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Internet, Law, and Politics: Seminar - Spring 2007

Spring term, Block I
T 4:45 PM - 6:45 PM

Mr. John Palfrey
2 classroom credits LAW-95931A Spring
2, 3, or 4 optional clinical credits Fall or Spring

2 optional clinical credits Winter

The Internet has at once a disruptive and a constructive effect on politics around the world. Information and communications technologies, of which the Internet is a primary component, have been changing the way that democracies work, the way campaigns are run, and the manner in which citizens communicate with one another and interact with their states. Just as in business, the Internet does not change everything when it comes to politics. But the Internet has, in a few instances ª such as South Korea in its most recent presidential election, in the Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution,' and here in the United States ª made a notable difference in terms of how campaigns are conducted and how people engage in civic life. The Internet enables connections among people geographically disparate from one another and whose only link is a common interest in an idea. The Internet makes possible a series of models that place power at the edges, rather than vest most power in a centralized hub. At the same time, the Internet enables states to carry out intrusive means of surveillance and control over the communications of their citizens. The puzzle is to pull apart what is real from what is hype and to examine closely what effects, if any, these technologies are having on the way that democracies work around the world. This course will consider some of the most intriguing of the political and legal issues to which the advent of the Internet gives rise. The course will seek to frame these questions in the context of political theory. The course has no prerequisites. The only requirement is a willingness to experiment with new technologies.

Students who wish to enroll in the class with a clinical component must do so through the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Please refer to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs website at for early drop/add deadlines and rules for all clinical courses.