Protecting and promoting human rights in a digital age: the responsibilities of platforms

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor Queensland University of Technology
29 January | Melbourne Law School

Social media platforms, search engines, content hosts, and telecommunications providers play a major role in governing our digital lives. Governments around the world are increasingly seeking to influence how these digital intermediaries monitor and censor internet communications, and platforms now face substantial pressure from users, civil society, and industry groups to do more on specific issues like terrorism, hatred, image-based abuse, and ‘fake news.’ This presentation examined the opportunities and challenges for the future of internet regulation. How can human rights be protected in the digital age? What array of legal obligations and self-regulatory tools might be able to promote innovation and investment in digital technologies while responding to emerging needs to protect citizens from harm online? How can domestic regulation work in a transnational media environment?
Answering these questions are particularly difficult given the lack of good information about how private intermediaries currently govern their networks. Scholars face serious difficulties in gaining access to examine the practices of content moderation within commercial platforms. Over the last few years, we have seen a number of excellent detailed qualitative analyses of governance practices of particular platforms, but much remains shrouded in secrecy. It is difficult, in this context, for scholars researching the broader social implications of commercial content moderation practices to access the information they need to study changes over time and across platforms. This presentation presented an emerging research agenda and considered the opportunities for methodological innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration to help progress future research.

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor researches the regulation of networked society. He is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the Law School at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and a Chief Investigator of QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre. His research examines the governance of the internet and social networks, the peer economy, digital copyright, and knowledge commons.

Consumer and Public Participation in Converged Communications Industry Rule-making

Dr Karen Lee University of New England
21 March | Melbourne Law School

In its recent Final Report on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Department of Communications suggested that reform of the communications regulatory framework should aim to ‘reinvigorate’ self-regulation. Greater reliance on self-regulation raises the issue of consumer and public interest participation in the processes the converged communications industry will use to formulate rules. However, research into consumer and public interest participation in industry rule-making is limited, and there has been no assessment of how such participation can best be deployed to ensure self- and co-regulation within the converged sector is responsive and effective.

This paper begins that process by looking at consumer and public participation in the development of co-regulatory codes of practice in the telecommunications, media and online sectors in accordance with existing legislation. First, the different forms of consumer and public participation permitted by these sectors in their rule-making processes are identified. It is then argued that before the appropriateness of these mechanisms can begin to be assessed, the precise goals of consumer and public participation in these processes must be specified. However, somewhat surprisingly, the role and function of consumer and public participation in these areas have not been clearly delineated. It is therefore suggested in the paper that consumer and public participation should serve three principal purposes, one of which is responsiveness, a term that should be understood to mean the satisfaction of four requirements — ensuring that industry deliberates; discloses sufficient information to enable others to hold it to account; considers the relevant concerns of others before it reaches its decisions and explains and justifies its positions. The paper concludes with some observations about the experience of consumer and public participation in industry rule-making in the Australian telecommunications sector.

Dr Karen Lee is a lecturer in the School of Law at the University of New England and a specialist in telecommunications regulation. Her PhD, for which she received the UNSW Faculty of Law’s PhD Research Excellence Award, involved an in-depth study of the development of three telecommunications consumer codes by working committees of the Communications Alliance. Her book The Legitimacy and Responsiveness of Industry Rule-making, which is based on her thesis, will be published by Hart Publishing later this year. She was also the runner up for the Giandomenico Majone Prize for Best Conference Paper Written and Presented by Early-Stage Researchers, awarded by the European Consortium of Political Research’s Standing Group on Regulatory Governance, in 2016. She has published in the Federal Law Review, the Media and Arts Law Review and the Australian Journal of Competition and Consumer Law; and is a contributor to Australian Telecommunications Regulation and Telecommunications Law and Regulation. With Dr Derek Wilding at UTS, she has just started working on a research project, funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, examining consumer and public participation in industry rule-making in a converged communications environment.

Watch this (domain) space: developments in the .au policy review panel, direct registrations and domain name disputes and arbitrations

A Victorian Twilight Seminar supported by IPSANZ and IPRIA
7 March | Melbourne Law School

Panel Speakers:
John Swinson King & Wood Mallesons
The Honourable Neil Brown QC Victorian Bar
Professor Andrew Christie The University of Melbourne
Erhan Karabardak Cooper Mills

This presentation was an interactive discussion seminar.  All presenters shared their knowledge and views on topics with members, and covered topics of discussion such as policy review panel, direct registrations, the domain name after market, the auDRP and trends and current issues in domain name arbitration.

John Swinson Partner, King & Wood MallesonsJohn Swinson is a partner of King & Wood Mallesons, and is the Chair of the auDA 2017 Policy Review Panel.  John is also a panelist for WIPO under the UDRP and auDRP, and has decided over 300 domain name ownership disputes.

The Hon Neil Brown QC Victorian Bar Queens Counsel in Australia, The Hon Neil Brown QC has had a long and distinguished career in government and the law since 1964. Previously a Minister in the Federal Government in Australia in charge of portfolios in Attorney-General’s, Communications and Employment and Youth Affairs. He has appeared in all Australian jurisdictions with experience in commercial, intellectual property, town planning and taxation matters. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Murdoch University in Western Australia. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, The Hon Neil Brown QC practices in international and domestic matters in the commercial, communication, intellectual property and governmental fields. He is a leading arbitrator and adviser on internet domain name disputes.

Professor Andrew Christie The University of Melbourne. Andrew Christie was appointed the foundation Chair of Intellectual Property at the Melbourne Law School in 2002.   He is a member of the panel of neutrals with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Resolution Institute, and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre. He has served as a panelist in approximately 200 domain name disputes, and has authored some of the most cited decisions.

Erhan Karabardak Director, Cooper Mills. Cooper Mills’ Erhan Karabardak is a technology lawyer and Trade Marks Attorney. Erhan is also active in the domain name industry and represents domain name registrars and resellers, and has advised some of the world’s largest domain name registrars. Erhan is recognised as an expert in domain name law and has run some of the leading cases in the area. Erhan is also a director and board member of the .au Domain Administration (auDA), Australia's domain name regulator, and is the former Chair. He is also a Director and board member of the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association (APTLD), which represents ccTLD operators from around the broader Asia Pacific region.

Patents and Traditional Knowledge: A Case Study of the Impact of Patent Laws on the Production and Distribution of Miao Traditional Medicines in Guizhou’s Pharmaceutical Industry

Ben Hopper | PhD Confirmation Seminar 
8 March | Melbourne Law School

How do “modern” intellectual property regimes interact with “traditional” knowledge goods like traditional medicines?  Does the introduction of an IP regime into a region rich in TK result only in exploitation (e.g., the familiar trope of the (Western) pharmaceutical company patenting “modern” medicines derived from plants used in “traditional” medicines), or does it also play a more complex role connected to, e.g., the innovation, diffusion and/or efficiency of production and distribution of TK goods?

This PhD project will lend insight into these questions through a study of patent (and related) laws and traditional medicines.  Through a case study, it will explicate the impact of patent laws on the production and distribution of traditional medicines of the Miao people in Guizhou, southwestern China.  Here, the “ethnomedicine” pharmaceutical industry is expanding apace—patenting, packaging and selling Miao traditional medicines.

This case study was used as a vehicle to test and develop the thesis that patent laws’ impact on the production and distribution of TK goods is significantly mediated by market size and competition, social practices and enforcement practices.

Regulation by Blockchain: The Emerging Battle for Supremacy between the Code of Law and Code as Law

A seminar supported by the Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation, Centre for Media and Communications Law and the Transactional Law Group at Melbourne Law School

Professor Karen Yeung University of Birmingham
13 April | Melbourne Law School

Many advocates of distributed ledger technologies (including blockchain technologies) claim that these technologies provide the foundations for an organisational form that will enable individuals to transact with each other free from the travails of conventional law, thus offering the promise of grassroots democratic governance without the need for third party intermediaries. But does the assumption that blockchain systems will operate beyond the reach of conventional law withstand critical scrutiny? The aim of this seminar is to subject the intersection and interactions between conventional law promulgated and enforced by national legal systems (ie the ‘code of law’) and the internal rules of blockchain systems which take the form of executable software code and cryptographic algorithms via distributing computing networks (‘code as law’) to critical examination to identify whether, and to what extent, ‘regulation by blockchain’ will successfully avoid governance by conventional law.

Professor Karen Yeung is Interdisciplinary Professorial Fellow in Law, Ethics and Informatics at the University of Birmingham in the School of Law and the School of Computer Science. As a Fellow of the Institute of Global Innovation at The University of Birmingham, she leads a major interdisciplinary project involving over 50 researchers from a range of disciplines under the theme of ‘Responsible Artificial Intelligence’. She has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Melbourne Law School since 2016.
Her research expertise lies in the regulation and governance of, and through, emerging technologies, with her more recent and on-going work focusing on the legal, ethical, social and democratic implications of a suite of technologies associated with automation and the ‘computational turn’, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence (including various forms of machine learning), distributed ledgers (including blockchain) and robotics. Her work has been at the forefront of nurturing ‘law, regulation and technology’ as a sub-field of legal and interdisciplinary scholarship, reflected in the publication of The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (co-edited with Roger Brownsword and Eloise Scotford) in 2017.

Functions of a privacy/data protection regulator in an age of big data analytics

10 May | Melbourne Law School

This free event was co-hosted by CMCL, IPRIA, the Cybersecurity and Democracy Network and the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne, and the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC).

The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal reminds us of the vulnerability of personal data to massive abuse. So what are the functions of a privacy/data protection regulator in minimising risks and responding to breaches while maintaining space for ethical data research and analysis? This is the topic of a panel discussion chaired by Megan Richardson, Co-Director CMCL and Director IPRIA at the Melbourne Law School, with the Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner, Rachel Dixon. They will be joined by big data, information security and legal experts Abigail Payne, Vanessa Teague, Moira Paterson, Karin Clark and Mark Taylor.

Rachel Dixon Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner, OVIC. Rachel Dixon has a diverse and impressive career, holding senior positions in the private sector for Australian and International technology companies, where she led large teams and developed expertise in the areas of data, privacy, cybersecurity and information security. Prior to her appointment at OVIC she worked most recently as Head of Identity at the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency.

Abigail Payne Director and Ronald Henderson Professor, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Faculty of Business and Economics, the University of Melbourne. The Melbourne Institute is the leading Australian institute on applied economic and social research. Professor Payne’s own work focuses on empirical public economics issues encompassing questions around student performance and understanding donor and charity behaviour.

Vanessa Teague Department of Computing and Information Systems, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Melbourne, is a cryptographer with an interest in cryptographic protocols that support a free and democratic society. Her main research interest is in electronic voting protocols, which aim to protect individual voter privacy while providing verifiable evidence of a correct election result.

Moira Paterson Faculty of Law, Monash University, researches in field of information law, with a key focus on freedom of information, privacy and data protection, health records and public records law. She is the author of Freedom of Information and Privacy in Australia: Government and Information Access in the Modern State (LexisNexis, 2005) and Freedom of Information and Privacy in Australia: Information Access 2.0 (LexisNexis, 2015).

Mark Taylor Melbourne Law School, is Deputy Director HeLEX@Melbourne. He specialises in privacy and legal and ethical conceptions of the public interest. Author of Genetic Data and the Law (CUP, 2012), he was British Academy Mid-Career Fellow, and Establishing Chair of the Confidentiality Advisory Group for the Health Research Authority in England before taking up his appointment at the University of Melbourne.

Karin Clark was Special Counsel with Allens and practised for many years in the firm's Communications, Media and Technology Practice Group specialising in advising on compliance with privacy laws. She also worked in the firm's commercial, finance and resources departments and headed its knowledge management department. She is currently a Senior Fellow (Melbourne Law Masters) teaching in the Privacy Law subject.