Law 511A/B - Social Media and the Future of Democracy

Neil W. Netanel

Neil W. Netanel

Pete Kameron Professor of Law
B.A. Yale, 1976
J.D. UC, Berkeley, 1980
J.S.D. Stanford, 1998
UCLA Faculty Since 2004
Course Description:

Social media both underwrite a golden age of free speech and threaten to undermine democracy. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media bring unprecedented opportunities for individuals to organize political movements and to communicate to a global audience. But in so doing, social media serve as platforms for hate speech, disinformation, terrorist recruiting, incitement to violence, excessive information insularity, and uses of automated bots to distort public discourse.

This seminar examines social media’s role in both fostering and undermining democratic discourse. We will compare social media’s role with that of traditional media and looks at social media’s impact on traditional media. We will explores possible responses in formal regulation and social media companies’ content moderation regimes. We will examines how government law and policy can and should aim to counter harmful uses of social media while fostering expressive diversity, consistently with First Amendment goals and strictures. We also ask how, if at all, government should support traditional media in the digital age.

This is a year-long seminar that fulfills the Substantial Analytic Writing requirement. Fall semester will be devoted to discussing readings. Spring semester will be devoted to students’ independent research and writing under the professors’ supervision. We will meet as a class only during fall semester.

Course Learning Outcomes:

Students will learn to critically assess law and policy arguments about social media and the future of democracy. Students will also learn to conduct research and write a research paper that satisfies that law school's scholarly analytic writing requirement.

Course Information:
​Faculty Term Course Section ​Schedule ​Units Requisite Satisfies SAW
Neil Netanel / David Nimmer 19F 511A SEM 1 R 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM 2.0 No Yes
  Early drop deadline: 5:00pm on 9/4/2019. Yearlong course.
Textbook Information:
Textbook for Fall 2019 SEM 1
Abramson, Jill Merchants Of Truth  1st ed.  
ISBN: 9781501123207. Simon & Schuster. REQUIRED $30.00
Benkler, Faris and Roberts Network Propaganda : Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics    
ISBN: 9780190923631. Oxford University Press. REQUIRED $27.95
Gillespie, Tarleton. Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media    
ISBN: 9780300173130. Yale University Press. REQUIRED $30.00
Kaye, David. Speech Police : The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet    
ISBN: 9780999745489. Columbia Global Reports. REQUIRED $15.99
Sunstein, Cass. #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media  Updated ed.  
ISBN: 9780691180908. Princeton University Press. REQUIRED $19.95
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy    
ISBN: 9780190841164. Oxford University Press. REQUIRED $24.95