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

David Nimmer

David Nimmer

Of Counsel, Irell & Manella LLP
Adjunct Faculty
A.B. Stanford, 1977
J.D. Yale, 1980
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.