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Jonathan Zittrain

  • Ifs, ands and bots

    February 17, 2023

    An article by Jonathan Zittrain: If reading articles about cybersecurity has become a little tiresome, it’s because its curse has been deep and persistent. Our…

  • What Is ‘Shadow Banning’?

    January 13, 2023

    Your social media posts, as far as you can tell, are great, but they don’t they get any engagement. Are you being “shadow banned”? The…

  • Illustration of people carrying large social media like and dislike buttons against a blue background.

    Facebook and the problem of truth

    December 15, 2022

    In a new podcast, Harvard Law Professors Jonathan Zittrain and Jill Lepore road-test an idea to enlist high school students across the country as “advertisement juries.”

  • Trial by Teenager, Part 2

    November 10, 2022

    The fact-checking experiment gets scaled up with 40 students in two states. The Super Bowl of fact-checking, a final test of an idea that might…

  • Charles Ogletree in his Office

    Ogletree family donates the celebrated law professor and civil rights scholar’s papers to Harvard Law School

    October 13, 2022

    The Harvard Law School Library has been chosen as a steward of the papers of Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., the celebrated and influential Harvard Law professor and civil rights scholar.

  • Torts! casebook cover.

    Third edition of Torts!, an online, open casebook, expands with print edition

    August 18, 2022

    This year, Jonathan Zittrain and Jordi Weinstock published Torts! Third Edition as the first in their Open Casebook series of high-quality, low-cost text books designed to make these primary texts affordable to law students across the United States.

  • Institute for Rebooting Social Media fellows

    The Institute for Rebooting Social Media announces its inaugural cohort of visiting scholars

    April 8, 2022

    The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has announced its Institute for Rebooting Social Media’s inaugural cohort of Visiting Scholars.

  • Susan Hendrickson

    Berkman Klein Center welcomes Susan Hendrickson as executive director

    December 1, 2021

    The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has announced the appointment of Susan Hendrickson ’93 as its new executive director.

  • Woman talking into a microphone

    Is it time to swipe left on social media?

    October 12, 2021

    Leaked revelations about Instagram’s impact on teens have united Republicans and Democrats in considering legal reforms, say Harvard Law School scholars.

  • Facebook Blames ‘Faulty Configuration Change’ for Nearly Six-Hour Outage

    October 5, 2021

    Facebook Inc blamed a "faulty configuration change " for a nearly six-hour outage on Monday that prevented the company's 3.5 billion users from accessing its social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. The company in a late Monday blog post did not specify who executed the configuration change and whether it was planned. Several Facebook employees who declined to be named had told Reuters earlier that they believed that the outage was caused by an internal mistake in how internet traffic is routed to its systems. ... “Facebook basically locked its keys in its car,” tweeted Jonathan Zittrain, director of Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

  • Big Tech’s not-so-secret plan to monopolize your home

    September 29, 2021

    ... I’ve been writing a lot recently about the price you face as a consumer and a citizen for being trapped in a Big Tech economy. Here’s one it’s not too late to stop: Letting tech giants make your smart home more dumb. Their monopolistic mind-set makes your home more complicated, leaves you less choice and less privacy, and already resulted in less-capable smart speakers. ... Asking the most powerful companies in history just to have “elbows that are less sharp” isn’t going to work, said Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain during the Senate’s June hearing. “They’re trying to compete and they owe their shareholders that duty. Let’s set up the rules so that they know how to play to the chalk, but not go beyond it.”

  • Illustration showing Pinocchio caught in a spider's web with social media icons

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave

    July 7, 2021

    Deception spreads faster than truth on social media. Who — if anyone — should stop it?

  • Jonathan Zittrain testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee

    Towards more interoperable ‘smart’ home devices

    June 16, 2021

    Professor Jonathan Zittrain ’95 appeared as a witness for the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights on June 15 to discuss the current state of home technologies and antitrust.

  • What the ephemerality of the Web means for your hyperlinks

    May 21, 2021

    An article by John Bowers, Clare Stanton, and Jonathan ZittrainHyperlinks are a powerful tool for journalists and their readers. Diving deep into the context of an article is just a click away. But hyperlinks are a double-edged sword; for all of the internet’s boundlessness, what’s found on the Web can also be modified, moved, or entirely vanished. The fragility of the Web poses an issue for any area of work or interest that is reliant on written records. Loss of reference material, negative SEO impacts, and malicious hijacking of valuable outlinksare among the adverse effects of a broken URL. More fundamentally, it leaves articles from decades past as shells of their former selves, cut off from their original sourcing and context. And the problem goes beyond journalism. In a 2014 study, for example, researchers (including some on this team) found that nearly half of all hyperlinks in Supreme Court opinions led to content that had either changed since its original publication or disappeared from the internet. Hosts control URLs. When they delete a URL’s content, intentionally or not, readers find an unreachable website. This often irreversible decay of Web content is commonly known as linkrot. It is similar to the related problem of content drift, or the typically unannounced changes––retractions, additions, replacement––to the content at a particular URL.

  • What are NFTs (and Why Should We Care)?

    April 21, 2021

    The non-fungible token (NFT) craze, which took off in 2020, appears to continue unabated. NFTs are digital “certificates of authenticity” that attach to creations like songs, photos and sports clips, and they can command hefty prices. An NFT of digital artist Beeple’s work brought in $69 million at auction last month, and other NFTs are being sold for similarly eyebrow-raising sums. And demand is showing no sign of declining despite what law professor Jonathan Zittrain in a recent Atlantic piece calls “their abstraction, their seemingly arbitrary valuation, and...the paltriness of the privileges they convey to their owners.” We talk to Zittrain about the future of NFTs.

  • iPhone 11 Pro showing Social media applications on its screen

    Should the internet be treated like a public utility?

    April 20, 2021

    At the annual Klinsky Lecture, Visiting Professor John G. Palfrey ’01, president of the MacArthur Foundation, says we need a regulatory regime for technology.

  • What Critics Don’t Understand About NFTs

    April 7, 2021

    An op-ed by Jonathan Zittrain and Will MarksLong before cryptocurrency speculators got involved, art prices were capricious—as the British artist Banksy no doubt understands. Recently, the work “Game Changer,” which he delivered unsolicited to an English hospital last year, earned it $23.2 million at auction—about $20 million more than experts had predicted...Last month a company called Injective Protocol took the spirit of “Morons” to a new extreme: After purchasing one of 500 prints of that work for just under $100,000, the company scanned the print and then destroyed it. A copy of the resulting digital file was then placed on IPFS—a distributed data-storage network whose initials stand for interplanetary file system—for anyone to see. A “non-fungible token,” or NFT, that points to the work was exchanged for almost 230 units of a cryptocurrency called Ether, about $400,000. All things considered, the purchaser of that token might have been in on the joke rather than the butt of it: Some NFTs are selling for tens of millions of dollars. These high prices suggest that regulators may not be moving quickly enough to protect unsuspecting investors. Impulsively buying GameStop shares on Robinhood is risky enough—the equivalent of placing a long-shot Kentucky Derby bet because the horse had a cool name. Worse still is losing your money because you didn’t understand what a horse race was and thought your wager was actually buying a horse.

  • The Internet Doesn’t Have to Be Awful

    March 9, 2021

    To read the diary of Gustave de Beaumont, the traveling companion of Alexis de Tocqueville, is to understand just how primitive the American wilderness once seemed to visiting Frenchmen...If Tocqueville were to visit cyberspace, it would be as if he had arrived in pre-1776 America and found a people who were essentially powerless. We know alternatives are possible, because we used to have them. Before private commercial platforms definitively took over, online public-interest projects briefly flourished. Some of the fruits of that moment live on. In 2002, the Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig helped create the Creative Commons license, allowing programmers to make their inventions available to anyone online; Wikipedia—which for all the mockery once directed its way has emerged as a widely used and mostly unbiased source of information—still operates under one...All of that began to change with the mass-market arrival of smartphones and a shift in the tactics of the major platforms. What the Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain calls the “generative” model of the internet—an open system in which anyone could introduce unexpected innovations—gave way to a model that was controlled, top-down, and homogeneous. The experience of using the internet shifted from active to passive; after Facebook introduced its News Feed, for example, users no longer simply searched the site but were provided a constant stream of information, tailored to what the algorithm thought they wanted to read.