LAW 511A/B

Social Media and the Future of Democracy


Constitutional & Public Law, Entertainment Law

Social media both underwrite a golden age of free speech and threaten to undermine democracy. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media bring unprecedented opportunities for individuals to organize political movements and to communicate to a global audience. But in so doing, social media serve as platforms for hate speech, disinformation, terrorist recruiting, incitement to violence, excessive information insularity, psychological manipulation, and uses of automated bots to distort public discourse.

This seminar examines social media’s role in both fostering and undermining democratic discourse. We will compare social media’s role with that of traditional media and looks at social media’s impact on traditional media. We will explores possible responses in formal regulation and social media companies’ content moderation regimes. We will examines how government law and policy can and should aim to counter harmful uses of social media while fostering expressive diversity, consistently with First Amendment goals and strictures. We also ask how, if at all, government should support traditional media in the digital age.

This seminar is jointly listed as a graduate seminar in the School of Public Policy. It meets on Zoom from 8:00-10:30 a.m., for 10 meetings -- on Jan 6, 13, and 27; Feb 3, 10, 17, 24; and March 3, 10, and 17. The March 17 meeting is required only for law students. Students will write a minimum 10 page research paper. Law students who wish to write a longer paper to fulfill the Substantial Analytic Writing requirement may do so. Students who attend the first meeting will have priority in enrollment even if they are on the wait list.

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