Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fall Semester, 2014

MIT 6.805/STS085: Foundations of Internet Public Policy

Meets: Thursday 2-5, room 36-156
Enrollment limited, Permission of instructor required

Enrollment will be limited, and permission of instructor is required. Anyone interested in enrolling must request permission by filling out this form.

In this class, we will consider the interaction between law, policy, and technology as they relate to the evolving controversies over control of the Internet. Our goal is for participants to develop the technical, legal and rhetorical skills to analyze and participate in the evolution of the global public policy environments that govern human behavior on the Internet.

Topics include: history of Internet policy, relationship between technical architecture and law, privacy, cybersecurity, freedom of expression, intellectual property, electronic surveillance, trade policy, and international affairs.

Examples will be drawn primarily from US law but take an explicitly global perspective on policy, politics and online activism. Students will interact with leading public-policy experts in classroom settings and through remote participation. There is an extensive final project that wil be done under the guidance of mentors who are national leaders in internet information policy issues.

6.805 counts as a Course 6 Advanced Undergraduate Subject (AUS) and also as a communications intensive (CI-M) subject.

MIT Course 6 students may count 6.805 as one of the general engineering concentration subjects required for the S.B. or M.Eng. programs, or use this subject for HASS elective credit (but not both). Students wishing engineering concentration credit should enroll under the subject number 6.805, and students wishing HASS credit should enroll under the number STS085. Graduate credit can be granted through STS (not Course 6), although this will require making special arrangements with Prof. Fischer for extra work.

Students enrolling in the Course 6 MEng program can arrange to do an associated thesis in the area of information privacy, transparency, and accountability by simultaneously enrolling in 6.UAP, and completing an extended thesis proposal and preliminary implementation work by the end of the semester. The thesis can be continued the following semester, and there is a possibility of RA support for appropriately ambitious projects.

For a statement of class curricular goals, see the 6.805 Curricular Goals Map giving a dynamic graphical display connecting the class outcomes with the outcomes of other subjects in the Course 6 curriculum.

Student papers
Exemplary papers by students in the class in previous semesters.


A near-invisible niche for the vast majority of its existence, computer culture has only recently stepped into the big leagues and has yet to even learn the rules. Sprung from a world of digital absolutes, nerd brains are woefully unprepared for the fuzzy gray shadings inherent in the legal system. But if they can't play the game, they might as well just forfeit to save themselves the beatings.
-- Greg Knauss (Suck Magazine, Sep. 8, 2000)

The law is the instrument through which a technological revolution [the Internet] is undone. And since we have barely understood how technologists built this revolution, we don't even see when the lawyers take it away.
-- Larry Lessig (The Future of Ideas, 2001)