This semester’s course for first-year law students on Governing Digital Technology began typically enough, exploring some of cyberlaw’s key questions in historical perspective. But as COVID-19 infection rates rose and social distancing began in earnest, students and course staff together decided to reorient much of the remaining time applying the standard curriculum to the relationship between digital technology and pandemic mitigation strategies. This reorientation included lectures and discussion sessions, which covered topics including the profusion of narratives around COVID-19 on social media platforms, the risks and benefits of deploying surveillance technology to track viral spread, and the competing responsibilities of technology companies in moments of crisis. It ultimately extended to the course’s final assignment.
Students were given the option to undertake a course-wide project to develop reports in groups to synthesize evidence, analysis, and their own perspectives around technological problems and solutions relating to COVID-19. Every student in the course took the option, with many citing a desire to produce something that might be of use to policymakers and members of the public coming to grips with pressing new digital complexities. Over the weeks that followed, the students conducted research, interviewed experts, and drafted substantial reports covering topic areas including COVID-19 misinformation, governmental efforts to surveil the pandemic, and digital accompaniments to contact tracing efforts. Some students additionally chose to develop op-ed length “perspectives” covering key questions unaddressed in the reports.
We’re excited to present some of the results of these activities. Some student teams continue to edit and polish their work – further materials will be added as they are completed.
Student reports can be read below (this list will be updated as new reports are available):