Monday, April 26, 2010
Since the dawn of the information age, scholars have debated the viability of regulating cyberspace. Early on, Professor Lawrence Lessig suggested that “code is law” online. Lessig and others also examined the respective regulatory functions of laws, code, market forces, and social norms. In recent years, with the rise of Web 2.0 interactive technologies, norms have taken center-stage as a regulatory modality online. The advantages of norms are that they can develop quickly by the communities that seek to enforce them, and they are not bound by geography. However, to date there has been scant literature dealing in any detail with specific online norms, and comparing them with other forms of regulation. This article reverses that trend by presenting a detailed case study of one developing norm in the blogosphere - the norm against “hijacking” a comment thread in a blog by hyperlinking, and thereby redirecting readers, to another blog. Using this case study, the article draws some conclusions about the relative advantages and disadvantages of norms as regulators. In particular, the author concludes that too much weight is often placed on vague and opaque norms in online interactions. It advocates future emphasis on more well developed and clearly expressed norms.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.