The aim for this special issue of the Yale Journal of Law and Technology is to bring a few novel approaches to platform governance which can be applicable to social media and other online platforms. The different scholars included in this issue approach social media governance through different lenses, and sometimes use different terminology (e.g., “platforms” vs. “technology firms” vs. “social media companies”). Yet the common thread is the importance of exploring new ideas for managing the social impact, good and bad, that these large players have in our society. Our hope is that this issue will spur as lively a conversation about these topics as we had at the mini conference at which each of these papers was presented. These papers reflect not only the ideas of their authors but also the feedback from the distinguished group of scholars convened to comment upon them. To make progress upon these ideas we will need a dedicated cohort of people willing to think about these problems in a different way. This issue represents our effort to create such a group.
The United States leads the world in incarceration, with more than 2 million people currently in state and federal custody. Most people now understand what mass incarceration is, but few think about the indignity that accompanies even a moment in a cell persists. The iconography of prison reinforces the degradation: handcuffs, iron bunks, steel cell doors, homemade shanks. The Freedom Reads project creates a rhetorical and functional response to this specifically American fact, and offers the book as both a resource and a symbol of freedom, restoring hope, dignity, meaning and purpose to those incarcerated.
The Justice Collaboratory's project with the Connecticut Department of Corrections aims to promote human dignity and staff wellness in CT correctional settings through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a procedural justice training. This training will offer tools to improve communications and trust-building interactions between corrections staff and incarcerated persons with an overall goal to increase perceptions of fairness and trust, and improve correction officers’ overall job satisfaction and wellness. At the completion of the training, we will evaluate and assess its impact on how corrections officers and the incarcerated population interacted, revealing whether procedural justice training can have a positive impact to increase safety and promote human dignity in prisons.
This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides the first causal evidence that positive, non-enforcement interactions between police and those they serve can shape the attitudes that underlie the cooperative relationships necessary for public safety. As the evidence of punishment-centric policing's costs to community wellbeing continues to mount, the research suggests that community policing like this experiment tested in New Haven, can be a valuable tool to build trust and promote cooperative relationships between the police and the public.
The Justice Collaboratory is leading a group that will review Facebook’s measurement and transparency of content standards enforcement. Facebook chartered the DTAG to assess its Content Standards Enforcement Report, to provide recommendations for how to improve its measurement and reporting practices, and to produce a public report on its efforts. The DTAG members include academics from several universities who are experts in measurement and the role that metrics play in building legitimate, accountable institutions. DTAG’s goal is to ensure that Facebook is developing, and making public, information that is useful to understand and evaluate Facebook’s Community Standards enforcement practices. Read the DTAG’s final report here.
Social media is increasingly the medium through which people live their social and civic lives. This reality has important implications both for the regulation of social interactions and for broader issues of democratic governance. The Collaboratory is looking specifically at social media companies' responsibilities in terms of maintaining conditions and values that are necessary for democracy, such as civil discourse, respect for others, and healthy community. This involves reviewing two issues and developing evidence informed policies to address them: (1) What might be done to make social media a source of revitalized community; and, (2) Whether and how social media platforms can cultivate values that are essential to successful civic discourse and democratic governance. Overall, this is an exciting opportunity to leverage new possibilities provided by social media to address issues in democratic governance.
The Justice Collaboratory and members of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice have designed intervention programs that aim to improve police-community relations in six pilot cities around the country. The interventions have been developed based on existing research concerning procedural justice, implicit bias, and race and reconciliation.
The Justice Collaboratory conducted a community study on behalf of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), looking into New Yorker’s engagement with the city government. The study, which ran from 2017-2018, focused on three broad themes: residents’ perceptions of and involvement in the life of their neighborhoods, knowledge of municipal services and participation in city government, and perceptions of fairness, or lack thereof, in resident’ dealings with the New York Police Department. Detailed findings can be found in the study’s final report, executive summary and fact sheet.
In partnership with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, The Justice Collaboratory conducted a study of perspectives of individuals working at the frontline of six key institutions in New York City’s criminal justice system (prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, corrections officers, probation officers and Criminal Justice Agency interviewers) about the legitimacy of the institutions in which they work. The study assesses workers’ perspectives on procedural justice in order to enhance our understandings of how criminal justice agencies build and sustain their legitimacy, and how workers in those systems contribute to that process. Analyses of these data are ongoing.
The overarching goal of the Justice Collaboratory’s Procedural Justice and Juveniles project is to understand how youth view the legal system. Our SRO research team has developed a survey instrument that will test whether youth use the same criteria as adults to determine whether the criminal justice system is just and fair. It will investigate whether young people weigh these criteria similarly to their adult counterparts and identify criteria that may be unique to youth perceptions of the legal system. Finally, the study will explore whether perceptions developed from the specific types of contact juveniles are likely to have with the criminal justice system (e.g. via school resource officers) may generalize to the justice system at large and may influence their behavior in other settings (e.g. with police officers outside of a school).
The Criminal Justice Reform Seminar brings together students in law and social science to: discuss current issues in criminal justice, learn about cutting edge research and policy initiatives from national experts in the field, and engage in real-world lawyering to advance criminal justice policy reform. The course is designed to be reflective of the aspirations for the Collaboratory: collaborative, multi-disciplinary, grounded in theory and research, and engaged with the critical criminal justice policy debates of the day.
The Justice Collaboratory has developed an innovative new research methodology to explore the collective construction of narratives around policing, authority, and ideals of justice. Though initially conceived as a public art initiative developed by Amar Bakshi, Tracey Meares and Vesla Weaver have adapted the Portals format to include conversations around experiences with the criminal justice system in a post-Ferguson era.
Today, the Portals Project has collected over 850 conversations across 14 neighborhoods in six cities (Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, Milwaukee, WI, Newark, NJ and Mexico City, Mexico) - the most extensive collection of first-hand accounts of the police to date. More than a data collection technique, however, the Portals are a public good, civic infrastructure, and site of democratic deliberation. More information about the Portals Project can be found here.
The Social Contagion of Police Misconduct project emerged from a collaboration between Professors Andrew Papachristos (Northwestern) and Daria Roithmayr (USC), members of “Deconstructing Ferguson” working group co-sponsored by The Justice Collaboratory and the Yale ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality, with objective of applying developments in network science to the study of police misconduct. Led by Papachristos, the Collaboratory team has begun a pilot study examining the structure and composition of social networks among more than 3,000 police officers in the Chicago Police Department. The overarching hypothesis of this project is that the tendency towards specific behaviors (e.g. the use of deadly force or, conversely, behaviors that lead to positive interactions with individuals) may be transmitted between officers in a way that is statistically predictable.
Michael Sierra-Arévalo's (Rutgers) ongoing study of police officers and their perceptions of danger has expanded to three U.S. cities (two on the West Coast and one on the East Coast) and has gathered nearly 1000 hours of field observations and over 100 interviews with police officers. The first paper stemming from this research was presented this August at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in Seattle, and described how officers in one Eastern and one Western City engage in behaviors that, though justified as necessary to ensure officer safety, in fact place them at great risk of serious physical injury. Transcriptions of the interviews and further analysis of the data are in forthcoming; a paper based on this project is being prepared for submission to the American Sociological Review and will be presented at the annual meeting of the International Association of the Chiefs of Police.
Deconstructing Ferguson Working Group is a multi-disciplinary endeavor that aims to understand one of the key issues of our time: namely, how citizens experience state institutions and how that experience shapes identity, inequality, and membership. The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer in 2014 and the expansion of collective action that resulted, has fuelled a movement among American citizens and scholars alike to interrogate the relationship between poor citizens and the state in contemporary America. Deconstructing Ferguson is a starting point in a journey toward a more just and democratic life for all Americans.