The Digital Public Sphere

An ISP White Paper Series in collaboration with the Knight Foundation

Uniformity and Fragmentation in the Digital Public Sphere

About Knight Foundation-sponsored Digital Public Sphere White Paper series

The impact of online platforms and new technology on public discourse and the law are among the most pressing and consequential issues democracies face today. In the last two decades, we have moved beyond techno-utopian visions of the internet as an unregulated space to an appreciation of the ways the law, markets and social practices enable the platform economy. The threats that digital platforms and surveillance technology pose to individual rights and the social fabric give rise to numerous questions: How should we understand the structure and design of digital networks? To what extent should, or can, the government regulate these spaces? Is there adequate competition among the firms who provide digital services, and are their business models sustainable? Who is included and who is excluded from these spaces? Who should have the power to exclude and on what bases? When is surveillance and information collection permissible, and when is it pernicious? What are the signs of a healthy public sphere, and what are the symptoms of information disorder? How should we reform current law to meet the challenges of online platforms and new technology?

The Digital Public Sphere White Paper Series brings together scholars from a variety of backgrounds and diverse perspectives to contribute fresh thinking in this area. The Series Papers focus on how we should understand the effects of new technology on public discourse, law and society, and how these new technologies should be governed to achieve a more equitable, just and democratic digital public sphere.

Adam Posluns and Elettra Bietti, Founding Editors

Imagine A Community: Obscenity’s History and Moderating Speech Online

Kendra Albert

Kendra Albert walks through the history of the “community” in obscenity’s community standards doctrine.

Infrastructuring the Digital Public Sphere

Julie Cohen

Julie Cohen interrogates current debates about content governance for the digital public sphere through the lens of infrastructure.

Disrupting Data Cartels by Editing Wikipedia

Amanda Levendowski, Eun Hee Han, and Jonah Perlin

Amanda Levendowski, Eun Hee Han, and Jonah Perlin explore teaching students to edit Wikipedia as an alternative to problematic data cartels.

Dormant Commerce Clause Constraints on Social Media Regulation

Ayesha Rasheed

Ayesha Rasheed argues that the recently passed content moderation bans in Texas and Florida violate the Dormant Commerce Clause.

A Letter from Europe: European Constitutional Law and Its Digital Public Sphere

Alexander Somek and Elisabeth Paar

Alexander Somek and Elisabeth Paar discuss how digital media shape European Constitutional Law.

Responsibility for Algorithmic Misconduct: Unity or Fragmentation of Liability Regimes?

Gunther Teubner and Anna Beckers

Gunther Teubner and Anna Beckers discuss uniformity and fragmentation of liability regimes for algorithmic misconduct.

A Healthy Digital Public Sphere

The essays in this group examine the various legal and technological mechanisms that structure our experience of the digital public sphere – some of which enable our freedoms and connect communities, while others constrain us by impinging on our privacy, objectifying us as amalgamations of data, or causing invidious discrimination. 

Sonic Privacy

Jasmine McNealy 

Exploring the conditions of audibility that are essential to sonic privacy.

Seeing Like an Algorithmic Error: What are Algorithmic Mistakes, Why Do They Matter, How Might They Be Public Problems?

Mike Ananny

Arguing that “seeing like an algorithmic error” means engaging the social, economic, cultural and political forces that make technology mistakes and public problems. 

Section 230 and the International Law of Facebook

Anupam Chander

Arguing that CDA Section 230, despite its origins in one country, has served as a foundational norm for global internet speech.

Forgetful Advertising: Imagining a More Responsible Digital Ad System

Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and Ethan Zuckerman

Presenting a model of "forgetful advertising" as an alternative for organizations whose values conflict with surveillant advertising.

Envisioning Equitable Online Governance

A series examining inequality in the digital public sphere, in collaboration with Yale Law Journal

By Adam Posluns and Elettra Bietti

illuminated paper lanterns in a dark sky