Law expert to explain dilemmas of digital age

“At the start of 2006, the worldwide number of blogs on the Internet was more than 70 million, according to the Blog Herald, a site dedicated to Web log research. Experts believe the number may be twice that by the end of 2007. Information sharing is at the pinnacle of a drastic paradigm shift, which is impacting every aspect of mass media, including the laws that govern it.”

At the start of 2006, the worldwide number of blogs on the Internet was more than 70 million, according to the Blog Herald, a site dedicated to Web log research.

Experts believe the number may be twice that by the end of 2007.

Information sharing is at the pinnacle of a drastic paradigm shift, which is impacting every aspect of mass media, including the laws that govern it.

On Friday afternoon at UA, Jack Balkin, a Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, will explain how the changes will affect students.

Balkin will deliver his speech, Freedom of Speech in the Digital Age, at 3 p.m. at the Martin Center.

The lecture is going to be focused on the first amendment and how the digital age might change the way we think about freedom of speech, said associate dean of law Elizabeth Reilly. He’s very interested in everything from Web logs to online games. His wide-ranging interests in the expression of communication in the new information age help give us a peek into the future while looking through the lens of constitutional law.

Just because the Internet is unregulated doesn’t mean is anything is fair game. In a blog post, Balkin said Web users should keep one thing in mind: Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.

Comments that harass people and invade their privacy are completely inappropriate, Balkin said in the post. Moreover, they have nothing to do with the goal of the site, which is to share useful information about the admissions process.

He explained that site or blog operators could change the dynamics by making it clear they don’t condone such behavior. When moderators abandon this responsibility, the site is far less valuable than it could be, and it allows a small group of immature miscreants to injure people at will, Balkin said.

Balkin received his doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge University and his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from Harvard University. He is the founder and director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, an interdisciplinary center that studies law and the new information technologies.

For the last few years, Balkin has written Balkinization, a blog dedicated to political and legal commentary.

I think this gives students the opportunity to hear a great speaker who is also a strong thinker share insights on how our future outlook is changing, Reilly said. That’s what being a student is all about – thinking about how to use learning in real situations.

The event, held in cooperation with the University of Akron College of Fine and Applied Arts, School of Communication, School of Law and the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, is free and open to the public. Free parking is available at the Martin Center.