The use of networked, digital technologies has become an integral part of our professional, personal and social lives, and as a consequence, mediated interaction and communication has become a central part of our everyday lives. While this has enriched our lives and made them more efficient, using a new, networked environment also entails that we need to establish novel social practices, learn new rules of etiquette, and develop an understanding of the working of social and technical systems and the consequences these have for social norms and transgressions. Regulating what can and cannot be done in networked technological environments has therefore become a pressing question for regulators and policy makers, for technology developers, for businesses, and for individuals alike. Collectively, we need to define new rules, norms and social codes for the use of digital technologies, and our behaviours in the networked environments they facilitate.
In order to come to a proper understanding of the topic of regulation in relation to digital technologies, and the role that law might fulfill in relation to such technologies, we must begin by getting a grip on what we mean by ‘regulation’. The term regulation has gained prominence in recent years in many different (academic) fields, including law, economics and finance, political science and policy making, environmental science etc. In this course we will look at the ways in which a wide variations of so-called ‘strategies for regulation’ are used to steer, guide, limit or promote specific behaviors by governments, institutions, businesses, sectors, and individuals. We will discuss the politics of regulation, the reasons why specific forms of regulation are chosen for specific societal, economic, environmental, legal, political or public policy reasons, what the rationales underlying different forms of regulation are, whether or not they are effective, and why this is so. Students will come to understand that as lawyers, policy makers and regulators there is always a variety of different regulatory strategies they can choose from in tackling regulatory challenges, they will come to understand the pros and cons of each, and they will learn to make an informed choice for, and to provided proper argumentative underpinnings for, specific forms of regulation as applied in specific cases.
In the second part of the course we will focus explicitly on regulation and digital technologies. After briefly discussing the ways in which, and the reasons why, novel digital technologies are regulated by governments and business sectors, we will turn to the main topic of this course: the use of technological means to steer, guide, and regulate individuals’ behaviour. This has come to be known as ‘technological influencing’ or ‘regulation by technology’. Technological influencing can take several forms, ranging from nudging and persuading users to follow a certain course of action, to outright ‘techno-regulation’, viz. hard-coding normative or legal codes into technologies to make certain behaviours impossible and stimulate others. By hard-coding rules into digital technologies and networked environments regulatees, be they individuals or collectives, will automatically comply, rather than being asked to make a choice on whether or not to follow these rules.
Since regulation by technology is a cost-effective, fool proof and efficient way of ensuring regulatees’ compliance with rules or norms, it is not surprising that this approach is spreading rapidly. For policy makers, regulators, and technology developers using technological influencing is considered a valuable solution in ensuring compliance with a wide variety of norms and rules. Sometimes it is used to enforce legal rules, but oftentimes there is an economic or practical drive behind the choice for this form of regulation. All in all, regulation by technology is quickly becoming a standard to be reckoned with.
Written exam: 50%
Assignments: 10% for the individual assignment, 20% for group assignments (3 assignments in total)