The Information Society Project (ISP) is an intellectual center at Yale Law School, founded in 1997 by Professor Jack Balkin. Over the past twenty years, the ISP has grown from a handful of people gathering to discuss internet governance into an international community working to illuminate the complex relationships between law, technology, and society.

Our Community

At its core, the ISP is an intimate community of interdisciplinary scholars—comprised of resident fellows, visiting fellows, student fellows, and Yale University faculty—exploring cutting-edge issues at the intersection of law, technology, and society. Our fellows have diverse academic backgrounds and practical experience in law, communications, computer science, medicine, journalism, economics, political science, art, cognitive psychology, sociology, and film studies. ISP alumni who hold academic positions join our international network of nearly one hundred ISP affiliate fellows; other alumni have become legal practitioners, activists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. While members of the ISP community have diverse areas of expertise, almost all of our work fits into one or more of the ISP Research Areas.

Our Achievements

ISP resident fellows bring impact litigation, file amicus briefs, and publish blog posts, op-eds, and scholarly articles. For example, ISP resident fellows successfully persuaded the FISA court to order government declassification of key opinions regarding the scope of governmental bulk surveillance under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act; won a suit for access to information about the New York City telecommunications conduit infrastructure; brought a suit that resulted in the declassification of the names of Guantanamo prisoners being held without trial; and defeated an eleven-year-old National Security Letter gag order on Nick Merrill—the first time since 9/11 a NSL gag order has been lifted in full; filed influential amicus briefs in U.S. v. Jones and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt; published law review articles in the Harvard Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Journal, California Law Review, and Texas Law Review, among others; and wrote popular pieces for Wired, Slate, Lawfare, Just Security, and other venues.

Our Educational Mission

The ISP hosts nearly 100 educational events over the course of the academic year designed to promote novel scholarship, foster the cross-pollination of ideas, and spark new collaborations. In 2016-17, these included:

  • the Hacking the Election Conference (Sept 2016)
  • the Weaponizing Information Conference (Jan 2017)
  • the International Law of Whistleblowers Conference (Feb 2017)
  • the Fighting Fake News Workshop (Mar 2017)
  • the Sixth Annual WeRobot Conference (Mar 2017)
  • the Fifth Annual Freedom of Expressions Scholars Conference (Apr 2017)
  • the Second Commercial Speech and the First Amendment Conference (Jun 2017)
  • the Law & Technology Speaker Series, a weekly event where visiting speakers give formal lectures on current issues
  • the ISP Ideas Lunch, a weekly workshop where visitors present nascent ideas and receive constructive feedback from a group of interdisciplinary scholars from within and outside Yale University
  • the ISP Fellows’ Workshop, a weekly writing workshop for ISP fellows
  • ISP-hosted Poynter Lectures, where journalists discuss the challenges of their craft
  • op-ed and blog writing workshops
  • formal and informal themed reading groups

Our Initiatives

In addition to creating a space for collaboration and discussion, the ISP is also home to a variety of initiatives with complementary educational and advocacy aims.

The Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression promotes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, access to information, and government transparency. The Institute’s activities are grounded in the belief that collaboration between the academy and the bar will enrich both scholarship and practice. To this end, the Institute sponsors an annual Freedom of Expression Scholars Conference (FESC), various practitioner-scholar conferences on novel First Amendment issues, and First Amendment Salons. It also supports the work of the MFIA clinic, a separate ISP initiative. The Abrams Institute is made possible by a generous gift from Floyd Abrams, one of the country’s most influential defenders of freedom of speech and the press.

The Media Freedom and Information Access (MFIA) Clinic is dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the work of news gatherers, and promoting freedom of expression. It provides pro bono legal services, pursues impact litigation, and develops policy initiatives. Clients have included independent journalists, start-up and established news organizations, public interest organizations, activists, and academics. MFIA’s diverse docket is roughly organized into five broad project areas: Government Accountability, Constitutional Access, National Security, Open Data, and Newsgathering Rights. It has litigated gag orders, defended libel claims, and pursued scores of access lawsuits (including both FOIA litigation and cases seeking to enforce or extend the First Amendment right of access). MFIA also hosts the annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) bootcamp and Digital Security training for clinical students; specialized Law for Journalists trainings on timely legal issues like conflicts of interest law (Jan 2017) or best practices for handling leaked information (Mar 2017); and the Access and Accountability Conference, a new annual event where transparency advocates can discuss new legal theories, pedagogical approaches, and best practices for promoting government transparency and accountability. MFIA’s work is made possible by the generous support of the Abrams Institute, the Stanton Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The Knight Law and Media Program (LAMP) is designed to foster a deeper understanding of the issues at the intersection of law, media, and journalism and to encourage students to pursue careers in media law. Knight LAMP sponsors journalist speakers, writing workshops, and summer internships for Yale Law School students working on media law, defending the First Amendment, or protecting journalists. Knight LAMP is made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information (WIII) has two main aims: to raise awareness of threats to an open internet, especially those affecting online intermediaries and their users, and to make creative policy suggestions that protect and promote internet-facilitated access to information. At least initially, there will be a particular focus on promoting the “right to link,” understanding link censorship laws and litigation, and other issues regarding hyperlink and intermediary liability. WIII grew out of an ongoing academic collaboration between Yale Law School and the Wikimedia Foundation and is made possible by a generous gift from the Wikimedia Foundation.

The ISP’s Access to Knowledge (A2K) initiative is part of the larger Access to Knowledge Global Academy, a network of scholars at institutions in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, South Africa, and the United States dedicated to promoting academic scholarship, research, and policy analysis on access to knowledge issues for information-poor communities. The ISP’s A2K initiative has hosted workshops and published a number of reports and books, including country-specific analyses and subject-matter studies. The ISP recently published a book on global censorship and is now finalizing one on the impact of mobile technologies. Much of the ISP’s A2K work has been supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and individual donors.

The Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice (PSRJ) is an incubator of novel litigation strategies and legal theories designed to advance reproductive rights and justice. It sponsors academic research on reproductive health access issues; drafts amicus briefs; supports young scholars interested in related careers; and hosts the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, where students gain firsthand experience in fast-paced litigation and strategic advocacy on behalf of reproductive health care providers and their patients.

The Visual Law Project (VLP) is a student-run organization dedicated to creating a space for Yale Law School students to engage with and mobilize visual content. VLP produces short and full-length documentaries on legal issues; sponsors the Visual Jurisprudence speaker series, a monthly event where legal practitioners and documentarians introduce students to visual advocacy strategies; holds Visual Advocacy workshops, where students learn how to use different kinds of media to share content or advance legal arguments; and hosts film screenings and discussions with producers.

The Privacy Lab is a nexus for workshops and discussions concerning software, hardware, and spectrum freedom, as well as a resource for cryptographic and anonymity tools. We provide informal cyber security advice and recommendations, as well as detailed trainings in the use of industry-standard security software.