Freedoms, Rules, and Technology

In his chapter, Code is Law (p. 1–8), Lessig argues that political sentiment against repressive and overbearing high-handedness by the government led to a certain sympathetic support for libertarianism and appreciation of freedom of expression and from control.  Much has been written on the premise since then, both in support of, or critical of, the premise of this argument (see one argument from CATO here).

In this milieu, “cyberspace” symbolized the romantic notions of a place where freedom would reign, an idealized space which could not be governed, not so much that it was free from governance, the antithetic of “cybernetics” or the “study of control at a distance through devices” (p. 3). The American Society of Cybernetics provides some additional clarity to the debate here.

Indeed, so many of us still believe our actions online are private, free from rules and regulations that govern our offline lives, or somewhat anonymous (see this from Mashable) simply, not subject to the same restrictions that we face offline. Many have often argued that cyberspace is in some ways an “empowering” space, we can be “different” online if we choose to, that society will somehow be more equal and fair online. Here, CPJ in fact presents evidence to the contrary.

Lessig makes an important argument that “liberty in cyberspace does not come from absence of cyberspace” (p. 4). Rather, it comes from building an architecture that “structures and constrains social and legal power, to the end of protecting human values” (p. 4).

If we do not build this architecture deliberately and with care, then, “left to itself, cyberspace itself will become a perfect tool of control” (p. 4). Some more of his thoughts here.

In fact, the tools through which we build this architecture foundations, the values of liberty and freedom, are derived from code. Just as in real life, laws regulate our behaviors and ethics, in cyberspace, code regulates our actions in cyberspace. However, even as “code is law,” there are important differences between the two fundamental concepts.

Thus, in Code is Law, Lessig lays out the different aspects in discussing the “values at stake–substantive and structural” (p. 6).  For example, the packet switched exchange of data on the internet using the TCP/IP protocols make the code ignorant of the content and the user, thus making it more challenging to govern the Internet.

In reading this chapter and the links above, in about a page, share your response to this post on the lines of the questions below:

  1. What are the five different values through which Lessig interrogates what is at stake?
  2. In introducing each part of the book (part II through part V in pages 7–8, Lessig briefly introduces each issue of concern). Connect these with contemporary news items to tell us how each might still be relevant (or not). (see, for example, my first CATO link for relevant FCC rulings and notes on privacy online).

10 responses to “Freedoms, Rules, and Technology

  1. 1.
    1) The path that cyberspace is on now ( evolution)
    2) cyberspace demands a new understanding of how regulation works
    3) intellectual property, privacy, and free speech and the values within each that cyberspace changes
    4) those who “populate” cyberspace living with the claimed dominance of cyberspace
    5) cyber space requires choices, some private some public.
    Lessig says that the liberty that the Internet was first founded on will be gone with the evolution of the Internet in the future. According to an article written by Carolyn Marsan, “But its [Internet] popularity has a dark side, as it has evolved from a friendly research network to a hotbed of criminal activity including fraud and identity theft.” The very foundation that made the Internet so accessible to everyone is the same thing that worries people about the openness and accessibility of information at this day in age.
    The second problem that Lessig theorizes is that a new understanding of how regulation works will come about. There will be more laws on the internet about what can be said, who can access which information, and business that is done online. According to, the fundamental basis that the Internet was built without regulation should not be compromised. This organization is out there to combat Lessing’s idea that there will be more regulation on the Internet.
    The article on PC World supports the idea of the third problem that Lessig sees when it comes to privacy and protection within cyberspace. Blogs are a prime example of free speech on the Internet. But, supporting Lessig’s theories, there is even a website ( that sets up what are the guidelines for what can and should be said on the Internet. So is it really free speech or is it regulated?
    The fourth problem that Lessig predicts is how people will react to the freeness of the Internet being compromised. While I could not find a particular article about this idea, I think it is safe to give my personal opinion. If the Internet becomes an unfree place to post ideas or communicate with others, it will ruin the basis of the Internet. The Internet should be an open platform for people to search for information, learn about others and different subjects. With regulation of the Internet, there will not be a forward evolution but instead a setback.
    The choices that we as Internet users are given, give us freedom and the power as a consumer on the Internet. If those choices are regulated by the government and made private, our own rights as Americans will be compromised.This article ( goes into detail about the theory of “Big Brother” and the control that the government already has on us. Which side do you choose?

  2. 1.) Lessig interrogates that regulation on the web is changing as well as the code of cyberspace. As this code changes, the character of cyberspace will change as well. Lessig notes, “Cyberspace will change from a place that protects anonymity, free speech, and individual control, to a place that makes anonymity harder, speech less free, and individual control the province of individual experts only” (Lessig). The thought of having less free speech and less individual control is very scary to many.

    2.) “The lesson of the last part was that the interaction between commerce and government will change the effective architecture of the Internet,” Lessing notes in the beginning of Part II (Lessig, 81). “That change will increase the regularity of behavior on the Internet” (Lessig, 81). This notion is similar to recent events in the news. Everyday we hear more and more about loosing certain freedoms whether it is freedom of speech or even gun control. Lessig basically starts this part off by talking about loosing those freedoms.

    Lessig makes similar points in introducing part III of the book. He states, “But if cyberspace exists,so first-generation thinking goes, government’s power over behavior there is quite limited” (Lessig, 31). Again, many people went into cyberspace thinking it would be a place of “no-control.” This is slowly becoming not the case with more and more regulations, which we see going on in the news everyday with every aspect in the government. Essentially, thinking is the only thing the government does not have control over.

    Lessig refers to an “Invisible Man” when introducing part IV.The original notion was that in cyber space no one knows who you are, hence the invisible man reference. Lessig goes on to say that the invisible man does not fear the state. Although this does seem dangerous to have a society where no one fears consequences, that is becoming less and less true. Nowadays, just because you are on cyberspace and hiding behind a computer screen, it does not mean you can not be tracked by the government or essentially anyone who has the means to do so. An example of this is the television show How to Catch a Predator. On this show, older men/women talk to younger child as if they are indeed the same age. They then try to meet up with their victims in hopes of having their way with them. The television show is able to stop this before it happens.

    Lastly, in part V, Lessig talks about how commerce and technology go hand in hand. There are a number of different technologies that make it easier to know who someone is on the Net, what they are doing, and when they are doing it (Lessig, 61). Again, this used to be a freedom that the public shared. Now everything can be tracked. I agree that anything which seems suspicious should be able to be tracked, but I think it is a little overboard that anyone who has a Twitter the government is allowed to see any tweet anyone has every published.

    In the news everyday, there are stories about Americans having less and less freedom. We are becoming products of the government. Basically what Lessig said when introducing all of these specific parts is that we are indeed having less and less freedom on the Internet and there are pros and cons to this.

  3. 1. Some of the different values that Lessig say are at stake are anonymity being able to keep things more anonymous, control not being able to control things how you want because others are in positions with technology that will enable you to have control over things yourself.

    2. Lessig discusses JotSpot and thanks them for creating wiki. This is still used today when people surf the web for information about things. Wiki is not an accurate source to use but many people still use it anyways. Lessig also introduces computers, freedom, and policy. As the system matured, each new generation of system code would increase the power of government. Our digital selves and increasingly, our physical selves would live in a world of perfect regulation and the architecture of this distributed computing what we today call the Internet and its successors would make that regulatory perfection possible. (Leesig p. 10)
    This is very important because day by day our technology is growing and our regulations are changing. People have to fight harder for privacy while using smart devices. Our freedom is being watched by while using computers and our policies are sometimes useless because people figure out ways to outsmart them.

  4. 1.They values through which Lessig discusses what is at stake are freedom of speech, the privacy of lives, the structural foundation of cyberspace and the rules and regulations that go along with it. The idea of the internet, or cyberspace, being completely free is also terrifying to many people because of the ease of use and ease to spread messages it provides.

    2.Part I – The evolution of cyberspace, this idea is still very very relevant and new regulations and rules are coming into play all the time. Cyberspace provides so many liberties to people, and they have taken advantage. One example is the idea of online bullying; people use their liberty to say what they want on the internet to hurt others. This was not originally a problem so new rules and policies are slowing coming into place for this.
    Part II – This part discusses how to understand the new regulations of cyberspace. Cyberspace is made up of coding, which is a bit different from law that we follow out on the streets. The idea of cyberspace will need its own regulations and a regulator to allow us to maintain the ideas we like in a proper way.
    Part III – This part discusses how the values within the ideas of intellectual property, privacy and free speech will change because of cyberspace. The main focus of this idea is how can we preserve these values while still following some code and regulations that make cyberspace relevant. This is seen every day with the internet today because people abuse their use of freedom of speech; steal others property and privacy is a thing of the past. Saying these values will make the internet safer and more useful.
    Part IV – This section talks about the idea of cyberspace being everywhere, and how will we form a sovereign of cyberspace with rules and regulations that everyone will follow? This is a confusing idea and figuring out how to make the world get along over simple things is difficult, let alone joining together to decide the code for cyberspace.
    Part V – This final section discusses the fact that cyberspace, and the use of it, is a choice. People must choose if they want to protect their privacy or sue for stolen intellectual property.

  5. 1.
    • Freedom in cyberspace (speech)
    • Privacy
    • What is cyberspace: its structure
    • Free internet
    2. Part III – This part talks about the intellectual property, privacy and freedom of speech within cyberspace. This is seen everyday with social media such as Facebook. People can set their profiles to private so that no one can see who they are or what they say unless they give you permission. Also with Twitter, you have complete freedom of speech and give anyone the ability to see it or not.
    Part IV – This part talks about cyberspace being everywhere and how the sovereigns of everywhere living with the sovereigns of cyberspace. This is odd because it is hard to tell how powerful someone is in cyberspace and what they could possibly do to you if you do something to upset them. There really is no telling what the sovereigns relationships would be like until a line is crossed like they have been in real space.
    Part V- this part talks about how using cyberspace is the peoples choice. The choices can involve values and can be a challenge that these choices can present.

  6. 1) The five values that Lessig interrogates are that the regulations of the web are changing and so is the code of cyber space. He also says that “Cyber space will change from a place that protects anonymity, free speech, and individual control, to a place that makes anonymity harder, speech less free, and individual control the province of individual experts only.” In other words he is basically saying that our freedoms in cyberspace are changing drastically and much of them are being taken away or even stolen by others.

    2) Lessig talks about checks and balances. How do we regulate such a space? How do we limit power to some government or how do we take away the power? These are questions that are hard to answer. This is a relatively new idea and as a culture we are just beginning to get it. It is hard to regulate something when the people who are in the actual cyberspace come from everywhere. Lessig says, “I consider three areas of controversy—intellectual property, privacy, and free speech— and identify the values within each that cyberspace will change. These values are the product of the interaction between law and technology.” All of these areas of controversy are hard to grasp while located in a cyberspace. In other words it is hard to manage who and what goes on in there and who takes credit for what is in cyberspace. As mentioned earlier are freedoms are being taken away from us in another way we didn’t even know was possible and much of that is cyberspace. Lessig also notes that cyberspace requires choices. The choices of a person to protect their property in cyberspace or not and how they go about doing that. Ultimately it is our choice to do so but how is the real question.

  7. 1. Lessig says that there are several different values at stake. He mentions that our anonymity, freedoms of speech, privacy and due process may be at risk. He said “Already we are struggling with substance: Will cyberspace promise privacy or access? Will it enable a free culture or a permission culture? Will it preserve a space for free speech?” This is a whole new platform that was not available when the Bill of Rights was written and people are not sure how to handle it.

    2. The first concern stated in part II is that cyberspace demands a new understanding of how regulation works and requires us to look beyond the traditional lawyer’s scope. This means that there is no black and white legal and illegal anymore because there is so much available and it is hard to differentiate between what should and should not be allowed. This goes along with streaming things on the Internet. Watching something on a live stream is legal but if you go back and watch it later it is not on some sites but it is on others, that is where things get complicated with what is allowed and what is not.

    Part III brings up areas of controversy, intellectual property, privacy, and free speech. He said these values are the product of the interaction between law and technology. This focuses on preserving the values that are important to us within each context. This is evident in everyday life because people steal things on the Internet, invade others privacy, and abuse their freedom of speech all while hiding behind their phones and computers.

    Part IV focuses on how cyberspace is populated by people all over the world; he said “How will the sovereigns of everywhere live with the claimed ‘sovereignty’ of cyberspace?” This is one of the things that makes regulating cyberspace so difficult because where does jurisdiction lie?

    Part V talks about the choices of Internet users. How authors have to choose to enforce their copyright and how a citizen must choose how they want to protect their privacy. There are a lot of gray areas concerning cyberspace and that requires all of us to make choices everyday, it’s up to us on whether we make the right one or not.

  8. 1) Lessig states that regulation on the web is forever changing and so is the code of cyberspace. Anonymity and freedom of speech will be harder to obtain. He argues that the web will change drastically.
    2) Part II Cyberspace demands a new understanding of how regulation works. It relates to the real world in the sense that laws, including constitutions, statutes, and other legal codes, regulate. Reidenberg said, “code is law”
    Part III Intellectual property, privacy, and free speech. He plans to map out the interaction of law and technology and how the real world aspects of learning the new code of law will be difficult. Cyberspace will need to adapt to new regulations and this might take time.
    Part IV Internationalizes the questions of the previous parts. With the number of people who are going to have access to the internet, that means that the new users won’t have the experience or knowledge of the experts. He says, how will the sovereigns of everywhere live with the claimed “sovereignty” of cyberspace? This just means that the experienced have a chance to prey on the novice.
    Part V Describes that cyberspace requires choices, and those choices should be private. Choices will always weigh on the minds of internet users. They must determine what they want to share on the web.

  9. 1. There are various different values through which Lessig interrogates what is at stake. He states how the age we live in is cyberspace and it threatens are liberty. However, he makes the point that we are obsessed with the idea that liberty means “freedom from government,” (Lessig). The other values at stake is that the code determines how easy it is to protect privacy and at the same level of easiness to ban speech. It also depicts whether the information is general or specific in the sense of accessing it. Another factor is that it affects who sees what or what is monitored. Lessig states how cyberspace is changing. “Cyberspace will change from a place that protects anonymity, free speech, and individual control, to a place that makes anonymity harder, speech less free, and individual control the province of individual experts only,” (Lessig).

    2. In part II of the book the concern is that it explains the relevance of how our liberty is “threatened” by cyberspace. It states about privacy and how certain information on the web could get censored. This can be related in today’s world by social media sites. These sites allow you to make your profile private but there are still ways of seeing a page if someone really wanted to. Part III of the book is about how regulation is changing. Cyberspace is changing in the aspect that free speech is harder. There are restrictions on some websites that do not allow you to speak your mind. The comment could be blocked or even the page completely. Part IV explains how anyone can go into cyberspace and how it is so visible in our world. There are regulations that make this issue difficult. Invasion of privacy is a big one on the web. If someone is looking up someone then that person could consider it a form of invasion of privacy even though information is on the web. The last part of the book explains our choice of regulation or no regulation. I believe that we still need regulations or there would be chaos on the web. However, the regulations should not limit our freedom of speech but just be able to protect individuals on the web. “The law of cyberspace will be how cyberspace codes it, but we will have lost our role in setting that law,” (Lessig). This is explaining that we just follow the web and do not have any real say in it.

  10. 1. Through reading this chapter and the readings I found that Lessig argues main values in our society that are at stake due to the changing web. These values include freedom of speech and autonomy in cyberspace, privacy at risk, the structure of cyberspace. Through the reading he argues that are civil liberties are at stake more and more as the web and its capabilities changes and evolves.

    2. In part two of the book Lessig discusses that everyone has been in cyberspace at one point or another. He talks about how cyberspace is not just the internet, it is when you get sucked in to your online experience. In the reading the differences between cyberspace and the internet are explored. For example, often people in the older generation see the web as just the internet, Lessig calls it “yellow pages on steroids”, they access the information that they are looking for and that is it. The younger generation today views the internet more as cyberspace, it is as Lessig calls it “their second life”. Social media in todays society allows for that to happen. People spend a large majority online, with capabilities of creating a whole new life for themselves using sites like FaceBook and even as it is called Second Life. Cyberspace gives people the capability to create a new life for themselves with an entirely new outlook, personality, and identity.

    Part three of the book discusses how regulations on cyberspace and constantly changing. Lessig states that there are no specific boundaries or rules to the web, which allows these changes to take place. In today’s cyberspace these changes are beginning to deter uses freedom of speech. Sites often allow users to block or report content to be deleted. Facebook as capabilities that allow users to mark posts as spam and report them for inappropriate content. Regulations are becoming tighter on posts as the internet is evolving. Although, there are still sites (Yelp) that make it so that in order to have posts removed users must jump through many hoops, this allows for true reviews of restaurants and businesses. It should be noted though that people writing reviews on the internet more often than not either had an extraordinary experience- or the complete opposite.

    In part four Lessig discusses privacy in cyberspace. He states that the web was originally created under the pretense that users would essentially be invisible. Today, websites like FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. have taken away that privacy. The majority of information commonly used can be linked together under your FaceBook or other websites. Also, once you post into cyberspace- even if it is deleted- it is out there forever. Businesses are now using software when hiring that allows them access to private or hidden social media pages. I think that this is crewing an invasion of many peoples privacy, which is what Lessig describes throughout this part of the text.

    Part five discusses how commerce and technology works together to regulate the web this creates a sense of safety and security on the web but takes away from users freedom and liberties. This part talks more about users opinions on whether regulations are invading those liberties. I think that some regulations are needed to maintain the web, but businesses should not be able to invade your privacy in order to find out what kind of person they think you are through the lens of the WWW.

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