Law and the Media

I’ve always wanted to go into law. The spirit of the rule of law was an essential societal revolution to propel of species into civilization (source). The law has evolved throughout generation of humanity, rising to meet new challenges and ¬†contributed in oppressing ¬†large amounts people.

The law can be used for evil. Slavery was legal under western ideals of freedom. Laws have restricted reproductive rights of half our population.

But the law can be used to promote the good. Laws have made children safer by making child abuse punishable. Laws have enfranchised minority populations and helped integrate those members into society.

Now, we are at another crucial question: How does the law interact with digital media? This question may be the laws most important challenge since the Civil Rights movement.

With the advent and explosion of the internet, it is critical to update the law to modern times with a clear understanding of its importance and the law’s limitations.

In the western tradition, we developed extensive protection of property rights, some even claiming that should be the laws only functions. In this pursuit, we have protected people’s intangible assets, like copyrights and trademarks. We have also developed protection of privacy, constitutionally given to American’s in the 4th amendment and instituted in most of the modern world. Increasingly, internet providers are trying to promote certain websites at the expense of others, causing issues with Net Neutrality and equity in digital spaces.

But these laws were deliberated without the internet. Now, legal experts, the media and tech corporations and the general public are now trying to figure out how these evolutions of property, privacy and equity rights apply in digital spaces.

The nature of the internet muddles the line of what is property and what can be publicly accessed. The internet is a space to promote products, sell merchandise and share information. This accessibility has also enables individuals to easily share copyright and trade marked information.

This creates a paradox for legislators. If they come down hard with strict regulation of pirated material, they also open the door for corporation to sue and economically intimidate people using their 1st amendment speech. If they allow hackers to continue to pirate material without punishment, this harms the economy and the economic viability of artistic and journalistic endeavors.

Privacy continues to be a source of juxtaposition as well. Traditional privacy rights are centers around not breaching anyone’s public information without consent. While this had been evolving before the internet, the advent of Big Data has troubling consequences and no clear solution.

It’s easy to say don’t put your information online. But that excludes the individual from using many of the services that are now essential economically, culturally and socially. Regulating Big Data comes at the expense of the rights of the corporation, which may seem fine, but allowing the government to control Big Data opens the door to warrantless searches of our devices.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the core aspect of equitable movement of information online has been under attack. While ending Net Neutrality doesn’t have many benefits to the overall society to weigh agains the cons, corporations have a very large incentive to end Net Neutrality and have been succeeding under the Trump Administration.

You might have noticed that I haven’t offered any solutions to any of the problems. That’s because I don’t have any. Approaches contradict eachother, solutions cause harmful externalities and lawmakers seem comically unarare of the sophistication of the problems. I fear trying to solve the problem will just trade one dystopian future for another.

However, the law is really the only means to regulate the internet. And while I don’t have answers right now, through this examination, I decided this is the type of law I want to practice and these are the issues I hope to help rectify in the coming future.