Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Orwell's Armchair

A former Professor of Mine, Derek Bambauer, has recently written a very interesting article on on-line censorship. You can read it here. Abstract reproduced below:
America has begun to censor the Internet. Defying conventional scholarly wisdom that Supreme Court precedent bars Internet censorship, federal and state governments are increasingly using indirect methods to engage in “soft” blocking of on-line material. This Article assesses these methods and makes a controversial claim: hard censorship, such as the PROTECT IP Act, is normatively preferable to indirect restrictions. It introduces a taxonomy of five censorship strategies: direct control, deputizing intermediaries, payment, pretext, and persuasion. It next makes three core claims. First, only one strategy - deputizing intermediaries - is limited significantly by current law. Government retains considerable freedom of action to employ the other methods, and has begun to do so. Second, the Article employs a process-based methodology to argue that indirect censorship strategies are less legitimate than direct regulation. Lastly, it proposes using specialized legislation if the U.S. decides to conduct Internet censorship, and sets out key components that a statute must include to be legitimate, with the goal of aligning censorship with prior restraint doctrine. It concludes by assessing how soft Internet censorship affects current scholarly debates over the state’s role in shaping information on-line, sounding a skeptical note about government’s potential to balance communication.
It will take me some time to fully digest all this and form my own opinion, but suffice it to say, I have tremendous respect for Derek's opinions and really enjoyed being his student (so much so that I had four classes with him while at law school). It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that he taught me nearly everything I know about internet law (one of the classes I had with him was actually titled "Internet Law"), but I don't want to somehow imply that my opinions are his or that I am in any way his spokesperson. Whereas Derek is a professional academic, I'm a dude who's homepage links to Zombo.com. 'Nuff said.

Cheers, Derek!

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