publicly available logs of the English language Wikipedia mailing list from 2010 to 2017.

In the interview study, we identified three themes that pervaded discussions of perceived threats. These included threats to:

  1. community norms, such as harrassment;
  2. sustaining participation, such as loss of or failure to attract volunteers; and
  3. contribution quality, low-quality contributions drain community resources.

We found that open collaboration providers were most concerned with lowering barriers to participation to attract new contributors. This makes sense given that newbies are the lifeblood of open collaboration communities. We also found that service providers thought of allowing anonymous contributions as a way of offering low barriers to participation, not as a way of helping contributors manage their privacy. They imagined that anonymous contributors who wanted to remain in the community would eventually become full participants by registering for an account and creating an identity on the site. This assumption was evident in policies and technical features of collaboration platforms that barred anonymous contributors from participating in discussions, receiving customized suggestions, or from contributing at all in some circumstances. In our second study of the English language Wikipedia public email listserv, we discovered that the perspectives we encountered in interviews also dominated discussions of anonymity on Wikipedia. In both studies, we found that anonymous contributors were seen as “second-class citizens.

This is not the way anonymous contributors see themselves. In a study we published two years ago, we interviewed people who sought out privacy when contributing to open collaboration projects. Our subjects expressed fears like being doxed, shot at, losing their job, or harassed. Some were worried about doing or viewing things online that violated censorship laws in their home country. The difference between the way that anonymity seekers see themselves and the way they are seen by service providers was striking.

One cause of this divergence in perceptions around anonymous contributors uncovered by our new paper is that people who seek out anonymity are not able to participate fully in the process of discussing and articulating norms and policies around anonymous contribution. People whose anonymity needs means they cannot participate in general cannot participate in the discussions that determine who can participate.

We conclude our paper with the observation that, although social norms have played an important role in HCI research, relying on them as a yardstick for measuring privacy expectations may leave out important minority experiences whose privacy concerns keep them from participating in the first place. In online communities like open collaboration projects, social norms may best reflect the most privileged and central users of a system while ignoring the most vulnerable

This blog post was originally posted on the Community Data Science Collective blog. Both this blog post and the paper, Privacy, Anonymity, and Perceived Risk in Open Collaboration: A Study of Service Providers, was written by Nora McDonald, Benjamin Mako Hill, Rachel Greenstadt, and Andrea Forte and will be published in the Proceedings of the 2019 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems next week. The paper will be presented at the CHI conference in Glasgow, UK on Wednesday May 8, 2019. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation (awards CNS-1703736 and CNS-1703049).

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 30, 2019 11:27 PM

April 27, 2019

Personal scale

Way back in 1995, when our family was still new to the Web, my wife asked a question that is one of the big reasons I started ProjectVRM: Why can’t I take my own shopping cart from one site to another?

The bad but true answer is that every site wants you to use their shopping cart. The good but not-yet-true answer is that nobody has invented it yet. Not  a truly personal one, based on open standards that make it possible for lots of developers compete at making the best personal shopping cart for you. Same goes for pretty much everything on our punch list. Those include:

All of these things are Me2B, and will give each of us scale, much as the standards that make the Internet, browsers and email all give us scale. And that scale will be just as good for the companies we deal with as are the Internet, browsers and email.

I’d love to see if there is any economics research and/or scholarship on personal scale and its leverage (such as those three things provide us all in the digital world). Because it’s a case that needs to be made.

We’ll also be talking about this (and much more) at VRM Day on Monday. See you there.

by Doc Searls at April 27, 2019 11:29 PM

April 25, 2019

How to Work with Tech Companies on Human Rights
How can advocates, activists, and academics work with technology companies to advance human rights? In this talk, David Sullivan, director at the Global Network Initiative, and BKC Fellow Chinmayi Arun draw upon a contentious exchange with Steve Jobs about the Democratic Republic of Congo to offer insights into how companies and civil society can work together on tough issues at the intersection of technology and human rights online. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 25, 2019 08:12 PM

April 19, 2019

Dirty Data, Bad Predictions - How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Systems & Society
AI Now Director of Policy Research Rashida Richardson discusses recent research on the data provenance of police data commonly used in predictive policing system. The research reviews Department of Justice consent decrees and other federal court monitored settlements related to police practices to examine the link between unlawful and biased police practices and the data used to train and/or implement these systems. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 19, 2019 08:21 PM

April 12, 2019

Constitutionalizing Speech Platforms - Featuring Kate Klonick, Thomas Kadri & BKC Community Members
We're never going to get a global set of norms for online speech, but do the platforms pick our global values and constitutionalize them? Is there something to tie our global values to the mast when hard issues arise? What would those values even be? This event features a presentation and discussion with Kate Klonick and Thomas Kadri along with panelists, Chinmayi Arun, Kendra Albert, and Jonathan Zittrain with moderation by Elettra Bietti. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 12, 2019 08:53 PM

BKC Meet the Author Series: Urs Gasser in conversation with Jason Farman
BKC Executive Director Urs Gasser speaks with Jason Farman, author of the book "Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World," about how our communication media shape not only how we understand human intimacy and connection, but also how we learn and build knowledge about our world and the universe. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 12, 2019 08:37 PM

April 08, 2019

Wayne Marshall
Why 7 Rings Rings So Many Bells

This month’s New York magazine features a set of articles about popular music today and why questions of plagiarism seem to dog so many hit songs. I was happy to contribute an article teasing out the controversies around Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” by taking a musicological deep-dive into the disputed musical figure in question, a resurgently popular rhythm that some would call a Scotch Snap.

You can find an online version, complete with technomusicological examples — a few mashups and a mini-mega-mix! — over at Vulture. They’ve gone and slicked up the Ableton screengrabs I made, which is nice, but I also like the charm and simplicity (especially the ability to track audio, notation, and video) of the originals. Here, for instance, is the Scotch Snap megamix I worked up — just follow the bouncing cowbell!

I first started noticing the Scotch Snap a while back, and I flagged it on the blog here in March 2014, proposing that the “remarkable spread” of the “stuttered, splattered, staccato syllables” popularized by Chicago rappers Lil Reese and Chief Keef made it second only to the Migos flow. I noted that it was already a trope among such pop singers as Rihanna and Beyonce, and I suggested that “perhaps I need to make a supercut to make my point.”

Well, it only took me 5 years, but here we are. How funny to look back, especially in the wake of this Ariana Grande piece, and see myself writing that “far as I can tell, that Chicago drill flow has less of a history than 8th note triplets.” Now I can tell farther. Far farther. As I explore in the article, while it’s important to recognize how rappers have crucially contributed to the vogue for this rhythm, the Scotch Snap has a long history, spanning all manner of music in the United States and pointing back to Scotland (as well as West Africa). In the words of musicologist Philip Tagg,

The Scotch snap is used by Henry Purcell, Béla Bartók, Mahalia Jackson, Woody Guthrie, Stevie Wonder, Ry Cooder, James Brown, Buck Owens etc., etc., etc. You’ll find it in Strathspeys, traditional English ballads, Appalachian fiddling, string band music, spirituals, white gospel, black gospel, rock music, even in West African time lines, but you won’t hear it in mariachi, mbaqanga or MPB, nor in the musics of South or Central Europe, including (continental) European art music.

I’m indebted to Tagg’s amazing video on the Scotch Snap for helping me connect all these dots. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t reference his video in that blog post. I count Tagg as a technomusicological pioneer and have been assigning his videos in my classes for years. (Tagg’s Milksap Montage is a classic mega-mix of 52 midcentury pop songs using the same 4 chords, and it helped convince me that mega-mixes and montages could compellingly tell musicological stories.)

Going through my records, I see that I even emailed him back in May 2011, as soon as he shared his video with the IASPM list. I was eager to report that one could also hear the Scotch Snap in current rap songs, such as Travis Porter’s “Make It Rain” — an example that I probably should have included in my mega-mix, especially as it comes out around the same time as “Pretty Boy Swag,” which Soulja Boy would like to pose as patient zero for this rhythmic meme.

While we’re on the topic of additional examples, if I had another crack at the mega-mix — and thought people could deal with a few more minutes of follow-the-cowbell — I would definitely add Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” BTS’s “Fake Love,” Rich Brian’s “Dat $tick,” and Florida Georgia Line’s “Swerve,” each of which shows how the rhythm, as (re-)popularized by rappers, has gone global and jumped genre-lines.

But telling as much of the story as my mini-mega-mix does is maybe enough, and a little late is better than never. That said, having filed the story and produced the mix back in February, I was gutted to get scooped by popular YouTube music-explainer, Adam Neely, who published a Scotch Snap video covering a lot of the same ground — and also pivoting on Ariana Grande — in the middle of March, as my own work was slowly working its way through fact-checking and other editorial processes. So it goes. Like the rhythm itself, this story has been in the air, and “7 Rings” made as good a platform for telling it as any.

Neely’s a Berklee alum, and my students brought his work to my attention last year. I like what he does (especially his Giant Steps / music+math piece), and he did a fine job on the Scotch Snap story. In the end, Neely gets more into the musical and linguistic weeds, where my article focuses more on the historical context and questions of plagiarism and appropriation. They can complement each other, to be sure. (I just wish my own video could do numbers like his, which, in under a month, has netted nearly half a million views!) I’m grateful that he linked to my montage and added my name to the credits, where, par for the course, I discovered that a French fellow was walking this trail back in October 2018 (and used the same Purcell sample that I grabbed via Tagg).

That said, I suppose this blog is as good a space as any to express some skepticism over Neely’s suggestion that the beat of dancehall and reggaeton is derived from the rhythmic tendencies of Jamaican English and Spanish. While there may be some happy overlap between that 3+3+2 beat (aka dembow) and idiomatic stress patterns in those languages, that beat is at bottom a dance rhythm — not a speech rhythm — and is far older than those languages, and more African.

I’m also not convinced that the Scotch Snap is all that (relatively) rare in Jamaican music and language, especially given that Scottish-African cultural interplay happened there too. Off the top of my head, I can recall that Elephant Man’s “The Bombing” (2001) drops Scotch Snaps throughout the verses, though I’ll have to start listening more closely for it across the reggae repertory.

While we’re talking Jamaica, allow me to include here my favorite of the souped-up videos in the article. In this case, the video design, combined with the text I prepared, serves to make clear what we’re hearing when we’re hearing it (especially if you use headphones) — far better than I do waving around my cursor. I’m glad to finally share this story with the world, especially since, although Junior Reid apparently enjoyed the mashup, he lost interest in the lawsuit and it never went anywhere. I would have been quite curious to know how persuasive this may have proven in court (or in settlement negotiations), or in the court of public opinion, to which I now submit it.

One of the problems I noticed when scanning the Scotch Snap literature is that the data — i.e., the corpora — referenced in studies such as the Temperleys’ (PDF) are deeply Eurocentric, making it difficult to come to broader conclusions about the geographical distribution of the rhythm. I’d be very curious to know what sort of patterns and proclivities would emerge given a wider, larger, and much more global sample. Perhaps the increasing popularity and recognition of the Scotch Snap will help spur more research in that vein.

I’ll be keeping my ears peeled, and now, I suspect, so will you.

by wayneandwax at April 08, 2019 08:44 PM

April 04, 2019

Machines Learning to Find Injustice -Featuring Ryan Copus, HLS Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law
Predictive algorithms can often outperform humans in making legal decisions. But when used to automate or guide decisions, predictions can embed biases, conflict with a "right to explanation," and be manipulated by litigants. HLS Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law Ryan Copus suggests we should instead use predictive algorithms to identify unjust decisions and subject them to secondary review. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 04, 2019 07:27 PM

BKC Meet the Author Series: Urs Gasser in conversation with Farah Pandith
In her new book, How We Win, Farah Pandith, a world-leading expert and pioneer in countering violent extremism, lays out a comprehensive strategy for how we can defeat the growing extremist threat, once and for all. From technology companies and entrepreneurs to businesses in the private sector, she says, this is an all-encompassing global issue that we must address together. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 04, 2019 04:52 PM

March 29, 2019

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Clinic Files Amicus Brief Arguing for Broader Access to Government Databases Through FOIA

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) this week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a group of data journalists and media organizations, advocating for a different approach to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to databases. The brief supports the Center for Investigative Reporting in an appeal arising out of a FOIA request submitted by CIR to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

CIR requested data from ATF’s firearm trace database, seeking records about firearms that were originally owned by law enforcement. In its denial of the FOIA request, ATF cited the Tiahrt Amendment, a rider contained in annual appropriations acts from 2003 to 2012. The Tiahrt Amendment prohibits disclosure of firearm trace information in response to FOIA requests, but allows the release of “statistical aggregate data.” Unfortunately, some courts have held that agencies are not required to release aggregate data that they have not already compiled because it constitutes production of a “new record,” which is not required under FOIA.

The lower court ruled in favor of ATF,  finding that CIR’s request would require ATF to create a new record. A Ninth Circuit decision on this case has the potential to shape FOIA jurisprudence relating to databases, which will have wide-reaching effects since more and more records are being stored in database format.

The Cyberlaw Clinic’s amicus brief focused on whether searching, filtering, sorting, and other forms of database manipulation constitute the creation of a new record. Amici explain how databases like the one used by ATF are structured, and how a database can be queried to yield information in various arrangements. While courts have previously analyzed databases as analogues to massive filing cabinets storing thousands of records, amici show that a database is like no filing cabinet that has ever existed. In fact, databases may have more in common with the famed Room of Requirement at Hogwarts than with how documents were stored on paper.

The amici include sixteen individual data journalists and professors of journalism, and five media-related organizations. All of them have a significant interest in a strong right of access to records held in government databases based on their extensive experience with government transparency processes, including FOIA, and with the technical aspects of working with structured data, including databases.

The media-related organizations are:

  • Investigative Reporters and Editors, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting.
  • The Media Law Resource Center, a non-profit professional association for content providers in all media, and for their defense lawyers, providing a wide range of resources on media law and policy issues.
  • MuckRock, a journalism and government transparency non-profit that has helped thousands of requesters around the United States better file, share, and understand Freedom of Information requests.
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and defends public interest journalism focused on transparency and accountability.
  • The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an unincorporated nonprofit association whose attorneys provide pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists

The individual journalists include Matt Carroll, Meredith Broussard, Dhrumil Mehta, Cheryl Phillips, Dan Keating, Lucia Walinchus, and Zita Arocha.

By focusing on real-world uses of databases, amici show that there is no practical difference between accessing full records from a database and compiling a list of entries. Amici then point out that the content-index distinction has led to murky jurisprudence in the past and continuing to apply this distinction to databases would require arbitrary line-drawing and lead to absurd results. In the database context, almost any presentation of the data is a record that already exists, and agencies should be required to produce records accordingly.

The Cyberlaw Clinic is honored to have represented these amici and hopes the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will seriously consider their input. The brief was written by Clinical Instructor Mason Kortz, Clinical Instructional Fellow Kendra Albert, and Spring 2019 clinical students Alena Farber, Ariel Hoffman, and LeHeng Li.

by Alena Farber at March 29, 2019 01:39 PM

March 23, 2019

The Wurst of the Web

Don’t think about what’s wrong on the Web. Think about what pays for it. Better yet, look at it.

Start by installing Privacy Badger in your browser. Then look at what it tells you about every site you visit. With very few exceptions (e.g. Internet Archive and Wikipedia), all are putting tracking beacons (the wurst cookie flavor) in your browser. These then announce your presence to many third parties, mostly unknown and all unseen, at nearly every subsequent site you visit, so you can be followed and profiled and advertised at. And your profile might be used for purposes other than advertising. There’s no way to tell.

This practice—tracking people without their invitation or knowledge—is at the dark heart and sold soul of what Shoshana Zuboff calls Surveillance Capitalism and Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger call Re-engineering Humanity. (The italicized links go to books on the topic, both of which came out in the last year. Buy them.)

While that system’s business is innocuously and misleadingly called advertising, the surveilling part of it is called adtechThe most direct ancestor of adtech is not old fashioned brand advertising. It’s direct marketing, best known as junk mail. (I explain the difference in Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.) 

In the online world, brand advertising and adtech look the same, but underneath they are as different as bread and dirt. While brand advertising is aimed at broad populations and sponsors media it considers worthwhile, adtech does neither. Like junk mail, adtech wants to be personal, wants a direct response, and ignores massive negative externalities. It also uses media to mark, track and advertise at eyeballs, wherever those eyeballs might show up. (This is how, for example, a Wall Street Journal reader’s eyeballs get shot with an ad for, say, Warby Parker, on Breitbart.) So adtech follows people, profiles them, and adjusts its offerings to maximize engagement, meaning getting a click. It also works constantly to put better crosshairs on the brains of its human targets; and it does this for both advertisers and other entities interested in influencing people. (For example, to swing an election.)

For most reporters covering this, the main objects of interest are the two biggest advertising intermediaries in the world: Facebook and Google. That’s understandable, but they’re just the tip of the wurstberg.  Also, in the case of Facebook, it’s quite possible that it can’t fix itself. See here:

How easy do you think it is for Facebook to change: to respond positively to market and regulatory pressures?

Consider this possibility: it can’t.

One reason is structural. Facebook is comprised of many data centers, each the size of a Walmart or few, scattered around the world and costing many $billions to build and maintain. Those data centers maintain a vast and closed habitat where more than two billion human beings share all kinds of revealing personal shit about themselves and each other, while providing countless ways for anybody on Earth, at any budget level, to micro-target ads at highly characterized human targets, using up to millions of different combinations of targeting characteristics (including ones provided by parties outside Facebook, such as Cambridge Analytica, which have deep psychological profiles of millions of Facebook members). Hey, what could go wrong?

In three words, the whole thing.

The other reason is operational. We can see that in how Facebook has handed fixing what’s wrong with it over to thousands of human beings, all hired to do what The Wall Street Journal calls “The Worst Job in Technology: Staring at Human Depravity to Keep It Off Facebook.” Note that this is not the job of robots, AI, ML or any of the other forms of computing magic you’d like to think Facebook would be good at. Alas, even Facebook is still a long way from teaching machines to know what’s unconscionable. And can’t in the long run, because machines don’t have a conscience, much less an able one.

You know Goethe’s (or hell, Disney’s) story of The Sorceror’s Apprentice? Look it up. It’ll help. Because Mark Zuckerberg is both the the sorcerer and the apprentice in the Facebook version of the story. Worse, Zuck doesn’t have the mastery level of either one.

Nobody, not even Zuck, has enough power to control the evil spirits released by giant machines designed to violate personal privacy, produce echo chambers beyond counting and amplify tribal prejudices (including genocidal ones)—besides whatever good it does for users and advertisers.

The hard work here is lsolving the problems that corrupted Facebook so thoroughly, and are doing the same to all the media that depend on surveillance capitalism to re-engineer us all.

Meanwhile, because lawmaking is moving apace in any case, we should also come up with model laws and regulations that insist on respect for private spaces online. The browser is a private space, so let’s start there.

Here’s one constructive suggestion: get the browser makers to meet next month at IIW, an unconference that convenes twice a year at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, and work this out.

Ann Cavoukian (@AnnCavoukian) got things going on the organizational side with Privacy By Design, which is now also embodied in the GDPR. She has also made clear that the same principles should apply on the individual’s side.  So let’s call the challenge there Privacy By Default. And let’s have it work the same in all browsers.

I think it’s really pretty simple: the default is no. If we want to be tracked for targeted advertising or other marketing purposes, we should have ways to opt into that. But not some modification of the ways we have now, where every @#$%& website has its own methods, policies and terms, none of which we can track or audit. That is broken beyond repair and needs to be pushed off a cliff.

Among the capabilities we need on our side are 1) knowing what we have opted into, and 2) ways to audit what is done with information we have given to organizations, or has been gleaned about us in the course of our actions in the digital world. Until we have ways of doing both,  we need to zero-base the way targeted advertising and marketing is done in the digital world. Because spying on people without an invitation or a court order is just as wrong in the digital world as it is in the natural one. And you don’t need spying to target.

And don’t worry about lost business. There are many larger markets to be made on the other side of that line in the sand than we have right now in a world where more than 2 billion people block ads, and among the reasons they give are “Ads might compromise my online privacy,” and “Stop ads being personalized.”

Those markets will be larger because incentives will be aligned around customer agency. And they’ll want a lot more from the market’s supply side than surveillance based sausage, looking for clicks.

by Doc Searls at March 23, 2019 10:44 PM

March 21, 2019

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 March 21, 2019 02:27 PM

March 20, 2019

Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics - How the Internet Era is Transforming Kenya
Author Nanjala Nyabola speaks with BKC Fellow james Wahutu about Nanjala's book, Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Kenya. The book explores of efforts to contain online activism, new methods of feminist mobilization, and how “fake news,” Cambridge Analytica, and allegations of hacking contributed to tensions around the 2017 elections. For more about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at March 20, 2019 06:46 PM

Harry Lewis
New Book Out!
Happy spring!

Yesterday was the official publication date of Essential Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science, co-authored with my former CS20 teaching assistant Rachel Zax, now at Google. It's meant to be a quick trip through all the mathematical subjects students need to do computer science but wouldn't get in their calculus and linear algebra courses. The publisher, Princeton University Press, has done a great job holding the price down. They have made it available in electronic form at an even lower price than the print edition.

This project started when I designed CS20 almost ten years ago (see "Reinventing the Classroom" for the genesis of that course). I needed an affordable text that covered a variety of topics not usually packaged together. There wasn't one (remember, I said "affordable"). I made do with a variety of online materials, mostly designed for a more mathematically sophisticated audience. Rachel, who had worked with me on the course when I taught it for the first time in the spring of 2012, suggested we should write a book. Here's the end result, only seven years in the making!

The cover art illustrates a famous theorem treated early in the book. The English language statement of the theorem is that in any group of six people, there are either 3 who all know each other or 3 who are mutually unknown to each other. (Take your pick as to which of red and blue represents knowing and which represents not knowing.) It's a nice example of how to translate that into math-speak and then prove that it's always true--pretty typical of the material in the book!

The acknowledgements thank (by name) everyone who was a teaching assistant while I was teaching the course; a terrific group, mostly of Harvard math and CS undergrads. They really made it fun to teach this material, and I hope that comes through in the book!

by Harry Lewis ( at March 20, 2019 03:03 PM

March 12, 2019

Waking Up to the Internet Platform Disaster - Featuring Roger Mcnamee and Lawrence Lessig
Roger McNamee is the author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. He is joined by Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School. Facebook, Google and other internet platforms employ a business model – surveillance capitalism – that is undermining public health, democracy, privacy, and innovation in unprecedented ways. They use persuasive technology to manipulate attention for profit and they use surveillance to build data sets with the goal of influencing user behavior. The negative externalities of internet platforms are analogous to those of medicine in the early 20th century and chemicals in the mid-20th century, situations that required substantial regulatory intervention. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at March 12, 2019 08:02 PM

Privacy’s Blueprint - The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies
In this talk, Professor Woodrow Hartzog argues that the law should require software and hardware makers to respect privacy in the design of their products. Against the often self-serving optimism of Silicon Valley and the inertia of tech evangelism, privacy gains will come from better rules for products, not users. The current model of regulating use fosters exploitation. Hartzog speaks on the need to develop the theoretical underpinnings of a new kind of privacy law that is responsive to the way people actually perceive and use digital technologies. The law can demand encryption. It can prohibit malicious interfaces that deceive users and leave them vulnerable. It can require safeguards against abuses of biometric surveillance. It can, in short, make the technology itself worthy of our trust. For more info about this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at March 12, 2019 07:18 PM

A History of the Internet
Why has the Internet had such a powerful impact? What are the challenges that may cause the Internet of tomorrow to be significantly less revolutionary than the Internet to date? This talk provides a history of the reasons for and the technology of the Internet. Scott Bradner has worked in the areas of computer programming, system management, networking, IT security, and identity management at Harvard for 50 years. He was involved in the design, operation and use of data networks at Harvard University since the early days of the ARPANET. He was involved in the design of the original Harvard data networks, the Longwood Medical Area network (LMAnet) and New England Academic and Research Network (NEARnet).  He was founding chair of the technical committees of LMAnet, NEARnet and the Corporation for Research and Enterprise Network (CoREN). Mr. Bradner served in a number of roles in the IETF. He was the co-director of the Operational  Requirements Area (1993-1997), IPng Area (1993-1996), Transport Area (1997-2003) and Sub-IP  Area (2001-2003). He was a member of the IESG (1993-2003) and was an elected trustee of the Internet Society (1993-1999), where he was the VP for Standards from 1995 to 2003 and Secretary to the Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2016. Scott was also a member of the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA) as well as a trustee of the IETF Trust from 2012 to 2016. Mr. Bradner retired from Harvard University in 2016 after 50 years working in the areas of in computer programming, system management, networking, IT security and identity management. He continues to do some patent related consulting. More about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at March 12, 2019 01:44 PM

March 10, 2019

Harry Lewis
Harvard's educational role
Several clear-headed pieces have appeared about the student demands that Professor Ronald Sullivan resign from—or be removed from—his position as faculty dean of Winthrop House because of his service as counsel to Harvey Weinstein. I blogged earlier about Professor Randall Kennedy’s commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (This link should work for readers with Harvard Library privileges.) In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer for the magazine, has an equally thoughtful piece called “In defense of Harvey Weinstein’s Harvard lawyer.” He cites the student petition, which states that Sullivan’s “defense of such a figure induces a great amount of fear and hurt in victims of the crimes that Weinstein is accused of,” and then discusses John Adams defending the British soldiers, which Kevin Cullen used as a basis for his satirical column, but puts a less comic spin on it by quoting Adams himself on the price he paid:
In the Evening I expressed to Mrs. Adams all my Apprehensions: That excellent Lady, who has always encouraged me, burst into a flood of Tears, but said she was very sensible of all the Danger to her and to our Children as well as to me, but she thought I had done as I ought, she was very willing to share in all that was to come and place her trust in Providence.
The pattern has been repeated throughout U.S. history. “Defense attorneys for Communists made many feel angry and unsafe,” Friedersdorf writes, recalling the McCarthy era, and then moving to the present, “Defense attorneys for al-Qaeda terrorists made many feel angry and unsafe.”

So people always get upset at lawyers who defend unpopular clients, and societies that value civil liberties and individual rights have to teach every new generation why lawyers should not be identified with their clients nor subjected to any guilt by association. Ever. 52 Harvard Law School professors make the point in a letter in the Boston Globe. President Drew Findling of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers made the point very bluntly in a powerful statement (in the NACDL Twitter feed):

NACDL notes with chagrin the tenor of the student protests against Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. related to his representation of Harvey Weinstein. There are few constitutionally-ordained roles in our democracy. One such role is that of the criminal defense lawyer. Indeed, the Sixth Amendment specifically provides that 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel[.]' There are no exceptions, ever, and no lawyer should ever be criticized or condemned for taking on any criminal case. Ever. This is a fundamental tenet of this nation. To the extent that there may or may not be other issues on the Harvard campus that bear on Professor Sullivan's role at Harvard, those issues should be addressed by the Harvard community without compromising or denigrating the right to counsel.

Writing for BloombergProfessor Steven Carter of Yale Law School makes similar arguments.

Judging the morality of lawyers by the morality of their clients carries echoes of the McCarthy Era, when Red-baiters would smear lawyers who represented Communists. The organized bar, rather than protect its members, joined in the condemnation. The result was predictable: Rather than take on unpopular clients, lawyers cowered in what U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas decried as a “black silence of fear.” …

More worrisome still is Harvard’s ominous promise to look into the “atmosphere” at Winthrop House. It suggests that the university believes that a faculty member’s choice of clients is a matter of administrative significance. And let’s not pretend to be naive: Nowadays, being investigated by campus authorities is tantamount to being convicted by them.

We’re a far cry from the days of Abbot Lawrence Lowell, the president of Harvard who developed the “house” system. Yes, Lowell had his many warts, but he did some good things. Here’s one of them: A century ago, during the runup to World War I, a Harvard professor was accused of supporting Germany. Editorialists wanted his head. Lowell’s response has justifiably gone down in history: “If a university or college censors what its professors may say, if it restrains them from uttering something that it does not approve, it thereby assumes responsibility for that which it permits them to say.”

The same reasoning, it seems to me, should apply to the selection of a client. Harvard could certainly adopt a rule holding that no faculty shall engage in outside legal work. Absent that, however, once the school decides to punish a professor for choosing the wrong client, it implicitly endorses the clients of others who are not punished.

If that’s the business Harvard wants to be in, then in all fairness the administration might as well come out and publish a list, right now, today, of acceptable and unacceptable clients. We might as well get a good clear look at the future.

Perhaps students are not making the error of conflating the client with his attorney. Perhaps they are passing judgment on their dean simply for the discomfort he causes them by the choices he makes in his private life. That explanation, while troubling, has the merit of consistency with Harvard’s view that students’ own off-campus associations (choosing to join a women’s club, for example) are its business—that having any “wrong” relationship may justify the College in passing judgment against you. 

It is hard to know where such an extended reach would end, and for that reason I suspect any such basis for complaint is either not well thought through or a pretext for something else.

Whatever the underlying logic, the College, by instituting a review of the “climate” Sullivan is alleged to have created by his choice of clients, is honoring that confusion rather than trying to correct it. It is a chilling idea that a dean might be removed for creating a “climate” simply by associating, even professionally, with other people. It would be awfully hard to proscribe associations in order to avoid the risk that they might engender negative feelings in the House. A friend asked me: Could a faculty dean acknowledge having voted for Donald Trump without creating the sort of climate that would legitimize similar student feelings of unsafety? If so, Harvard would need to create a list of acceptable political positions, so both faculty and students could be warned in advance what they were allowed to think and say in the Houses.

It would be good, as they institute a review of the “climate” in Winthrop House, for the Harvard leaders to articulate the climate-creating role of the faculty dean. One is led to infer from the complaint and the response that faculty deans are expected to create a climate in which no one ever feels uncomfortable. I don’t know how else to interpret Harvard taking seriously the claim that Sullivan’s professional representation of Weinstein, who has as far as I know never set foot on Harvard property, makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. In an excellent interview in the New Yorker,Sullivan claims he is the first subject of such a climate review, but is contradicted by a Harvard spokesperson, who notes there was a climate review of another House on the basis of discomfort felt by LGBTQ students. It’s an interesting example, because that complaint seems to have been that the House was insufficiently “welcoming” to gay students. But there are religiously conservative students who have expressed discomfort about co-ed bathrooms and about the possibility they might have to live in a House headed by a same-sex couple. Their discomfort was rightly handled without a climate review threatening the removal of the dean. Why is the College taking so seriously the discomfort of the complainants against Sullivan? 

Discomfort is part of life in a diverse community. That does not mean that it is OK for anyone to be unsafe, but a feeling of unsafety cannot be used as club to get rid of people or to make political points. And no one at Harvard has a right to safety from ideas they don’t like, for example, the idea that good lawyers defend terrible clients.

Medical School professor and former dean Jeffrey Flier argues that in failing to support Sullivan, Harvard’s leaders are not doing their full job.

What about the University’s response? Apart from Kennedy’s powerful piece and a few isolated tweets, there has been no official, institutional response from Harvard in support of Sullivan, although some other faculty have spoken up in his defense, many of them quoted in a recent piece about the brouhaha in the Atlantic. Sources tell me that a large number of HLS faculty penned a strong confidential letter defending Sullivan and sent it to University leaders, but so far it hasn’t received a reply. Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana met with Sullivan, after which he told the Crimson: “I take seriously the concerns that have been raised from members of the College community regarding the impact of Professor Sullivan’s choice to serve as counsel for Harvey Weinstein on the House community that he is responsible for leading as a faculty dean.” Khurana “communicated that that the College believes that more work must be done to uphold our commitment to the well-being of our students”— hardly a ringing endorsement of Professor Sullivan. He later announced a “climate survey” to assess the state of the Winthrop House community, an approach that, at a moment like this, seems to empower those seeking Sullivan’s removal.

What about Harvard’s other leaders? So far, they have said nothing. It is likely that back room discussions are dominated by institutional defensiveness, concerns about legal and communications matters, and barely concealed fear, given the explosive nature of such issues at other campuses. Title IX controversies are a constant concern, at Harvard and elsewhere, and Harvard has made serious mistakes in the past. The University now employs a large and increasingly complex organization to deal with claims of unwelcome environment, harassment and assault, as well as issues of “diversity and belonging,” a newly articulated goal now permeating the University. While diversity, belonging and sexual assault are unquestionably important issues, they are tangential to this situation, which concerns a respected faculty member whose supposed transgression is participating in the legal representation of an unpopular defendant. Perhaps the administration should strike a better balance between addressing student concerns and supporting a distinguished faculty member whose advisory role is being inappropriately questioned.

Even better, the administration could educate students about navigating the difficult transition to adulthood, which involves developing compartmentalized working relationships with people from whom we cannot easily step away. The world can be complicated, and the different roles we all play can interact in ways that require nuance and compromise. One of the things we don’t expect of high schoolers but do hope for from college graduates is to understand how to put up with imperfection in one place in the pursuit of larger ideals. If you discover that your landlord has a sexual assault conviction on his record, you cannot easily stop paying him rent money, or stop asking him to get rid of your cockroaches. If the father of your children disagrees with your politics, you can’t easily replace him with another. If your boss’s boss is abusive to his family, you can’t easily give up a good job and find one with better people all the way up the management chain, or demand that the company do something about matters in which you are involved only very peripherally. And if you don’t like some of the clients your lawyer has defended, you don’t go looking for one who defends only good people.

Of course, some of these analogies are imperfect. Everything Sullivan has done is honorable—just as John Adams said that his defense of the British soldiers was “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.” These hypotheticals are simply examples of the kinds of uncomfortable situations they will encounter in their daily lives once they leave Harvard. We all face such situations regularly. It is possible in each case to get the discomfiting individual out of our lives—we can move out of the apartment, or quit the job, or get a divorce. But the cost is in each case high—and the new situation is likely to be no better than the old, and to be deficient in some other way. So what we generally do, in order to live productive lives rather than constantly seeking to avoid discomfort or expecting others to protect us from upsetting conditions, is to find proportional responses to our grievances so that we can focus our energy on the pursuit of our important objectives. That is not compromising our ideals; it’s pursuing them maturely.

So there is an important lesson Harvard should be teaching students about the civics of legal representation. But that is not all: it should also be helping them learn to live with the ambiguities of the world. The capacity to do that is one of the things we hope distinguish an 18-year-old high school graduate from a 22-year-old Harvard graduate, but Harvard can’t effect that change in students simply by sheltering them and waiting for four years to elapse. I made some suggestions earlier on (A teachable moment) on the educational opportunity here. It is not too late.

by Harry Lewis ( at March 10, 2019 08:10 PM

March 09, 2019

Harry Lewis
Queen Elizabeth's Instagram post
Queen Elizabeth made a lot of news yesterday with her first Instagram post. It was a letter from Charles Babbage to Prince Albert, Elizabeth's great-great-grandfather and the husband of Queen Victoria. Babbage was the first person to design a programmable computer, but he could never get it fully functional, in part because it was purely mechanical and it was extremely difficult, before mass production, to machine parts to the necessary tolerances for a contraption of the scale he envisioned. Babbage's name is associated today with that of his apprentice Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, arguably the first computer programmer.

Babbage's story has much fascinating detail, some of which the letter brings to life. Babbage was a distinguished mathematician, the holder of Isaac Newton's chair at Cambridge. His work was funded by the British government, and he kept running out of money and needing more, until finally he was cut off completely and the project died. Here is a transcription of the letter, done with the aid of a CS191 student:
In presuming to place in your hands the accompanying volume I am actuated by a feeling beyond the mere desire of expressing my dutiful respect.
When you did me the honor of exercising the Difference Engine Your Royal Highness proved that you not only understood generally the nature of the mechanism, but also its important bearing upon human knowledge.
Having myself abstained from my publication on the subject solely because I wished to apply my whole effort to the completion of the invention, it has been my good fortune to find in a distinguished Italian Philosopher an excellent interpreter of the mathematical part of the subject,  and also a Translator and Commentator whose comprehensive views have done full justice to the original.
The control of the Analytical Engine over all the great Astronomical questions on which the the safety of the Navy so much depends can scarcely fail to impart to the subject an interest in the mind of Her Majesty: that interest may perhaps be still further increased when the Queen is made acquainted with the fact that the Author of that admirable commentary is an English Peeress the daughter of the late Lord Byron.
                I am   Sir
            With the most profound Respect
            Your Royal Highness'
            Most Obedient Humble Servant
                C. Babbage
Dorset [unreadable suffix]
    Manchester Square
    15 September 1843
 There is no explicit ask in the letter, but how many aspects are present here of a modern progress report to a funding agency?

  • "Your decision to fund my research shows how smart you are."
  • "It's coming along. I'm doing everything I can to finish it."
  • "I found someone to write the documentation, though I had to go abroad to do it."
  • "Remember, this work is essential to the national defense."
  • "Please be sure your female boss knows that I hired a woman to work on it too."

Some things never change.

by Harry Lewis ( at March 09, 2019 04:16 PM

March 07, 2019

Harry Lewis
“Professor Sullivan Deserves Our Respect”
Guest post by David McCallum

[Like the anonymous op-ed in the pervious post, this piece was submitted to and rejected by the Crimson, and has since been make public. It is worth noting that Professor Randall Kennedy's op-ed, which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and is the subject of my post "A teachable moment," was also submitted to and rejected by the Crimson.]


I spent 29 years in prison for a murder I didn’t commit. I was a teenager when I was put away, not much younger than many of you in college at Harvard. I was exonerated because of the work of Professor Ron Sullivan.

I am not a lawyer. I spent half of my teenage years, all of my 20’s and 30’s, and half of my 40’s in prison, so I missed that time to make a career and many other milestones of adult life I hope students in college can look forward to. I missed decades of my mother’s home-cooked food, taking care of my older sister through her deteriorating health, my friend’s marriages and childbirths and funerals, and the freedom to take a walk outside. But I do know a thing or two about the justice system. I know because I lived it. So please hear me out.

When I was 16 years old, I was questioned for a crime I didn’t commit. I was scared, confused, intimidated, and alone. I knew I was playing handball with my sister and her friends in a park near my home during the entire time this murder took place.

There was no one in the room with me, and I was questioned without a lawyer. The police said if I confessed I could go home. So I gave them their false confession. But when I asked if I could go home, I was put behind bars instead.

Things moved fast in the name of “justice”. It’s still crazy to me how few protections there were against injustice. Sure, I was asked if I wanted a lawyer. After I had already ‘confessed’. Sure, the police let my mother come see me. After I had already ‘confessed’. The system was swift in convicting me. I screamed that I didn’t do it, testified during my trial that I didn’t do it, and had lawyers appeal my conviction until all my appeals were exhausted - but it didn’t matter, because everyone with any power over my freedom at the time thought they knew the truth. It was too late.

So to prison I went. And I spent most of my life there. It wasn’t until Hurricane Carter drew attention to my case that my story started to become high profile. People started paying attention, and Professor Sullivan found me. He was helping the Brooklyn DA’s office at the time with conviction review, and I hand-wrote him a letter asking him for his help. I told him what I had been saying all along: that I was innocent. He listened.

Professor Sullivan personally pored over my file, found every hole in the prosecution’s version of events, saw that there was no valid evidence whatsoever, and he pushed the DA for my release. Professor Sullivan was never my defense attorney and he wasn’t the prosecutor either. He was a good lawyer seeking truth and justice, no matter which side of the courtroom he had to stand on to get it for me.

It takes a celebrity bringing attention to a case or to an issue, like Hurricane Carter did for me, for the holes in the criminal justice system to be exposed. When good lawyers take unpopular stands and defend people assumed to be guilty, like what I read that Professor Sullivan is doing for Harvey Weinstein, people pay attention to how the system works and take the time to dissect what’s wrong with it while he’s doing the same thing from the inside. That’s why when some lawyers called me about this resistance Professor Sullivan is experiencing for his Weinstein representation, I knew I had to respond. The image of Professor Sullivan in that courtroom when I was exonerated is seared in my memory, and I take it as a personal offense that anyone might challenge his capability to achieve justice.

Attention brings scrutiny, and scrutiny brings change. But press isn’t enough. Good lawyers are needed on both sides in order to use this attention to highlight every single problem in the system and to push for change from the inside. We can’t fix a system until we know exactly what parts are broken. When I first saw Professor Sullivan’s TED talk, I was moved to tears for that reason. He gets it, and he’s doing everything he can to identify and fix what’s broken.

I think we can also all agree that if I had someone like Professor Sullivan with me when I was on trial 35 years ago, my life would have been very different.

Innocent people deserve good lawyers from the minute they enter the system. In America, people are innocent until proven guilty. So, everyone deserves good lawyers from the start. If you believe otherwise, you would be supporting the same system that made me lose 29 years of my life to prison. A vigilante system where innocence is determined by public opinion and not evidence. I am a product of the dangers of that environment. Professor Sullivan is pulling us away from it, and I am following him as he creates the criminal justice system this country needs. I hope you will, too.

by Harry Lewis ( at March 07, 2019 11:40 PM

"Harvard does not deserve Ron Sullivan"
I am posting below an op-ed that was submitted to and rejected by the Crimson. The author has made it public and I am posting it here with her permission. It describes her sexual assault, and is tough reading.


At the end of my first semester at Harvard, I was sexually assaulted by a classmate. He was over half a foot taller and at least 50 pounds heavier than I was. He came into my bedroom, got on top of me, and penetrated me, all within seconds. He stopped only when I told him that it hurt, and that I was a virgin. (For the career victim-shamers: both were true).
He invited himself to sleep next to me that night, but I don't remember sleeping. I do remember that on the morning of my first day of 'freedom' after finals, this man's large body was on 'my' side of the bed, obstructing my clear path to the door, and I was still in vaginal pain and bleeding. I lived alone. That was the last time I lived alone.

I only told two people about this incident. My best friend from my section, and Ron Sullivan.

There has been a lot of talk about what Dean Sullivan may or may not say, or do, or feelings he might provoke from victims who may disclose sexual assault to him. We don't have to speculate. This situation has happened before, many times over. So if you are a woman who purports to care about other women, or a concerned male ally, and you are protesting Sullivan on the bases of these concerns, please put your picket signs down and please listen to the very real emotions of a victim who has been in the exact situation you are trying to protect me from.

There were a lot of reasons that I chose to 'outcry' to Dean Sullivan, including his exceptionally kind, warm, and caring nature for which he was well-known amongst the student body. But principally, his high-profile career of successful representation of rape defendants is exactly what drew me to disclose to him. This was his world, and he knew how to rip allegations apart. I didn't have DNA evidence, no one else was around, and people saw me drinking on Mass Ave earlier that night. Did I have a case? What, if anything, could I do to preserve it? Where does formal reporting even begin? Would Harvard hold it against me in the future? What would the rest of the process look like? Was it worth it?

Dean Sullivan answered these and many other questions - and he preempted even more questions I had not thought of - but first, he listened. Then, he led with comforts that this was a "judgment-free" zone; that he would never do anything with the information I gave him that I didn't explicitly want him to; that I had done nothing wrong; and he thanked me for telling him. Put simply, he validated my experience and made me feel safe, and it was in a way that screamed to me: he's done this a lot before.

He asked me about evidence I would have never thought would be useful. He asked me questions about the order of events that made me realize the importance of certain details that night I was otherwise trying to forget. He tried to identify potential witnesses. He vividly and patiently walked me through the formal processes that could ensue, including AdBoard/Title IX proceedings as well as criminal prosecution. He prepared me for various potential outcomes of all of these avenues, rooted clearly in his significant experience through each of them. He emphatically encouraged me to speak to law enforcement, counselors, and Title IX staff, and he offered to represent me at any and all proceedings to the very end pro bono. He asked if he could walk me to a Title IX Dean's office himself, knowing all the while that my assailant was another one of his students. And he kept the entire conversation anchored in what I felt and what I wanted, to the extent that I knew. I had access to the premiere expert in tearing down a case in order to build mine up, and he was even better at it than I could have ever expected.

And I need you to know this: he was sad. And he was angry. He is a father and a husband and when his status as a mastermind of criminal law was not at play across the table, his paternalistic protectiveness was. I can't put my finger on exactly what made me feel this way, but he made me sure that he was ready to dismantle Harvard if he needed to in order to get justice for me.

He did small, conscientious things, too. We had many conversations about this incident and other related issues, and he would always call his secretary at the end of these meetings to ask the students lining up to leave because something came up - just so I wouldn't have to walk by fellow students when I left his office. He fought like hell to make sure no one knew I was a victim. And he was generous with his time. As other survivors can attest, this is not a five-minute conversation. He took great pains to make sure I never felt I was a burden or that our conversation was incomplete, and he was always there when I needed him. While I cannot disclose how my incident played out because it might identify me or my assailant, I can say confidently that Dean Sullivan could have made six to seven figures in the time he spent helping just me. Over the years, I have used the 'it's urgent' card rarely, particularly given his stature, but when I have, he is there - whether messaging me back in the middle of a class he is teaching, while seated before a judge at trial, or when standing at the gate at an airport, all just to make sure I'm okay.

I am not the only one. During one of our long conversations about this incident, he got a call and asked me if I could leave his office for twenty minutes and come back. As I left, I noticed a sealed plastic evidence bag next to his feet and I saw a uniformed police officer walk into his office. When I returned, the bag was gone, and I asked why law enforcement had come to his office. He said that he was representing a victim of a gang-rape and because she was too scared to talk to the police, he was giving a detective her clothes as evidence. I later met this brave woman and she confirmed what I already knew: Dean Sullivan helped her, too. There were other times in his office where I would see on a back shelf print- outs of what appeared to be iPhone text message screenshots or on another occasion a print-out of a very long statement he seemed to be editing carefully in red pen; when I asked him what he was working on, he told me he had an AdBoard sexual assault case he was helping out with. In each of these cases, he said he was representing the victim. Not the accused. I remember, because you don't forget the joy of knowing that others are being rescued in the way that you were.

Once as I was leaving his office, I asked his secretary how he has the time to take on these cases. She told me that he barely sleeps and spends most of his days on pro bono work, and that she tries to transfer email requests for pro bono representation all over the country into another folder so that he does not see them as they come in. She said she did this because she knew he was "a sucker for a sob story" and could never say no.

His fights are never about himself, and I know that he will attack the hand that feeds him and starve if it means justice. He is that stubborn about being consistent and ruthless in the exercise of one's duties and giving more than lip service to these legal cornerstones. To the extent that any potential overlap arises between his duties, all I have seen him do is take the student-victim side (like mine, or these other women's), rather than the student-assailant's. Given that his private client at issue is in New York, and his Winthrop House students are in Massachusetts, and there is no evidence of any overlap between the two, I believe that Dean Sullivan is not only able to perform all of these duties with the same obstinant protectiveness: his experience qualifies him to perform them even better. I wouldn't want a Dean who will listen, nod, validate me, then walk me to the Title IX office. I want the Dean who will listen, nod, validate me, represent me as one of the best criminal defense masterminds in America who would eviscerate the arguments of anyone who challenges me, to walk to me to the Title IX office. Wouldn't you?

The irony is that you will never hear from him about my story or these other countless women he has helped. Not even by reference. Not a word. His respect for confidentiality tracks attorney-client privilege, which is sacrosanct and survives death. He is, still, protecting us. The man who has rushed to so many people's defense refuses to publicize the one thing that will defend him now: that he has represented more victims in Harvard sexual assault cases than the accused, and that he has done so with a fire that makes victims like me feel no one else could have possibly come close in advocating for us. Sharing this would threaten the unconditional basis from which he helps people, which I believe is inspired by his faith and his ethics.

But I think you deserve to know. And I do not recognize the man you purport to be protesting. That is not the Sullivan that I know. I revere him as a sexual assault victim - what does it say about you for telling me I should fear him?

I cannot counter-protest at Harvard, nor can any of the other survivors Dean Sullivan has helped, because to do so would identify us. So, please, stop speaking for us. You are promoting the caricature of women as helpless beings without agency when you protest our ability to make choices about what we do with information about our attacks against our bodies and in whom we confide. All this does is set us back to a pre-Me Too era, in a way not unlike men making decisions about whether a woman can have an abortion or vote. I have spent much of my time since my assault advocating for other victims of sexual assault. I am confident that the current discourse, promoting overwhelming and convoluted analyses of what we should allow victims to do (premised on the idea that such decision-making power should be transferred away at all), will disincentive reporting. It is hard enough to muster the courage to disclose an incident like this without having to be concerned about whether your classmates will judge and undermine you for who you told.

The only voices that should matter in the manufactured debate of whether Dean Sullivan responds to sexual assault victims appropriately are those with any sort of authority on this issue, i.e., the victims who have disclosed to him. That is it. Everyone else should see their privilege and their place and step back to make room for the victims to express whether there are any concerns with his actual handling of our allegations.

So, please stop speaking for victims of sexual assault at Harvard, and do not take away our support in Dean Sullivan. You are disservicing victims and your protests do more harm than help us. You do not and will not stand for us. If you cannot see how your protests are rooted in a savior mentality and are totally obstructionist to a woman's independence of thought and agency, you do not deserve to speak on our behalf against a hero. You do not deserve Dean Sullivan.

by Harry Lewis ( at March 07, 2019 11:25 PM

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Clinic Files Brief Supporting Cert Petition in Oracle v. Google

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus curiae brief (.pdf) in the United States Supreme Court in Oracle v. Google, No. 18-956, on behalf of a group of intellectual property law scholars. The brief supported Google’s petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Google’s petition is the latest stage in a nearly decade-long litigation battle between Oracle and Google concerning Google’s use of Oracle’s application programming interface (“API”) in Google’s Android smartphone platform.  The case raises two major sets of copyright issues.  The first concerns the scope of copyright protection for APIs and the line between protectable expression and purely functional elements of computer code.  The second concerns whether, if an API is protected by copyright, use of that API may fall under fair use. The Clinic’s brief supports Google on the second of those points, urging the Court to take the case and resolve the fair use issue.

By way of background, in 2010, Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement. A jury in the Northern District of California reached a verdict in favor of Google on May 31, 2012. Oracle appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reversed the verdict and remanded for a retrial.  The Federal Circuit held that the “structure, sequence and organization” of software is copyrightable. Google petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which was denied.

A second trial began in 2016 and ended with another verdict for Google — this time on the grounds that Google’s use of the Oracle API constituted fair use within the meaning of Section 107 of the Copyright Act.  The Federal Circuit reversed again, this time holding that Google’s use of Oracle’s API code was not fair use.

Amici who joined the Clinic’s brief are intellectual property scholars who are concerned that the Federal Circuit’s decision below misapplied the fair use doctrine. In arguing that the Supreme Court should grant certiorari in this case, amici described at least three ways in which circuits have split in applying fair use standards.  First, while several other circuits have been applying the clear error standard, the Ninth Circuit interpreted the Supreme Court’s decision in Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539 (1985) to require de novo review of fair use determinations. Second, the Supreme Court first articulated the “transformative use” test for fair use in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994), but lower courts have had trouble drawing clear lines in its application. Third, the Supreme Court never clarified the relationship between Campbell and Harper, resulting in some courts ruling that Campbell’s “transformativeness” test overruled Harper’s market-oriented test based on 17 U.S.C. § 107, while others held on to Harper’s holding, creating a circuit split in fair use applications. The brief concluded by asking the Court to grant Google’s petition for a writ of certiorari and hear the case on its merits.

Amici on the brief included:

  • Prof. Michael Kasdan is a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York University School of Law;
  • Prof. Orly Lobel is the Don Weckstein Professor of Labor and Employment Law at University of San Diego School of Law;
  • Prof. Lydia Loren is the Henry J. Casey Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School;
  • Prof. Mark McKenna is the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School;
  • Prof. Lateef Mtima is a Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law;
  • Prof. Elizabeth L. Rosenblatt is an Associate Professor of Law at Whittier School of Law, and a Visiting Professor of Law at University of California, Davis, School of Law;
  • Christopher B. Seaman is an Associate Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law; and
  • Rebecca Tushnet is the Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment at Harvard Law School.

Many other amicus briefs supported Google’s petition for certiorari, including a brief (.pdf) filed by a separate copyright scholars coalition led by Pam Samuelson and Catherine Crump at UC Berkeley and a team from Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. That brief focused on questions of copyrightability and the scope of protection for APIs.

Fall 2018 Cyberlaw Clinic students Robert Joynt and Madeline Salinas and Spring 2019 Advanced Cyberlaw Clinic students LeHeng Li and Jaisel Patel contributed to the amicus brief, working with Clinical Professor Christopher Bavitz. The Clinic team collaborated closely with Professor Rebecca Tushnet to develop the arguments in this brief.


by Clinic Staff at March 07, 2019 03:54 PM

March 05, 2019

Goodbye California?: The New Tech Worker Movement
A recent wave of worker actions at major tech firms have challenged company contracts with the Pentagon, ICE, and other government agencies; organized for safe and equitable workplaces, free from sexual harassment and discrimination; and demanded better wages, benefits, and working conditions for both white and blue collar contractors. Scholar and a founding editor of Logic magazine Moira Weigel places these actions in context, drawing on several years of research and writing on the movement. She proposes that these actions point to the need for new frameworks for interpreting the culture or world view of the tech industry—frameworks beyond "The Californian Ideology" that has dominated since the 1990s. She shares several recently proposed alternatives for thinking about "tech work" (e.g. platform capitalism, surveillance capitalism, data colonialism) that members of tech worker organizations themselves have studied and drawn on. This talk is moderated by recent Berkman Klein Fellow, Yarden Katz. More info on this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at March 05, 2019 02:54 PM

The State of Online Speech and Governance
Professor Jonathan Zittrain discusses the social media giant’s ‘long year’ with Facebook's head of global policy management Monika Bickert. Citing his sense of the “pessimism and near-despair that permeate our feelings about social media,” Zittrain opens the conversation by recalling a September 2017 discussion in which he and Bickert looked at the rise of white nationalism and the first indications of how social media manipulation had been at play in the 2016 elections. Since then, of course, more information about fake accounts and online attacks has come to light. Learn more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at March 05, 2019 02:45 PM

March 01, 2019

Harry Lewis
A teachable moment
Professor Randall Kennedy has an excellent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the demands that Professor Ronald Sullivan step down as faculty dean of Winthrop House. “Harvard students are outraged over Ronald Sullivan’s legal work,” reads the subtitle. “They should learn from it instead.” Kennedy here puts his finger on a particularly troubling aspect of the way this situation is unfolding. 

Harvard’s first job is to educate its students. Having them in residence provides an extraordinary opportunity to teach them about the complexities of life, the ways in which human beings are multidimensional and communities of different human beings with different histories, ambitions, and ideals can cooperate and foster progress. Residential life can thereby teach a key element of democratic citizenship, so threatened today: how to engage in a spirit of civic optimism with people whose decisions and actions you find disagreeable.

So far that sounds like a standard justification for diversity, with which no one could disagree. But the next step is where the rubber meets the road. A society in which each member plays multiple roles, and in which those constellations of personae differ from individual to individual, can hold together peacefully and productively only through the exercise of reason applied to deep but sometimes competing commitments to individual freedom and to the common good. Such a commitment requires both sublimation of one’s own emotions and empathy toward others. It is inconsistent with a view that discord is intolerable and personal comfort is supreme. As Kennedy says, 
Those calling for Sullivan’s resignation or dismissal as a faculty dean … are displaying an array of disturbingly widespread tendencies. One is impatience with drawing essential distinctions such as that between a lawyer and his client. Another is a willingness to minimize or dispense with important safeguards like fair trials. Yet another is a tendency to resort to demonization.

The public response of Harvard officials thus far has been to draw a sharp divide between Sullivan’s educational and pastoral roles, seemingly restricting “education” to book-learning. According to the Crimson,
“When we think about the faculty dean role, part of it is the faculty dean as an educator, someone that’s helping to connect students to, frankly, the excitement of intellectual and academic life,” [FAS Dean Claudine] Gay said. “But there’s also a pastoral role, sort of an expectation of a special responsibility to the well-being of the students who are part of the community.”
On that score, Dean Gay found Sullivan’s handling of the controversy “insufficient.” Dean Khurana echoed those sentiments, while coldly defending Sullivan’s “academic freedom.” I am not at all sure that is the right category; does Dean Khurana mean to suggest that rights to academic freedom end at the gates of the Harvard Houses, lest someone do or say something that offends other residents?

Dean Khurana then charged former Freshman Dean Tom Dingman to conduct a “Climate Review” of Winthrop House. Having more or less publicly thrown Sullivan under the bus, that is, Khurana has asked Dingman to find out how students are feeling and apparently plans to hold Sullivan to a spookily vague climatological standard. (Dingman is a loyal servant of Harvard and an old friend, but he is also the dean who, invoking the same troubling dichotomy between intellect and feelings, asked students for a public pledge of their commitment to the principle that “kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment.”)

I suspect that it is very hard for Sullivan to speak up for himself in the way that Kennedy has supported him and indeed has supported Harvard’s full educational role. Sullivan is in a more ethically constrained situation than the nurse I mentioned in an earlier post. A medical professional can say what she wants about the patient she is treating as long as she treats him and respects his medical privacy. But Sullivan, having agreed to defend Weinstein, can speak about him only in the voice of his lawyer.

Yet there is no reason why Harvard—Khurana, or Gay, or President Bacow, or a student group, or some department, or the Safra Center, or some other Harvard entity—could not stage a thoughtful educational forum to explore this nuanced situation. I am thinking of the sort of thing the Harvard Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society sponsored about single-gender organizations, though it would not have to be framed as a debate. In the absence of any effort to raise the discussion to a more rational level, an important teachable moment will be lost. “We can only hope,” as Kennedy concludes, “that Harvard authorities will decline to defer to expressions of noisy discomfort and instead adhere to those intellectual and moral tenets that sometimes must bear the uncomfortable burden of complexity.”

by Harry Lewis ( at March 01, 2019 08:06 PM

February 27, 2019

Harry Lewis
"Auditing" the membership practices of student organizations
The College’s Committee on Student Life is considering an audit of “comp” processes — membership training or vetting exercises for student organizations — to eliminate requirements which some committee members believe are “detrimental to campus culture,” according to several attendees of the Feb. 14 committee meeting. (Harvard Crimson)
Does no one hear how creepy this sounds?
In the Church of Scientologyauditing is a process wherein the auditor takes an individual, known as a "preclear", through times in their life and gets rid of any hold negative situations have on them. … Auditing is considered "a technical measure," that according to the Church, "lifts the burdened individual, the 'preclear,' from a level of spiritual distress to a level of insight and inner self-realization." The process is meant to bring the individual to clear status. (Wikipedia, "Auditing – Scientology")

by Harry Lewis ( at February 27, 2019 07:14 PM

February 26, 2019

The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology In Its Place To Reclaim Our Urban Future
Smart cities, where technology is used to solve every problem, are hailed as futuristic urban utopias. We are promised that apps, algorithms, and artificial intelligence will relieve congestion, restore democracy, prevent crime, and improve public services. In "The Smart Enough City," Ben Green warns against seeing the city only through the lens of technology; taking an exclusively technical view of urban life will lead to cities that appear smart but under the surface are rife with injustice and inequality. He proposes instead that cities strive to be “smart enough”: to embrace technology as a powerful tool when used in conjunction with other forms of social change—but not to value technology as an end in itself. More info on this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at February 26, 2019 02:07 PM

Cyberlaw and Human Rights: Intersections In The Global South
After two decades of little direct legislation of the internet, national laws and related court decisions meant to govern cyberspace are rapidly proliferating worldwide. They are becoming building blocks in new legal frameworks that will shape the evolution of Internet governance and policymaking for years to come. In the Global South and particularly under repressive regimes, these frameworks can be imposed with little regard for human rights obligations and without a full understanding of the technologies and processes they regulate or their implications for the preservation of the core values of the internet: interoperability, universality, and free expression and the free flow of information. In this panel, practitioners from five international organizations monitoring the development of legislation and case law related to cyberspace discuss the implications for the future of human rights online. Moderator: Robert Faris Panelists: Dr. Hawley Johnson (Project Manager for Columbia Global Freedom of Expression), Robert Muthuri (Research Fellow – ICT at the Centre for IP and IT at the Strathmore School of Law), Juan Carlos Lara (manager of the Public Policy and Research team at Derechos Digitales), Gayatri Khandhadai (lawyer with a background in international law and human rights, international and regional human rights mechanisms, research, and advocacy), and Jessica Dheere (co-founder of the Beirut–based digital rights research, training, and advocacy organization SMEX ( and a 2018-19 research fellow at the Berkman Klein Center. More about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at February 26, 2019 01:48 PM

February 19, 2019

Harry Lewis
What about John Adams?
Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe has a hilarious column on the Winthrop House story. John Adams defended British soldiers who opened fire on American rebels. Should he have lost his Harvard library privileges?

It is never a good idea to read the comments on newspaper pieces, but I couldn't resist. Leaving the trolls aside, it's amazing how self-righteous and humorless some of them are. Weinstein, as one comment and many previous opinions have argued, is entitled to a lawyer. But anybody could have defended him, so Sullivan should have turned him down. But the whole point of the column was to force the question of whether Adams should have turned down the British soldiers. I have never heard it said that he was the only one who would take them on.

At the same time, a new task force has been announced, the Working Group on Symbols and Spaces at Harvard College, to be chaired by the estimable Professor Ali Asani. The interview is quite abstract, so it is hard to tell where this project is going. There is a nice reminder of the importance of the randomization of the Houses that occurred almost 25 years ago, pursuant to a recommendation of a faculty committee I co-chaired. In part the discourse seems to be about re-asserting the mission of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations; its future has been somewhat in doubt since the death of its remarkable founding director, Allen Counter. So that is all to the good too.

And I wonder how far this example goes:
 It is natural for these students who are discovering facets of their ethnic, religious, cultural, and racial identity as part of the College experience to want to explore those facets within affinity groups. 
Was gender intentionally omitted from that list, lest it suggest that women should not be punished for getting together with other women off-campus? On the other hand, the interview goes on to say,
We see people are retreating into their own communities, engaging only with people like themselves. We can see such tendencies on campus. For example, the central concern regarding final clubs were policies that led to certain students excluding other students from their social networks, determining who belonged and who did not.
This sounds to me like another revision of the history, or at least a very different emphasis on a matter for which the University has offered a variety of explanations. The trouble with this argument -- that the decision was about social exclusivity, as opposed to the idea that it was all about either sexual assault or gender exclusion -- is that no one ever showed any data documenting what the ethnic or social demography of the Final Clubs was today. At best, the University would from time to time fall back, without evidence, on the implication that they were all full of Hornblowers and Wigglesworths as they allegedly were in the nineteenth century, just hiding places for those damned Puritans we excised from Fair Harvard. I am pretty sure that is not what they look like today. And of course, the sororities were never socially exclusive, so if that is the revisionist argument, maybe the committee can rethink the decision.

In the worst case, the committee will spend its time on the discomfort students are said to experience because of the presence at Harvard of buildings with objectionable names, or speakers with objectionable views or histories. If that is where the committee chooses to go, Cullen has given it quite a list of cases to consider. Is it time to rename Stoughton Hall? After all, who would want to live in a building named in honor of the judge who cruelly sent the innocent Salem "witches" to their graves?

by Harry Lewis ( at February 19, 2019 07:13 PM

February 14, 2019

Harry Lewis
The illogical attack on Dean Sullivan
Should Ronald Sullivan limit his pastoral care of students to good people?

That is the question raised by the attacks to which he has been subjected on the basis that he has professional relationships with bad people, such as Harvey Weinstein and Roland Fryer. Sullivan explained himself pretty well on this, I think; the American system of the rule of law demands that even bad people be given the benefit of due process and competent legal defense. Rights, once taken away from unpopular figures, are more easily compromised for the rest of us. 

Yes, goes the retort, Weinstein and Fryer have a right to counsel. But that doesn’t mean that Sullivan has to defend them. They can instead hire someone who doesn’t have pastoral responsibility for students in Winthrop House.

But then shouldn’t Sullivan also be limiting his pastoral care of students to just the good people in the House? After all, Houses are full of people involved in peer disputes in which one of the parties must have done something wrong, and also people holding political and social views which most members of the House consider indefensible. Heavens, Winthrop House may even have a few sorority members in its population, and we KNOW that those people are, in President Faust’s words, out of step with Harvard’s “deepest values.”

Is it a faculty dean’s responsibility to pick and choose the good people among those in the House, and let someone else provide support to the others? Does the dean dishonor himself and undermine the House community by providing a sympathetic ear to a student who is accused of serious wrongdoing, or who simply holds views other students find offensive (say, those of the Republican party or the Roman Catholic church)? 

And if it is OK for a faculty dean to support unpopular people within the House, why should Sullivan’s outside professional connections have to be limited to people meeting a majoritarian morality test? 

Several faculty deans are physicians. If Weinstein had cancer, would we want these deans to treat him? There are plenty of doctors in the world, after all. Why should deans who provide pastoral care to Harvard students taint themselves by helping keep hated people alive?

Because that is the ethical requirement of their profession. The trauma doctors and nurses who treated Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Marathon bomber, celebrated when they saw he had been captured, and then, exhausted though they were from days of caring for his victims, did everything in their power to keep him alive.

Of course, this entire train of logic is ill-founded. Professionals are not human extensions of the people they serve. They fill professional roles that may have nothing to do with their personal values. Their moral obligation is not to withhold their services from bad people; if anything, their professional responsibility is to provide those services. 

Sullivan explained this. But the logic of his detractors fails for a second reason.

What makes all these questions not just ill-founded but absurd is the presumption that it can be determined in advance who is good and who is bad, so the deans could withhold their succor from the bad. The point of housing a diversity of students under one roof is precisely to get them all past their Manichean systems of prejudicial classification. Students are housed together so that they will learn to withhold judgment, to listen empathetically, and to refrain from formulaic judgments. When President Lowell created the House system, having insisted that “each House should be as nearly as possible a cross-section of the College,” he explained why: 
The problem of the college is a moral one, deepening the desire to develop one’s own mind, body and character; and this is much promoted by living in surroundings and an atmosphere congenial to that object. … The Houses are a social device for a moral purpose.”

I am startled that deans Gay, Khurana, and Eck have joined the chorus of Sullivan’s public critics; I don’t recall anything like that happening before. This is starting to feel a lot like the sorry situation of the Christakises at Yale

Almost three years ago, I wrote to dean Khurana to express my concern that by attacking nonconformists (members of single gender clubs, in that case), he was “passing from creating community to molding a monoculture, in which people of whom we have every reason to be proud are afraid to do or say things that are lawful and generally considered harmless.”

Sullivan, too, is a nonconformist. Not many others at Harvard are speaking up for the rights of Weinstein and Fryer. Maybe there is more to Sullivan’s story than I know. But on the basis of the public statements of Harvard officials, I am even more worried today about their determination to create a monoculture here.

by Harry Lewis ( at February 14, 2019 02:24 AM

February 13, 2019

Wayne Marshall
Representing Dembow Dominicano

As I wrote back in 2011,

If I were writing my mega-essay on reggaeton today, I’d want to make a lot more space for the Dominican Republic’s local take on the genre.

And that has only gotten truer in the 8 years since, as Dominican dembow has continued to grow, change, and gather steam, including outside of the DR. So I was thrilled that People en Español’s CHICA decided to devote so much space to the genre last month. Jennifer Mota has written the definitive piece on the genre, and while I did provide some quotes and Jenny generously cites my research, it’s a piece that I would recommend whether or not you’re a W&W fan.

Among other things, the article is careful to place Dominican dembow in the longer transnational story of reggaeton, from Jamaica to Panama, New York to Puerto Rico, while also showing how the genre has taken a distinct path from its Puerto Rican cousin. Indeed, while I had long understood dembow as a direct DR response to Playero’s and The Noise’s seminal (proto-reggaeton) mixtapes, Mota shows that Dominican producers such as DJ Boyo had been concocting their own mixed up, hyped up version of Jamaican dancehall since 1993!

In addition to showing how dembow has developed according to a distinct Dominican aesthetic, Mota also attends to critical questions of colorism, gender, and the importance of dance, including the importance of collective/solo “display” dances (i.e., not perreo) — and how such street dance videos on YouTube have been a major vector in the genre’s increasing popularity and reach.

Of course, there’s a reason one might get the space for an article like this at this particular moment in time (though even then, this is of remarkable depth and substance): dembow is hot. The genre appears on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough, especially via the popularity of El Alfa, whose high profile collaborations with Bad Bunny and Cardi B have helped bring as much recognition to the genre as it perhaps has ever seen.

One of the things that has always appealed to me about Dominican dembow is its intensity and weirdness: the density of samples, the rapid tempos, the rough, repetitive refrains. Dominican producers seemed content to pitch their music to Dominican tastes, raised on breakneck merengue, and — like Dutch bubbling — this made the music, by some measures, quite strange to outside ears and perhaps so esoteric as to resist further popularization, never mind appropriation.

That may yet remain the case for Dominican dembow. As the article notes at the outset, El Alfa has yet to push the dembow side of his sound into the mainstream. His collaboration with Cardi B tends toward conventional reggaeton / “tropical pop” and avoids the bracing tempos (except, of course, in his flow) and jarring arrangements of dembow. Framing the question in the article is a telling quote from Chael Produciendo, producer of “Mi Mami,” the collabo with Cardi–

“We understood that to hit the [mainstream] public with it out of nowhere could be overbearing so what we did was create a more pop-influenced beat so that it can touch other waters and later introduce the sound.”

El Alfa’s work with Bad Bunny gets us closer to what mainstream dembow might sound like: “Dame Ga Ge Gi Go Gu” is relentless and noisy, and the beat switch in “La Romana” — notably, moving the song away from bachata-infused trap — gets us pretty close to a dembow sound less invested in the same cherished samples but still drawing broadly on the aesthetic that emerged from such samples being potent vehicles for familiarity and innovation. In some sense, this is not unlike what (Dominican) producers Luny Tunes did to change the sound of reggaeton, redirecting the genre toward the plasticity of synths and “Latin” musical signs while still nodding subtly to the sample-based aesthetic that gave rise to the genre. (Keep your ears on the snares ;)

Whether Dominican dembow’s future parallels reggaeton’s remarkable path to mainstream success and influence remains to be seen, though I agree with the author that 2019 may be the year we find out. If Dominican dembow does take off beyond the DR, Washington Heights, and certain corners of YouTube, this article will provide an excellent guide as to why, when, and how.

by wayneandwax at February 13, 2019 05:05 PM

February 12, 2019

A citizen-sovereign way to pay for news—or for any creative work

The Aspen Institute just published a 180-page report by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy titled  (in all caps) CRISIS IN DEMOCRACY: RENEWING TRUST IN AMERICA. Its Call to Action concludes,
This is good. Real good.  Having  Aspen and Knight endorse personal sovereignty as a necessity for solving the crises of democracy and trust also means they endorse what we’ve been pushing forward here for more than a dozen years.

Since the report says (under Innovation, on page 73) we need to “use technology to enhance journalism’s roles in fostering democracy,” and that “news companies need to embrace technology to support their mission and achieve sustainability,” it should help to bring up the innovation we proposed in an application for a Knight News Challenge grant in 2011. This innovation was, and still is, called EmanciPay. It’s a citizen-sovereign way to pay for news, plus all forms of creative production where there is both demand and failing or absent sources of funding.

We have not only needed this for a long time, but it is for lack of it (or of any original and market-based approach to paying for creative work) that the EU is poised to further break our one Internet into four or more parts and destroy the open Web that has done so much to bring the world together and generate near-boundless forms of new wealth and productivity. The EU’s hammer for breaking the open Web is the EU Copyright Directive,  which has been under consideration and undergoing steady revision since 2016. Cory Doctorow, writing for the EFF, says The Final Version of the EU’s Copyright Directive Is the Worst One Yet. One offense (among too many to list here):

Under the final text, any online community, platform or service that has existed for three or more years, or is making €10,000,001/year or more, is responsible for ensuring that no user ever posts anything that infringes copyright, even momentarily. This is impossible, and the closest any service can come to it is spending hundreds of millions of euros to develop automated copyright filters. Those filters will subject all communications of every European to interception and arbitrary censorship if a black-box algorithm decides their text, pictures, sounds or videos are a match for a known copyrighted work. They are a gift to fraudsters and criminals, to say nothing of censors, both government and private.

There are much better ways of getting the supply and demand sides of creative markets together. EmanciPay is one of them, and deserves another airing.

Perhaps now that Knight and Aspen are cheering the citizen-sovereign bandwagon, it’s worth open-sourcing our original EmanciPay proposal.

So here it is, copied and pasted out of the last draft before we submitted it. Since much has changed since then (other than the original idea, which is the same as ever only more timely), I’ve added a bunch of notes at the end, and a call for action. Before reading it, please note two things: 1) we are not asking for money now (we were then, but not now); and 2) while this proposal addresses the challenge of paying for news, it applies much more broadly to all creative work.

10:00pm Monday 31 January 2011

Project Title:

EmanciPay: a user-driven system for generating revenue and managing relationships

Requested amount from Knight News Challenge


Describe your project:

EmanciPay is the first user-driven payment system for news and information media. It is also the first system by which the consumers of media can create and participate in relationships with media — and the first system to reform the legal means by which those relationships are created and sustained.

With EmanciPay, users can easily choose to pay whatever they like, whenever they like, however they like — on their own terms and not just those controlled by the media’s supply side. EmanciPay will also provide means for building genuine two-way relationships, rather than relationships defined by each organization’s subscription and membership systems. As with Creative Commons, terms will be expressed in text and symbols that can be read easily by both software and people.

While there is no limit to payment choice options with EmanciPay, we plan to test these one at a time. The first planned trials are with Tipsy, which is being developed in alongside EmanciPay, and which also has a Knight News Challenge application. The two efforts are cooperative and coordinated.

EmanciPay belongs to a growing family of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) tools. Both EmanciPay and VRM grew out of work in ProjectVRM, which I launched in 2006, at the start of my fellowship with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. In the past four years the VRM development community has grown internationally and today involves many allied noncommercial and commercial efforts. Here is the current list of VRM development projects.

How will your project improve the delivery of news and information to geographic communities?:

Two ways.

First is with a new business model. Incumbent local and regional media currently have three business models: paid delivery (subscriptions and newsstand sales), advertising, and (in the case of noncommercial media) appeals for support. All of these have well-known problems and limitations. They are also controlled in a top-down way by media organizations. By reducing friction and lowering the threshold of payment, EmanciPay will raise the number of customers while also providing direct and useful intelligence about the size and nature of demand. This supports geographic customisation of news and information goods.

Second is by providing ways for both individuals and news organizations to create and sustain relationships that go beyond “membership” (which in too many cases means little more than “we gave money”). EmanciPay will also help consumers of news participate in the news development process. Because EmanciPay is based on open source code and open standards, it can be widely adopted and adapted to meet local needs. CRM (customer relationship management) software companies, many of which supply CRM systems to media organizations, are also awaiting VRM developments. (The cover and much of this CRM Magazine are devoted to VRM.)

What unmet need does your proposal answer?:

EmanciPay meets the need for maximum freedom and flexibility in paying for news and information, and for a media business model that does not depend only on advertising, membership systems, large donors or government grants. (This last one is of special interest at a time when cutting government funding of public broadcasting is a campaign pledge by many freshly elected members of Congress.)

Right now most news and information is free of charge on the Web, even when the same goods are sold on newsstands or through cable TV subscriptions. This fact, plus cumbersome and widely varied membership, pledging and payment systems, serves to discourage payment by media users. Even the membership systems of public broadcasting stations exclude vast numbers of people who would contribute “if it was easy”. EmanciPay overcomes these problems by making it easy for consumers of news to become customers of news. It also allows users to initiate real and productive relationships with news organizations, whether or not they pay those organizations.

How is your idea new?:

Equipping individuals with their own tools for choosing what and how to pay, and for creating and maintaining relationships, is a new idea. Nearly all other sustainability ideas involve creating new intermediators or working on improving services on the supply side.

Tying sustainability to meaningful relationships (rather than just “membership” is also new). So is creating means by which individuals can assert their own “terms of service” — and match those terms with those on the supply side.

EmanciPay is also new in the scope of its ambition. Beyond creating a large new source of revenues, and scaffolding meaningful relationships between supply and demand, EmanciPay intends to remove legal frictions from the marketplace as well. What lawyers call contracts of adhesion (ones in which the dominant party is free to change what they please while the submissive party is nailed to whatever the dominant party dictates) have been pro forma on the Web since the invention of the cookie in 1995. EmanciPay is the first and only system intended to obsolete and replace these onerous “agreements” (which really aren’t).

Once in place and working, EmanciPay’s effects should exceed even those of Creative Commons, because EmanciPay addresses the demand as well as the supply side of the marketplace. And, like Creative Commons, EmanciPay does not require changes in standing law.

Finally, EmanciPay is new in the sense that it is not centralized, and does not require an intermediary. As with email (the protocols of which are open and decentralized, by design), EmanciPay supports both self-hosting and hosting in “the cloud.” It is also both low-level and flexible enough to provide base-level building material for any number of new businesses and services.

What will you have changed by the end of the project?:

First, we will have changed the habits and methods by which people pay for the media goods they receive, starting with news and information.

Second, we will have introduced relationship systems that are not controlled by the media, but driven instead by the individuals who are each at the centers of their own relationships with many different entities. Thus relationships will be user-driven and not just organization-driven.

Third, we will have created a new legal framework for agreements between buyers and sellers on the Web and in the networked world, eliminating many of the legal frictions involved in today’s e-commerce systems.

Fourth, we will have introduced to the world an intention economy, based on the actual intentions of buyers, rather than on guesswork by sellers about what customers might buy. (The latter is the familiar “attention economy” of advertising and promotion.)

Why are you the right person or team to complete this project?:

I know how to get ideas and code moving in the world. I’ve done that while running ProjectVRM for the last four years. As of today VRM tools are being developed in many places, by many programmers, in both commercial and noncommercial capacities, around the world, Those places include BostonLondonJohannesburgDubuqueSantiagoBelfastSalt Lake CitySanta BarbaraVienna, and Seattle. Much of this work has also been advanced at twice-yearly IIW (Internet Identity Workshop) events, which I co-founded in 2005 and continue to help organize.

As Senior Editor of Linux Journal, I’ve been covering open source code development since 1996, contributing to its understanding and widespread adoption. For that and related work, I received a Google-O’Reilly Open Source Award for “Best Communicator” in 2005.

I helped reform both markets and marketing as a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, a business bestseller in 2000 that has since become part of the marketing canon. (As of today, Cluetrain is cited by more than 5300 other books.) I also coined Cluetrain’s most-quoted line, “Markets are conversations.”

I helped popularize blogging, a subject to which I have been contributing original thinking and writing since 1999. I also have more than 12,000 followers on Twitter.

EmanciPay is also my idea, and one I have been working on for some time. This includes collaboration with PRX and other members of the public radio community on ListenLog (the brainchild of Keith Hopper at NPR), which can be found today on the Public Radio Player, an iPhone app that has been downloaded more than 2 million times. I am also working on EmanciPay with students at MIT/CSAIL and Kings College London. The MIT/CSAIL collaboration is led by David Karger of the MIT faculty, and ties in with work he and students are doing with Haystack and Tipsy.

I’ve also contributed to other VRM development efforts — on identity and trust frameworks, on privacy assurance, on selective disclosure of personal data, and on personal data stores (PDSes), all of which will help support EmanciPay as it is deployed.

What terms best describe your project?:

Bold, original, practical, innovative and likely to succeed.

What tasks/benchmarks need to be accomplished to develop your project and by when will you complete them? (500 words)

1) Engaging of programmers at MIT and other institutions within two months.

2) Establishment of Customer Commons (similar to Creative Commons) within two months.

3) Getting EmanciPay into clinical law case study by classes at law schools, one semester after the grant money arrives.

4) Beta-level code within six months.

5) Recruitment of first-round participating media entities (journals, sites, blogs, broadcast stations — completed within six months.

6) Relationships established with PayPal, Google Checkout and other payment intermediators within six months.

7) Tipsy trials within three months after beta-level code is ready.

8) Full EmanciPay trials within six months after beta-level code is ready.

9) Research protocols completed by the time beta code is ready.

How will you measure progress?: (500 words)

1) Involvement in open source code development by programmers other than those already paid or engaged (for example, as students) for the work

2) Completion of code

3) Deployment in target software and devices

4) Cooperation by allied development .orgs and .coms

5) Adoption and use by individuals

6) Direct financial benefit for news organizations.

All are measurable. We can count programmers working on code bases, as well as patches and lines of code submitted and added. We can see completed code in downloadable and installable form in the appropriate places. We can see and document cooperation by organizations. We can count downloads and monitor activities by users (with their permission). And we can see measurable financial benefits to news and information organizations. Researching each of these will be part of the project. For example, we will need to provide on our website, or directly, descriptions of accounting methods for the organizations that will benefit directly from individual contributions.

Do you see any risk in the development of your project?: (500 words)

EmanciPay is likely to be seen as disruptive by organizations that are highly vested in existing forms of funding. One example is public broadcasting, which has relied on fund drives for decades.

There is also a fear that EmanciPay will raise the number of contributors while lowering the overall funding dollar amount spent by contributors. I don’t expect that to happen. What I do expect is for the market to decide — and for EmanciPay to provide the means. Fortunately, EmanciPay also provides means for non-monetary relationships to grow as well, which will raise the perception of value by users and customers, and the likelihood that more users will become customers.

How will people learn about what you are doing?: (500 words) remaining

We will blog about it, talk about it at conferences, tweet about it, and use every other personal and social medium to spread the word. And we will use traditional media relations as well — which shouldn’t be too hard, since we will be working to bring more income to those media.

We have a good story about an important cause. I’m good at communicating and driving stories forward, and I and have no doubt that the effort will succeed.

Is this a one-time experiment or do you think it will continue after the grant?: (500 words)

EmanciPay will continue after the grant because it will become institutionalized within the fabric of the economy, as will its allied efforts.

In addition to the Knight News Challenge, does your project rely on other revenue sources? (Choose all that apply):

[ ] Advertising
[ ] Paid Subscriptions
[ x ] Crowd-Funded
[ ] Earned Income
[ ] Syndication
[ ] Other

Here’s what happened after that.

  1. Customer Commons was incorporated as a California-based 501(3)(c) nonprofit shortly after this was submitted.  (It is also currently cited in this CNN story  and this one by Fox News.) Almost entirely bootstrapped, Customer Commons has established itself as a Creative Commons-like place where model personal privacy policies and terms of engagement that individuals proffer as first parties can live. Those terms are among a number of other tools for exercising citizen sovereign powers. “CuCo” also plans, immodestly, to be a worldwide membership organization, comprised entirely of customers (possible slogan: “We’re the hundred percent”). In that capacity, it will hold events, publish, develop customer-side code that’s good for both customers and businesses (e.g. a shopping cart of your own that you can take from site to site), and lobby for policies that respect the natural sovereignty and power of customers in the digital world. After years of prep, and not much asking, Customer Commons is at last ready to accept funding, and to start scaling up. If you have money to invest in grass roots citizen-sovereign work, that’s a good place to do it.
  2. Commercial publishers, including nearly all the world’s websites (or so it seems) became deeply dependent on adtech—tracking based advertising—for income. (I reviewed that history here in 2015.) We’ve been fighting that. So have governments. Both the GDPR in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act were called to existence by privacy abuses funded by adtech. (Seriously, without adtech, those laws wouldn’t have happened.)
  3. The current VRM developments list is a large and growing one. So is our list of participants.
  4. Some of the allied projects mentioned in the proposal are gone or have morphed. But some are still there, and there are many other potential collaborators.
  5. Fintech has become a thing, along with blockchain, distributed ledgers and other person-driven solutions to the problem of excessive centralization.
  6. The word cluetrain is now mentioned in more than 13,000 books. And, twenty years since it was first uttered, cluetrain is also tweeted almost constantly.
  7. I am now editor-in-chief of Linux Journal, the first publication ready  to accept terms proffered by readers, starting with a Customer Commons one dubbed #NoStalking.

That list could go on, but it’s not what matters.

What matters is that EmanciPay was a great idea when we proposed it in the first place, and a better idea now. With the right backing, it can scale.

If you want to solve the problem of paying for news (or all of journalism), there is not a more democratic, fair, trust-causing and potentially massive idea on the table, for doing exactly that, than EmanciPay. Nor one better potentiated to address lots of other problems and  goals laid out in that Knight Commission report. One example: An immodest proposal for the music industry.

If you’re interested, talk to me.

by Doc Searls at February 12, 2019 03:02 AM

February 04, 2019

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Template License and Collaboration Agreements for AI Art

As the Cyberlaw Clinic has continued to deepen its practice in AI-generated art (and as AI art has increasingly cropped up in the news), it’s become clear that developers and artists are looking for guidance on how to handle rights in these new works. Clinical Instructors Jessica Fjeld and Mason Kortz have previously written about how to conceptualize the anatomy of AI art for rights purposes; translating that theory into practice was an obvious next step, and today marks the release of a new set of templates created with input from Sarah Schwettmann and SJ Klein of MIT.

We’ve launched the template project with agreements for the two most common situations:

  • A license template, for when someone undertaking an AI art project wants to use existing works of art (music, visual art, writing, etc.) as inputs for their system, for example as training data
  • A collaboration agreement template, for when two or more people are working together to build, train, and run an AI art system

The templates are accompanied by a how-to guide, which explains the choices that the template authors made in drafting the agreements, and what additional information users will need to provide.

While AI art projects often produce cutting-edge, boundary-blurring results, the community that produces them is collaborative and interdependent. For this reason, the templates encourage (but do not require) parties participating in the creation of these works to open-source their outputs, under Creative Commons or comparable licenses.

The licenses are themselves released under a CC0 public domain dedication, and we hope users will iterate on them and share useful changes back with the community through Github.

by jessicafjeld at February 04, 2019 05:56 PM

January 28, 2019

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Clinic Files Amicus Brief for Former Mag. Judges re: Surveillance Orders

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of a group of former United States Magistrate Judges, supporting the unsealing of government surveillance orders and applications. The brief supports Jason Leopold, a BuzzFeed News journalist, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (“RCFP”). The appeal arises out of a petition that Leopold filed in the D.C. District Court to unseal applications and orders for pen registers, trap and trace devices, tracking devices, stored email, and other types of surveillance, many of which remain sealed indefinitely in practice. He argued that, once the seal is no longer necessary, public access to these judicial records is required under the First Amendment and common law right of access to court records. Leopold was later joined by RCFP.

The parties originally worked with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia to narrow the scope of the request, but although some information was turned over, the majority of the applications and orders remained sealed. On February 26, 2018, the district court denied petitioners access to any additional old surveillance matters and granted only very limited access to surveillance applications and orders going forward. The court based its decision largely on the administrative burden the full request would place on the government.

Leopold and RCFP have appealed the district court decision to the D.C. Circuit, asking for the court to grant access to the records under the First Amendment and the common law right of access to judicial records. Although the lower court decision is specific to the context of the D.C. district, Leopold’s case has the potential to shape how federal courts generally handle requests for information regarding government surveillance practices.

Amici are all former United States magistrate judges with a shared interest in unsealing federal surveillance orders and a diverse set of experiences on and off the bench:

  • Judge Mildred Methvin has served as judge in Louisiana, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and is a former AUSA. She is currently an attorney and mediator in Louisiana.
  • Judge Brian Owsley has served as a judge in Texas and is a former trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.  He is currently an assistant professor of law at University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law.
  • Judge Viktor Pohorelsky served as a judge in New York. Prior to his judicial appointment, he had a fourteen-year career as a litigator in private practice and as an AUSA.
  • Judge Stephen Smith served as a judge in Texas and is the current director of the Fourth Amendment & Open Courts program at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
  • Judge David Waxse served as a judge in Kansas and is the former President of the Kansas Bar Association and former Chair of the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Based on their more than 90 years of collective experience on the bench, amici explain the practical consequences of unsealing surveillance matters. Amici outline the process of unsealing surveillance applications and orders in their courtrooms and discuss places where the administrative burden can be reduced, including the shift to e-filing of sealed surveillance applications and orders.

Amici further explain why the burdens of unsealing are not as dire as the district court predicted: surveillance filings can be easily redacted, the majority of unsealings of old surveillance matters proceed unopposed, and properly redacted surveillance documents present no real risk to law enforcement practices. Amici also explain the downsides of considering government inconvenience when determining whether the public should have access to surveillance orders. As administrative practices vary greatly across judges and across government offices, taking the administrative burden into account would effectively make the common law right depend on the size, efficiency, and workload of the government office who made the request or the judge who received it.

The Cyberlaw Clinic is honored to have represented such august amici and hopes the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will seriously consider their input. Fall 2018 Cyberlaw Clinic student Akua Abu helped develop arguments for the brief, and the brief was written by Winter 2019 student Alexandra Noonan with assistance from Clinical Fellow Kendra Albert and Clinical Instructor Mason Kortz.

Antique pen register image, John Nagle, CC BY-SA 4.

by Alexandra Noonan at January 28, 2019 03:07 PM

January 16, 2019

Harry Lewis
The Economist on the sanctions
Harvard's policy against single-sex clubs is not working, writes Emma Duncan. of the Economist (behind a paywall).  It's a good short summary of the way the logic of the sanctions has gotten twisted and missed its target. I'm quoted, speaking sympathetically on behalf of the many women in CS who were members of women's clubs, and also pointing out the strange political alliances this issue has created, on both sides.

One unnamed former Harvard administrator, no fan of the final clubs, notes, “If we’d happily write letters for people who were members of the Communist Party or the NRA, it seems lunacy to say that we’d refuse that to somebody who wanted to join one of these clubs.” The Communist Party example is a reminder that Joseph McCarthy went after a Harvard professor (Wendell Furry) for having been a member of the Party, and President Pusey stuck up for his right to continue teaching without any dishonor at Harvard.

I really do wonder about the status of the Harvard Knights of Columbus and the Harvard Daughters of Isabella. These groups are not only single-sex and composed exclusively of Harvard students---they use the Harvard name, something that none of the blacklisted clubs do. We were repeatedly told that the fact that the USGSOs were off campus and private was a minor technicality, since they were so dependent on Harvard's good name. Well, these organizations are even more closely tied to Harvard---and operate under the control of a national or even international mother organization, another black mark against the fraternities and sororities. I asked about these organizations in a faculty meeting, and got no clear answer. On what basis are their members not subject to sanction? (To be clear, I am only pointing out how twisted the logic has gotten, not calling on Harvard to take on our good neighbors at St. Paul's!)

by Harry Lewis ( at January 16, 2019 10:38 PM

January 13, 2019

Ethan Zuckerman
Don’t use A. Briggs

If you’re a frequent traveler, you probably have needed a visa expediter at some point. Good expediters can get you out of a serious jam, helping you get a visa or even a new passport in a short time. For over a decade, I used A. Briggs, a long-established expediter used by many large firms and institutions. They once helped me get a Nigerian visa and a new passport in under a week, which was pretty amazing.

But they’ve gone downhill. Way down. I’m enroute to Nairobi today and from there to Sierra Leone, and given some tight timing, I sent my paperwork to A. Briggs to get the Sierra Leone visa. I should have backed off once I noticed some significant changes to their website. They have been acquired by another firm, CIBT, and their application process is now loaded with hidden fees. By default, you’re signed up for a number of expensive extras, including a $25 fee for keeping a digital copy of the visa they obtain and $25 for registering you with the US State Department, a service the US government provides for free. The online process heavily upsells their “concierge service”, which promises handholding through the visa process for a mere $300 extra – in retrospect, I wonder whether my dreadful experience would have been better or worse after paying that extortionate fee.

People use visa expediters because they need a visa in a narrow window of time – you’re basically paying someone to carry your paperwork to the consulate, wait for it to be completed and send it back to you. The most critical piece of the application is the time by which you need the visa, which in my case was Friday, as my flight to Kenya left Saturday at noon. I spoke to Briggs several times through the process, as they needed even more documents for Sierra Leone than expected, and they assured me they’d have the visa by Wednesday to send it to me on Thursday. When I didn’t get word from a courier that it was enroute on Thursday, I called. Turned out they had gotten the wrong visa – a tourist visa instead of the much more expensive, multiple entry business visa I’d asked for. Instead of calling me and giving mr the choice of traveling with the tourist visa – which I would have chosen – they sent the passport back to the embassy. This meant I wouldn’t have the visa until Friday, and there was no way to get it before getting on my plane.

I got on the phone and got to a manager at Briggs who offered me the solution of a same day courier to deliver me the visa… for a mere $729. When I explained that this was their mistake not mine, she offered to have a courier meet me at the airport just before my flight, for only $200, which she rapidly reduced to $80. (It’s not clear what I might have been able to bargain the $700+ courier down to, but it strongly suggests that A. Briggs is marking up the cost of courier services as another revenue stream.)

I scheduled delivery of my passport to JFK for 10am the day of my flight, which left at noon. Tight but doable. The person I worked with gave me several numbers to try if there were any problems. Predictably, there were. When no courier contacted me by 10am, I started calling numbers. All went to voicemail boxes which hadn’t been set up, except one the woman had given me as her business cellphone, which went to a very confused woman in DC who had nothing to do with the company. Even though no one at A. Briggs or their parent company answered their phones, fortunately their courier did… who explained that A. Briggs had requested delivery at 11am, the time the flight would be closing. I begged the courier to come as fast as he could, tipped him generously when he made it by 10:40 and made my flight with a few seconds to spare.

So yes, I got the visa. I also vomited twice from stress, first when I discovered they’d resubmitted the passport, creating the crisis, and again when I discovered the courier wasn’t coming. Oh, and for such thoughtful service, A. Briggs charged me over $400 in handling fees on top of the $160 visa fee.

Don’t use them, or any company that’s part of CIBT. They won’t give you direct phone numbers to talk with whoever is processing your visa unless you pay an absurd extra fee. Their phone system is misconfigured, so if you’re in a jam, trying to reach someone, you’ll be sent to a broken voicemail inbox. I have no way of knowing whether my miserable experience was incompetence, or a new business strategy – I suspect the former – but I am now trying to get MIT to stop using A. Briggs as their visa expediter, and I would urge anyone, an individual or a corporate travel department, to find someone else to work with.

(Fun postscript – once I finally got my visa, I expected to see a cancelled tourist visa as well as a business visa. I didn’t – just a clean business visa. Given that there’s no pages missing from my passport, and no alterations to that visa page, it looks like A. Briggs just… lied. Either they got the visa on time and failed to send it to me in time, or they didn’t get it until a day late… or maybe they simply didn’t send it on time so they could charge fees on top of what they paid a courier to deliver it. Please, please don’t use this company’s services.)

by Ethan at January 13, 2019 06:49 PM

January 12, 2019

Jeffrey Schnapp
Pro redundantia

Redundancy has a bad name. Already in antiquity redundantia implied excess: literally, the superabundance of a resource (such as water); figuratively, an overflowing stream of words as in the Ciceronian “illa pro Roscio juvenilis redundantia” (Or. 30: 108). In the era of industry and post-industry, the word retains a ring of inefficiency. If something is redundant, by definition, it is something to be trimmed, something that is misaligned with history’s headlong rush into the future. The issue is not just efficiency, it’s also cost (duplication), balance (to have redundant elements is to overweight one facet of an argument at the expense of others), distraction (the overly weighted attracts disproportionate attention).

But whether in the domain of discourse, education, science or engineering, there is no safety, success, or sustainability without redundancy. Reliance upon a single system, line of argumentation, or approach amounts to putting your eggs in a single basket. This may work well enough in simple, highly constrained universes, whether social or mechanical, but not when it comes to grappling with complexity, noise, interference, or uncertainties of the world, not to mention nature.

Redundancy implies the presence of a backup, an additional channel, a fallback option, a support, embedded and intertwined structures. When an alpha option fails, a beta fallback quickly loses any taint of extraneousness. It ensures resilience. And resilience, understood both as elasticity and the ability to recover, is essential to the success of all social systems and life forms. Redundancy informs the fractal structures of the natural world, allowing for flexibility and adaptability. It drives processes of teaching and learning.

Late in her unfairly maligned Dark Age Ahead (2004), the great urban historian Jane Jacobs makes this very point with respect to education:

Nurturing and instructing human beings in a complex culture demands redundancy of mentors and examples. Redundancy is expensive but indispensable. Perhaps this is merely to point out that life is expensive. Just to keep itself going, life makes demands on energy, supplied from inside and outside the human being, that are voracious compared with the undemanding thriftiness of death and decay. A culture, just to keep itself going, makes voracious demands on the energies of many people for hands-on mentoring.” (159)

And what is true of education and life systems (from genes to cells), extends to domains such as AI, machine learning, and robotics where machines are called upon to interact with both familiar and unfamiliar, anticipated and unexpected tasks. There is a technical solution to the many of the resulting challenges; it involves respect for expense and the indispensability of redundancy in design.

by jeffrey at January 12, 2019 06:02 PM

January 10, 2019

Harry Lewis
How far do the sanctions go?
Apologies to my regular readers for the long silence. I have been busy! I finished a discrete math textbook I have been working on for a while with my former teaching assistant Rachel Zax (now an engineer at Google). It will be out in March, published by Princeton University Press. I started on an edited collection of classic papers of computer science, to be published by MIT Press. And I’m working on a second edition of Blown to Bits with my previous co-authors plus Wendy Seltzer of the W3C.

In the meantime, the College’s sanctions regime has been challenged in two lawsuits, one in federal and one in state court. The group behind the challenge is called Stand Up to Harvard. Links to the two complaints are on this page. The state complaint is particularly interesting, because it is based in part on a specific Massachusetts statute, in Chapter 12:

Section 11H. Whenever any person or persons, whether or not acting under color of law, interfere by threats, intimidation or coercion, or attempt to interfere by threats, intimidation or coercion, with the exercise or enjoyment by any other person or persons of rights secured by the constitution or laws of the United States, or of rights secured by the constitution or laws of the commonwealth, the attorney general may bring a civil action for injunctive or other appropriate equitable relief in order to protect the peaceable exercise or enjoyment of the right or rights secured. 

Section 11I. Any person whose exercise or enjoyment of rights secured by the constitution or laws of the United States, or of rights secured by the constitution or laws of the commonwealth, has been interfered with, or attempted to be interfered with, as described in section 11H, may institute and prosecute in his own name and on his own behalf a civil action for injunctive and other appropriate equitable relief as provided for in said section, including the award of compensatory money damages. Any aggrieved person or persons who prevail in an action authorized by this section shall be entitled to an award of the costs of the litigation and reasonable attorneys' fees in an amount to be fixed by the court.

I am not a lawyer and I have no idea what precedents exist for the application of Section 11I, but I can certainly see the argument for its relevance to this situation, in spite of Harvard’s status as a private institution.

From the beginning, some colleagues have suggested that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, that there is no danger of any larger infringement of students’ liberties since the sanctions policy is narrowly targeted and just aimed at killing off the Final Clubs, which everybody hates anyway. Of course it has turned out, as the Chronicle documents, that if that was the aim the policy has missed badly. (And to the friend who told me not to make a federal case out of it, it really is a federal case now.)

But here is the thing that I’ve been worried about all along. I don’t believe the actual reach of the policy is nearly as limited as the written rules suggest.

Do the sanctions have sharp edges, rendering students ineligible for certain specific distinctions and leadership opportunities if they belong to one of a specific list of clubs, but having no consequence for students who don’t seek those specific honors or are not members of any of the blacklisted clubs? Or do the sanctions have a penumbra? When Harvard administrators make a narrow ranking choice between two students for some distinction that is NOT on the official list, will their judgment be colored, explicitly or unconsciously, by the knowledge that one of the students is a member of one of the blacklisted organizations? Letters of recommendation are the obvious example. If a student is a member of a USGSO, how will the dean answer the question, “Is this student really one of your best?” for distinctions that are NOT on the official list of prizes and positions unavailable to USGSO members?

Or what if the student is not a member of any of those organizations, but is a member of some other non-Harvard organization that would fail to meet Harvard’s nondiscrimination standards if it tried to gain official recognition from the College? One of the ethnic sororities, for example, which escape the sanctions regime since they are deemed “inclusive” by virtue of admitting Wellesley students? Or the Harvard Knights of Columbus chapter? There is nothing in the Handbook for Students to suggest that there is any problem with joining these groups. But wouldn’t the deans consider joining such a group to be, if not over the line, at least a little bit out of step with Harvard’s deep values of inclusivity? If strict adherence to Harvard values is so important that you can’t be captain of the Tiddlywinks team if you belong to a noncompliant organization, then when Harvard is making decisions on the basis of featherweight differences, why wouldn’t it take into account such slightly off-target indicators of students’ values?

What does Harvard Law School think about the character of students who belong to organizations that the College has blacklisted, or organizations that resemble them? After all, the sanctions policy has been voted by the President and Fellows, so students are warranted in wondering if HLS is making its judgments in the spirit of the College’s club-membership test of Harvard’s “deepest values”. (This fear is mentioned in the Chronicle piece cited above. Previously, when this question came to me from a student, I asked HLS, but in response got only a link to the Law School’s admission site.)

Now it may well be that nobody is willing to say anything in the middle of ongoing litigation. But there is another possibility. The policies have been word-smithed to crush the single-gender organizations in a legally defensible way. It would then serve Harvard’s purposes to leave doubt about the borderline cases. “If you are worried that the values of your organization aren’t wholly consistent with Harvard’s values, well, we’re not going to help you by saying you shouldn’t be worried. But you don’t really need to know the answer; you can protect yourself by not joining the organization or keeping quiet about your membership.” Keeping 'em guessing expands the de facto reach of the sanctions without the legal risks that would come with articulating a broader reach.

But without some clarity about the extent of the penumbra, students would then be justified in worrying that they are living in a police state in which everyone is an informant and that every private deviation from Harvard’s definition of “inclusiveness” risks being held against them. 

Here’s a realistic thought experiment. Suppose you were a senior at Harvard applying to law school and needed a letter from your dean. (The deans live and eat with the students in the Houses so they get to know them personally and understand them as whole, complex people.) Now suppose you were a member of a conservative religious congregation, one that separates men and women in services, and your dean is of the same faith but of a more liberal persuasion. Would you invite your dean to services? 

That is the sort of sharing of cultural richness on which the entire College enterprise is grounded and all our theories of learning in a diverse community are based. We are all about getting out of our comfort zones and sharing our differences. But if a student asked me whether I thought such a generous invitation was wise idea, I’d advise against it today. In a Harvard where students are expected to adhere to complete gender inclusiveness as a mark of devotion to Harvard deepest institutional values, there would be too much risk that the dean would come away thinking that a student willing to be relegated to the back of the house at services did not bleed true Crimson.

Bonus links: My letter to a congressional committee about all this, and the wonderful remarks of William James from which I quote at the end: “The day when Harvard shall stamp a single hard and fast type of character upon her children, will be that of her downfall. Our undisciplinables are our proudest product. Let us agree together in hoping that the output of them will never cease.”

by Harry Lewis ( at January 10, 2019 01:38 AM

January 08, 2019

Benjamin Mako Hill
A Research Symbiont!
Plush fish with attached parasitic lamprey.The award itself is a plush fish with a parasitic lamprey attached to it.

As of yesterday, I’m officially a research symbiont! A committee of health scientists saw fit to give me a Research Symbiont Award which is awarded annually to “a scientist working in any field who has shared data beyond the expectations of their field.” The award was announced at Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing and came with a trip to Hawaii (which I couldn’t take!) and the awesome plush fish with a parasitic lamprey shown in the picture.

You can read lots more about the award on the Research Symbiont Awards website and you can hear a little more about the reasons I got one in a blog post on Community Data Science Collective blog and in a short video I recorded for the award ceremony.

Sharing data in ways that are useful to others is a ton of work. It takes more time than you might imagine to prepare, polish, validate, test, and document data for others to use. I think I spent more time working with Andrés Monroy-Hernández on the Scratch Research Dataset than I have any single empirical paper! Although I spent the time doing it because I think it’s an important way to contribute to science, recognition in the form of an award—and a cute stuffed parasitic fish—is super appreciated as well!

If you know of research symbionts, you should consider nominating them next year!

by Benjamin Mako Hill at January 08, 2019 03:32 AM

January 07, 2019

Ethan Zuckerman
Deceptive ads and the DRC election: help us document possible election fraud

en français, ci-dessous

The Democratic Republic of Congo held presidential elections on December 30, 2018. Preliminary results were originally scheduled to be released yesterday, January 6th, but the head of the electoral commission has delayed reporting those results because as of Saturday the 5th, less than half of the votes had been transported to counting centers.

So why are ads on Google and Facebook, apparently targeted towards internet users in DRC’s neighbor, Congo-Brazzaville, declaring Emmanuel Shadary to be DRC’s new president?

The ads above were forwarded to me from an NGO worker in Brazzaville, across the river from Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. There’s regular traffic between Brazzaville and Kinshasa, which may be one of the major ways information is getting into DRC, as election officials have shut off the internet, turned off SMS messaging, and ordered Radio France Internationale off the air.

These ads would be illegal in DRC, where it is prohibited to announce an election winner before the electoral commission releases results. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that they are fake news, designed to help the incumbent government remain in power. Unfortunately, Facebook and Google’s powerful ad systems may be being used to reinforce election fraud, either by targeting these ads to Brazzaville or to DRC itself, where a small number of people are still on the internet. (While 3G and 4G services are down, some businesses are reported to be online.)

Background: For the past 18 years, Joseph Kabila has been president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who took office after his father, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, was assassinated in 2001. Elected to two terms in 2006 and 2011, Kabila was mandated to step down from his office in 2016. He didn’t. Instead, DRC’s electoral authority announced that an election couldn’t be held until 2018. This is that election, and Kabila eventually announced that he would not stand.

Instead, he threw his support behind Emmanuel Shadary, who served under Kabila as minister of the interior. During his time serving Kabila, Shadary controlled the police and security services, and is alleged to have used those forces to violently suppress protests and to arrest opposition politicians. He has been sanctioned by the European Union for human rights violations and is prohibited from entering the EU.

The Catholic Church, a powerful force in Congo, monitored the elections using 40,000 observers and states that it knows who actually won the elections. Given that businessman Martin Fayulu had led Shadary by more than 30 percentage points in recent polls, the Church’s call for the release of results is seen as an indication that they believe Shadary has lost the election.

If you are anywhere in DRC, or in Brazzaville, Kigali, Gabarone, Kampala or in other locations that border on DRC, and you’re seeing ads that declare any candidate the winner of the DRC elections, PLEASE TAKE SCREENSHOTS including the URL of the page. Please click on the ad, and screenshot the page it returns, including the URL. Send those screenshots to my team at MIT: ethanz AT mit DOT edu – we are collecting these images so we can ask Google and Facebook to prevent the transmission of false information that could be used to cement a stolen election.

Updates –
– translation in French follows below
– I have spoken with FB – they’ve identified the ad featured above and removed it. That said, there are likely more to come, and we could use help identifying others that appear.

# Publicités trompeuses et élections en RDC: aidez-vous à documenter une
éventuelle fraude électorale.

La République Démocratique du Congo a tenu des élections présidentielles
le 30 décembre 2018. Les résultats préliminaires devaient initialement
être publiés hier, le 6 Janvier, mais le président de la commission
électorale a reporté la publication de ces résultats car, [à la date du
samedi 5, moins de la moitié des votes avaient été transportés vers les
centres de comptage](

Alors, pourquoi y avait il des publicités sur Google et Facebook,
apparemment destinées aux internautes du voisin de la RDC, le
Congo-Brazzaville, annoncant que Emmanuel Shadary est le nouveau
président de la DRC?

Les publicités ci-dessus m’ont été transmises par un employé d’une ONG à
Brazzaville, de l’autre côté du fleuve par rapport à Kinshasa, la
capitale de la RDC. Il y a un trafic régulier entre Brazzaville et
Kinshasa, ce qui pourrait être l’un des principaux flux d’information en
entrant en RDC, car [les responsables des élections ont coupé
l’internet, désactivé les SMS et bloqué la diffusion de Radio France

Ces publicités seraient illégales en RDC, où il est interdit d’annoncer
un gagnant avant que la commission électorale ne publie les résultats.
En outre, il y a de fortes chances pour que ces informations soient
fausses, conçues pour aider le gouvernement en place à rester au
pouvoir. Malheureusement, les systèmes de publicité de Facebook et de
Google pourraient être utilisés pour crédibiliser la fraude électorale,
soit en ciblant ces publicités sur Brazzaville, soit sur la RDC même, où
un petit nombre de personnes se trouvent encore sur Internet. (Bien que
les services 3G et 4G soient coupés, certaines entreprises semblent
avoir accès à internet.)

Contexte: Joseph Kabila est président de la République démocratique du
Congo depuis 18 ans. Il a pris ses fonctions après l’assassinat de son
père, le président Laurent-Désiré Kabila, en 2001. Élu à deux mandats en
2006 et 2011, Kabila a été mandaté de quitter la présidence en 2016. Il
ne l’a pas fait. Au lieu de cela, les autorités électorales de la RDC
ont annoncé qu’une élection ne pourrait avoir lieu avant 2018. C’est
cette élection et Kabila a finalement annoncé qu’il ne se présenterait pas.

Au lieu de cela, il a apporté son soutien à Emmanuel Shadary, qui a été
ministre de l’intérieur sous Kabila. Au cours de ses années au service
de Kabila, Shadary contrôlait la police et les services de sécurité et
aurait utilisé ces forces pour réprimer violemment des manifestations et
arrêter des hommes politiques de l’opposition. Il a été [sanctionné par
l’Union européenne pour violation des droits de
et il lui est interdit d’entrer dans l’UE.

L’Église catholique, une force importante au Congo, a surveillé les
élections à l’aide de 40 000 observateurs et a déclaré connaitre le
vainqueur des élections. Étant donné que l’homme d’affaires Martin
Fayulu avait plus de 30 points d’avance sur Shadary dans les derniers
sondages, l’appel de l’Église à la publication des résultats est [perçu
comme une indication qu’ils estiment que Shadary a perdu les

Si vous vous trouvez n’importe ou en RDC, à Brazzaville, à Kigali, à
Gabarone, à Kampala ou dans quelqu’autre localité limitrophe de la RDC,
et que vous voyez des publicités déclarant un candidat vainqueur des
élections en RDC, VEUILLEZ FAIRE DES COPIES D’ÉCRAN, comprenant l’URL de
la page. Merci de cliquer sur la publicité et de prendre une copie
d’écran de la page affichée, ainsi que de l’URL. Envoyez ces captures
d’écran à mon équipe du MIT: ethanz AROBASE mit POINT edu – nous
collectons ces images afin de demander à Google et Facebook d’empêcher
la transmission de fausses informations qui pourraient être utilisées
pour cimenter une élection volée.

by Ethan at January 07, 2019 06:01 PM

Protected: Fake News and the DRC election? Please help us find these rogue ads

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by Ethan at January 07, 2019 03:20 PM

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