The digital "revolution" and advent of new technologies impact significantly on human rights and the courts' interpretation thereof. Thus for instance, the dramatically increased availability of information of all kinds and quality shapes our understanding of fundamental rights such as privacy, but also tends to change our perspective on freedom of expression, association and even socio-economic rights. What is more, the borderless nature of the Internet increasingly prompts scholars, judges and lawmakers to look outside their own legal system. Accordingly, comparative inquiry can have important practical benefits in terms of recognizing those underlying assumptions that generate conceptual obstacles to protecting human rights in the digital age and perhaps eventually formulating more coherent trans-systemic policy.
With an eye towards broader reflection on the role of comparative inquiry, the course will focus on the interplay between innovation and constitutional rights. It will seek to identify the issues that emerge from the growing use of technology transnationally, and to provide a conceptual basis for adjudicating the ongoing tension between divergent understandings of rights in a borderless digital age.
The course will engage in a thematic comparison of a number of issues critical to contemporary constitutionalism. Topics include: constitutional principles and interpretive tools; revisiting the "marketplace of ideas" model and speech regulation in the digital age; the US versus the Continental and Asia Pacific vision of privacy; the controversial European "right to be forgotten" and the impact of the Internet on democratic rights. The conceptual discussion will focus on the reciprocal relationship between constitutionalism, political culture and practical issues of policy and governance.