Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CCR Symposium

No, this has nothing to do with Creedence Clearwater Revival. 

A few years ago I attended a panel discussion at the Chicago YearlyKos convention (now Netroots Nation) that was billed as "Women and Blogging."  I thought it might be an interesting discussion of how women blog in ways that are different than men, or how to be a woman and blog, or how women have been changed by blogging, or helpful hints for women who blog.  It turned out to be a panel of women bloggers who had suffered cyber harassment.  Not to minimize the problems of harassment (cyber or real life), it wasn't what I was looking for and I left before it was over.  But cyber harassment is a problem.  Finding a solution is even more of a problem. 

Recently Danielle Citron, of the University of Maryland School of Law, published Cyber Civil Rights which addressed the problem of cyber harassment from a legal perspective and recommends taking it beyond the traditional law of torts and placing it into the area of civil rights (the link takes you to the summary and the SSRN publication of the paper).  Among other things the paper discusses the infamous Kathy Sierra situation that occurred a few years ago.

I don't intend to blog substantively about law here at my little personal blog and I express no opinion regarding Professor Citron's views (in fact I consider this a post about blogging itself) but I wanted to draw everyone's attention to the Online Symposium  sponsored by the legal blog Concurring Opinions at which many legal scholars are discussing Professor Citron's paper.  I don't think it gets too deep into the legal weeds that it wouldn't be of interest to anyone who blogs or participates in online discussions.  And because the Symposium is made up of blog posts and not academic papers, it doesn't take long to read them and they are (mostly) written in plain English rather than legaleze.  

As Frank Pasquale states in his introduction to the symposium:

...we propose to discuss the following issues:

What can the law do to respond to these threats?

How we deter harassment while promoting legitimate speech?

How do we balance the privacy rights of speakers and those they speak about in the new communicative landscape created by sites like AutoAdmit, Juicy Campus, Facebook, and anonymous message boards?

The CCR Symposium will continue through Thursday but so far the following posts are available:

Frank Pasquale's Introduction to the Symposium (quoted above)

Balancing Anonymity and Accountability Online by Frank Pasquale in which he counters Citron's proposals with his own proposal of a "one bite" rule.

The Civil Rights Agenda by James Grimmelmann.  Online harassment isn't just about individual bullies and victims--though it's about that, too. It's also about pervasive patterns of abuse, directed at vulnerable groups, that effectively deprive them of the ability to participate in important social institutions.

A Mildly Skeptical Take by Orin Kerr.

Two Stories about Law's Expressive Value by David Fagundes.

Legal Responses to Online Harassment by Nathaniel Gleicher. (Recommended)

More on the Civil Rights Category by Orin Kerr.

Maybe we can't make Cyberspace better than meet space, but why allow it to be worse? by Ann Bartow. 

A Behavioral Argument for Stronger Protections by Kaimipono D. Wenger. (Recommended)

The Right to Remain Anonymous Matters by Michael Froomkin. I'm convinced that even though Prof. Citron is attacking a significant social problem, the cure proposed is (1) worse than the disease, (2) deeply unconstitutional, and (3) would have pernicious global side-effects. (Recommended).

Speech and (in)Equality by Helen Norton. I was, however, fascinated by the paper's discussion of the Violence Against Women Act's prohibition on the use of telecommunications devices to deliver certain anonymous threats or harassment. Maybe that provision can provide a helpful model for ensuring that pending legislation (like the Matthew Shepard Act) remains attentive to the various forms that civil rights injuries can take in the 21st Century.

The Rhetoric of Free Speech by Nancy Kim.  [I]t seems that Internet libertarians are using the rhetoric of free speech to vastly expand existing conceptions of speech to include all manner of previously unprotected communication or conduct, such as the posting of naked pictures of others taken without their consent, death threats, false accusations and outright lies. One of the strengths of Citron’s article is that it calls out such conduct for what it is rather than what some would prefer to call it. (Recommended)

As I said, the CCR Symposium will be going on through Thursday and I expect many other thought provoking posts will be available.