Social Protocols: Analytical Framework

Audience: Students of HLS and MIT 6.805: Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier

Goal: Present an analytical framework for the students as they approach their topics.


5 Key Points





Common Regulatory Strategies [repeated]

These strategies are not exclusive, rather they are often used in conjunction:

  1. link: couple a related issue to a contentious issue. (Clipper 3 coupled digital signatures (and their legitimiticy) to key escrow policies; strong confidentiality to export controls.)
  2. choke: regulate those that are easy to go after. (CDA focussed on large ISPs, and telco common carriers, rather than those creating the content.)
  3. gouge: regulate those that have deep pockets, often used with choke. (Some have pushed to criminalize the contributory infringement of copyright.)
  4. browbeat:  use the bully pulpit to abash, or threaten further regulatory action. (US privacy policy has to date been predicated on the fact that if the "industry" doesn't self regulate, the government will get involved.)
  5. herd: selectively place and remove liability to channel policy towards a goal without overtly setting the direction. ("Mandatory self regulation" and safe harbor provisions are frequently proposed solutions to Internet content issues.)

Choice of Policy Instrument

Relationship to Technology

The Paradox of Good Technology