Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Law and technology

How Law and Computer Science Can Work Together to Improve the Information Society

How Law and Computer Science Can Work Together, illustration

Credit: Anton Khrupin

In this column, I explore the various means by which lawyers can be helped by computer scientists to stop the (inevitable) collateral damage to innovation when the unstoppable force of legislation hits the irresistible innovation of the Internet.1 I will explore some current controversies (fake news, Net neutrality, platform regulation) from an international perspective. The conclusion is familiar: lawyers and computer scientists need each other to prevent a disastrous retrenchment toward splintered national-regional intranets. To avoid that, we need to be intellectually pragmatic in pursuing what may be a mutually disagreeable aim: minimal legislative reform to achieve co-regulation using the most independent expert advice. The alternatives are to allow libertarian advocates to so enrage politicians that severe overregulation results.

Regulation should first do no harm. That is easy to state, difficult to achieve, when legislation is the clumsiest version of the engineering principle of the 'Birmingham Screwdriver': to a legislator, every problem looks like a new bill will solve it, and worse, to an international lawyer every problem looks like a new Convention or Treaty is needed. Yet in reality, all that law can achieve is to enforce against a few bad actors to prevent the most egregious overreaching by companies and users. More negatively, the worst law can do is overlegislate in the interests of monopolies old and new to prevent technological progress (one example: a man carrying a red flag in front of the first motor vehicles, which protected stagecoaches and railways from innovative competition).2,a


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.