LAW 766

Information Policy Lab

Public Interest Law, Technology & the Law

The “Information Policy Lab” will provide students with an opportunity to engage directly on emerging public policy questions related to the intersection of law and technology through a combination of research, writing, and direct interaction with external stakeholders who are on the front lines of global debates related to the regulation of new technologies. The course will provide a substantive experiential learning opportunity for students interested in careers in the public policy space, allowing them to develop research, writing, networking, communication and advocacy skills that are fundamental to effective and impactful work on tech policy.

Each year that the course will be offered will revolve around a particular theme, beginning in Fall 2022 with platform governance and the news media ecosystem. Students in small groups of between 2 and 4 will be assigned a specific theme to examine, based on their interests and particular skills. The themes will be decided by the instructors in advance of the commencement of the course, in consultation with the participating external stakeholders. The groups’ main task in the course will be to develop a standalone research product which includes a comprehensive examination of the competing interests at play within that issue, and a set of recommendations or better practice standards for better protecting key digital rights interests related to that topic. This report is ultimately meant to be publicly facing, as a policy paper that the ITLP will publish and distribute, in order to inform ongoing policy debates.

The course will introduce students to a series of private sector, academic, civil society and regulatory stakeholders who are active in setting and implementing new policies related to this theme through a series of guest lectures and interviews. These external participants will introduce students to the public policy challenges they are grappling with in this sector, and share their perspectives on possible avenues forward, or areas where further research could be most fruitful. In addition to supporting their understanding of the tech policy space, and the ecosystem of stakeholders who impact decision-making, these conversations will help students to cultivate a range of crucial skills which are relevant to both working in the tech policy space, as well as to lawyering in general, including how to interview clients and potential clients, negotiating and assessing competing interests from diverse stakeholders, and using individual perspectives to improve their understanding of the broader information landscape.

Working under the supervision of the instructors, and based on the interviews, their coursework, and their independent research, the students will develop a policy-paper related to their specific project. The research process will also include periodic check-ins with the external stakeholders, to solicit feedback and ensure that the finished product is relevant to the substance of emerging public policy debates. This ongoing engagement and feedback is meant to mirror, as closely as possible, the role that legal policy experts play in guiding positions among civil society, private sector, and regulatory entities, and to help the students cultivate legal research and analysis skills that are essential both in fulfilling this role and in lawyering more generally.

The final weeks of the term will be devoted to thinking about next steps, and avenues towards translating their research into impact. This should include, at a minimum, a strategy for publicizing and disseminating the research among influential stakeholders, and ideas about broader advocacy work that could help to bring about positive changes among private sector or government agencies. It will also include a presentation and mock-interview component, allowing students to build an introductory understanding of media engagement and messaging. These end-of-term activities are intended to reflect the role that civil society policy-makers play in trying to translate ideas into impact, and will help to cultivate advocacy, communications, agenda setting, public engagement and campaigning skills.

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