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Module

LAW8581 : Social Media Regulation: Law, Policy and Society

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Ben Farrand
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

Content Moderation Online is a module that deals with some of the most pressing, sensitive and topical issues in Internet regulation at this point in time, namely how to combat the spread of information and media through social media in situations where there may be questions of the balance between freedom of expression and protection from harm. Dealing both with forms of content that are explicitly illegal, as well as those that are considered either borderline, or legal but immoral/amoral, Content Moderation Online proposes a theoretical framework for considering the different ways that these forms are regulated based in jurisdictional and socio-cultural variance. Engaging with different disciplinary perspectives on ‘harm’ in the context of online activity, and drawing from expertise developed in the context of an ongoing EPSRC funded project, ‘AGENCY’, this module is informed by cutting-edge research on an area of law that is at the centre of current proposals for legal reform and political controversy.

NOTE: due to the nature of the issues that this module will cover, including topics such as self-harm to harassment and intimate partner violence, the module carries a general content warning, as well as some session specific warnings.

Outline Of Syllabus

The proposed outline of the syllabus is as follows, with the proviso that case studies will change each year dependent upon current issues, controversies and developments.

1. Web 2.0: Social Media and the Information Society
2. Legal frameworks in comparative perspective: applying Law 1.0 to Web 2.0?
3. Emerging approaches to regulation I: from self-regulation to public-private cooperation
4. Emerging approaches to regulation II: ‘reclaiming cyberspace’ from the Online Safety Bill to the Digital Markets Act
5. Content I: combating intellectual property infringement online
6. Content II: combating sexual, racial, religious and targeted abuse online*
7. Content III: combating extremism online*
8. Content IV: combating disinformation online
9. R U TRIGGERED? Offensive content, self-harm promotion and other legal but immoral content*
10. Drawing together the threats: the regulation of social activity in the Information Society

*Sessions marked with an asterisk have specific content warnings in addition to the general module level warning.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading120:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00FLEX: can be moved online
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities42:008:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00FLEX: can be moved online
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study198:0098:00N/A
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students’ main form of teaching contact will be in the form of small-group teaching sessions, which will combine elements of interactive lecture, teacher-directed dialogue, and student-led discussions. These will be facilitated by the structured research and reading activities, where in advance of each case study session, students will be expected to read and take notes on one of the pieces provided on that particular technology and its legal challenges, reflect on the main arguments of that piece, and then search legal databases or other available resources for academic articles providing contrasting opinions or other perspectives to the assigned paper. Students will be expected to use this structured research activity to present a position in the workshop, allowing for a dedicated student-led approach to the classes.

In addition to these formal classes, there will be a number of drop-in/surgery hours, where students can ask questions regarding course content, specific readings, or to prepare for the assessment for the module. Directed research and reading will be prepared for each session, which allows students to develop greater insight into the areas of technology governance discussed in each workshop, with an additional reading list provided on Canvas as further readings or a library list, which can then be used by students drafting their research proposal during their assessment preparation and completion.

Activities marked with FLEX have been designed in a such a way as to allow them to move online if required

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper1M753000 words
Written exercise1M251000 word policy brief
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The first assessment for the module provided in the form of a 1,000-word policy brief. Set at the beginning of semester and drawing from the content of the first four weeks of the module content, this activity allows students to develop experience using different writing styles to communicate with different audiences, as well as allowing for students to be assessed on their understanding of the decisions regulators must make in determining how to regulate the dissemination of offensive content online (and indeed, whether to regulate at all). The feedback provided in this assessment will directly prepare students for their final assessed essay for the module and has been designed as a summative with a clear formative dimension in order to ensure effective student engagement with the task. General feedback for the assignment will also be provided in class, in order to show the links to the final assessment.

The final summative component is a 3,000-word assessed research essay. Students will be expected to answer one of six assigned questions that each covers a range of issues covered in the module, or alternatively, propose their own research essay that is subject to module leader approval. This assessed essay will test their ability to think critically and reflect upon both module content and the substance of the interdisciplinary course content, so that they are able to then apply their law and governance knowledge to questions concerning a number of complex real-world scenario situations, be they related to topics such as the interaction between formal and informal governance over robotics research, or the interactions between economic and social objectives and biomedical research. Students will be expected to go beyond ‘traditional’ doctrinal assessment, engaging with a wider body of materials (as discussed throughout the course), to provide a more holistic understanding of the challenges in governing emerging technologies.

Reading Lists

Timetable