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Lawrence Lessig

  • What critics get wrong — and right — about the Supreme Court’s new ‘major questions doctrine’

    April 19, 2023

    Oren Tamir, a post-doctoral fellow, says that many of the critiques of the major questions doctrine tend to miss the mark — and that, with some changes, the doctrine could be fixed in ways that would make it a valuable contribution for our law and democracy.

  • Justices Told ‘Billions’ At Stake In AI Patent Crusade

    April 14, 2023

    A Harvard Law School professor is among a handful of legal academics who say that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to issue patents…

  • Twitter is for roasting Donald Trump. Building a democracy? Not so much.

    April 13, 2023

    If you’re fixing to own the libs or roast DJT, Twitter is a great place to be. The sickest burn wins every time. But if…

  • Ways to combat dark money in Massachusetts politics

    April 13, 2023

    The last several election cycles in Massachusetts show just how antiquated and ineffective the state’s campaign finance laws and regulations have become — and how…

  • SJC hears challenge of Healey ballot question rejection

    February 7, 2023

    The Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments Monday on a thorny and novel question of political spending and free speech rights. Proponents of a potential 2024…

  • The AI boom is here, and so are the lawsuits

    February 1, 2023

    That was quick: Artificial intelligence has gone from science fiction to novelty to Thing We Are Sure Is the Future. Very, very fast. One easy…

  • Lax campaign finance rules likely to survive Bankman-Fried scandal

    January 17, 2023

    If anything could jump-start the stalled effort to reform the role of money in politics, one might think it would be an epic scandal involving…

  • For John Eastman and Clarence Thomas, an intellectual kinship stretching back decades

    January 3, 2023

    In July 2021, dozens of former clerks of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gathered for a reunion at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, a…

  • Twitter Mocked for New Ban on Links to Rival Social Media Sites: ‘Holding Us Hostage Ain’t Gonna Work’

    December 19, 2022

    Media figures mocked Twitter’s new policy prohibiting the “free promotion” of social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon and Post, among others, Sunday, with “Hair…

  • Steps to the United State Supreme Court lit up at twilight

    Was Antonin Scalia originally an originalist?

    October 26, 2022

    In remarks made as part of the biennial Vaughan Academic Program, Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule argued that the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia began his judicial career as a champion of the administrative state.

  • Who are these ‘special masters,’ and what makes them so special?

    September 8, 2022

    The Washington Post – As a federal judge in Florida granted former president Donald Trump’s request for a special master on Monday, Americans could be…

  • Detail of Langdell Hall in autumn

    A Focus on Democracy: HLS Clinics and Classes

    July 15, 2022

    The Election Law Clinic, led by Ruth Greenwood, visiting assistant clinical professor, focuses on voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the challenges money poses to democratic participation.

  • Metaverse without regulation would be a ‘very scary prospect,’ experts warn

    April 12, 2022

    Meta Platforms (FB), formerly known as Facebook, lost an attempt last week to quash a proposal from shareholders who want to know whether its planned virtual world will cause real-world harm. The question comes as critics of the metaverse voice concerns that the burgeoning virtual world sorely needs regulation to protect its users. The absence of rules to police the metaverse could hurt consumers in the same ways they've been hurt in other online platforms, critics warn. The metaverse could also create brand-new injuries without proper oversight, according to critics. If the metaverse becomes ubiquitous, regulation could become even more crucial. “The first question we need to be asking of people, like representatives from the place called Meta, is: What is the business model?” Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig said during a panel discussion last week. “The thing to fear is if [Meta] becomes the dominant default platform that you must participate in to do everything...If it becomes Facebook 2.0, and that is the defining existence, then the fact that there is no law I think means it's a very scary prospect.”

  • Is It Time to Change the Rules for Big Tech? Experts Weigh In.

    February 28, 2022

    This is your Tech News Briefing for Monday, February 28th. I'm Zoe Thomas for The Wall Street Journal. Big tech companies are facing more scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators than ever. An astonishing amount of the tech that plays an integral role in our lives is being run by just a handful of companies. And the question hanging over many congressional hearings and regulatory investigations is, are the current rules enough, or do new ones need to be made? On today's show, we'll bring you a conversation from the WSJ pro team with experts discussing how we should rethink the rules around tech, and the impact any changes could have on the everyday user. ... The WSJ Pro team recently brought together a panel of experts to discuss some of the most pressing issues that regulators and tech businesses are grappling with. Steve Rosenbush, Bureau Chief for WSJ Pro Enterprise tech spoke with Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank that promotes innovation and has several tech companies on its board. Lawrence Lessig, a Professor of Law currently at Harvard law school who studies the interplay of tech and policy, and Barry Lynn, Executive Director of the Open Markets Institute, which focuses on threats from business monopolies and the concentration of power. Here are some highlights from their conversation, starting with Steve.

  • The Supreme Court Needs Its Own Filibuster

    February 16, 2022

    An article written by Lawrence Lessig: The Supreme Court’s decision last week to reverse the finding of a three-judge panel that Alabama must redraw its 2022 Congressional map after violating the Voting Rights Act — a ruling the Supreme Court reached without the benefit of full briefing and argument—has raised again the question of what could be done about the court’s use of the “shadow docket.” Here’s one answer: Congress should give the justices a filibuster.

  • Why the US Is a Failed Democratic State

    December 15, 2021

    A column by Lawrence Lessig: The State Department is hosting a democracy summit this week. Representatives from around the world will assemble, virtually, “to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal.” For the United States, the webpage declares, “the summit will offer an opportunity to listen, learn, and engage with a diverse range of” democratic actors. America will also, the page continues, in what is certainly the money quote of the whole conference, “showcase one of democracy’s unique strengths: the ability to acknowledge its imperfections and confront them openly and transparently, so that we may, as the United States Constitution puts it, ‘form a more perfect union.’” I’m not certain who precisely is going to be showcasing our own “imperfections.” The agenda online is incomplete. But it is right that we “confront” these “imperfections” “openly and transparently.” Because what’s most striking about America’s understanding of our own democracy is our ability to see what’s just not there. We are not a model for the world to copy. The United States is instead a failed democratic state. At every level, the institutions that the US has evolved for implementing our democracy betray the basic commitment of a representative democracy: that it be, at its core, fair and majoritarian. Instead, that commitment is now corrupted in America. And every aspiring democracy around the world should understand the specifics of that corruption—if only to avoid the same in its own land.

  • For Rules in Technology, the Challenge is to Balance Code and Law

    November 23, 2021

    The first time the Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig told computer scientists they were the unwitting regulators of the digital age — about 20 years ago — he made a coder cry. “I am not a politician. I’m a programmer,” Mr. Lessig recalls her protesting, horrified by the idea. Now, the notion that “code is law”— from Mr. Lessig’s 1999 book “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace” — does not shock young engineers or lawyers, the professor says. To digital natives it is “obvious” that technology dictates behavior with rules that are not value neutral.

  • Burning smartphone

    ‘The algorithm has primacy over media … over each of us, and it controls what we do’

    November 18, 2021

    Social media’s business model of personalized virality is incompatible with democracy, agreed experts at a recent Harvard Law School discussion on the state of democracy.

  • Facebook Is Bad. Fixing It Rashly Could Make It Much Worse.

    October 27, 2021

    The nicest thing you can say about the Health Misinformation Act, proposed in July by the Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Luján, is that it means well. The internet has been a key accelerant of widespread myths, misunderstandings and lies related to Covid-19; Klobuchar and Luján’s bill would force online companies like Facebook to crack down on false information during public health emergencies, or lose immunity from lawsuits if they don’t. ... Klobuchar and Luján’s bill is one of many plans that attempt to curb the power of tech companies by altering Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the much-hated and much-misunderstood 1996 rule that affords websites broad immunity from liability for damage caused by their users. ... As Daphne Keller, the director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center, has outlined, there are at least six different ways that the Constitution limits Congress’s power to regulate online discourse. ... Not everyone agrees that the Constitution is incompatible with speech regulations for tech companies. Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School who has been working with Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistle-blower, told me that some content-neutral rules for online speech might survive constitutional scrutiny — for example, a rule that set an upper limit on the number of times a Facebook post could be reshared.

  • The Facebook Papers may be the biggest crisis in the company’s history

    October 25, 2021

    Facebook has confronted whistleblowers, PR firestorms and Congressional inquiries in recent years. But now it faces a combination of all three at once in what could be the most intense and wide-ranging crisis in the company's 17-year history. ... "The most interesting thing I discovered as I read these documents is how extraordinary the company is," Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and strategic legal adviser to Haugen, told CNN. "The company is filled with thousands of thousands of Frances Haugens ... who are just trying to do their job. They are trying to make Facebook safe and useful and the best platform for communication that they can."

  • Crowd of protesters people. Silhouettes of people with banners and megaphones. Concept of revolution or protest

    Power to the people

    October 12, 2021

    In “Power to the People: Constitutionalism in the Age of Populism,” co-authors Mark Tushnet and Bojan Bugarič argue that populism is neither inherently conservative nor necessarily inconsistent with constitutional democracy.