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Madison in Post-9/11 Cyberspace: Applying Federalist No. 10 to the Online Battle for ‘Hearts and Minds’

Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 13, No. 9 , p. 3

28 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2009 Last revised: 19 Jul 2010

Dawinder S. Sidhu

University of Baltimore School of Law; Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Date Written: November 23, 2009


Though the Framers could never have imagined the technological world in which we currently live, we call upon them nonetheless to help us answer the most vexing social and legal problems that arise in this modern age. Recently, scholars have asked how the Framers’ views can guide our understanding of the Internet – a medium which assuredly they could not have anticipated. This Article continues that conversation by exploring James Madison’s Federalist No. 10, perhaps his most revered contribution to American political theory, and proposing how it may be of relevance to cyberspace in the post-9/11 context.

In particular, I argue that Madison’s take on the extended American republic, as described in Federalist No. 10, applies to the expansive Internet. The “factions” that Madison spoke of in Federalist No. 10 exist on the Internet; one of those factions includes the terrorist elements that are using the Internet, quite successfully, to propagate their messages and recruit moderate Muslims. Existing approaches to counterterrorism have addressed the need to thwart the terrorist factions through disabling their access to and use of the Internet. Drawing from Federalist No. 10, I suggest that, to the extent that the terrorist factions cannot be dismantled and thus remain in cyberspace, Americans should robustly compete with and diffuse the appeal of the terrorists online by furnishing descriptive information on the American constitutional structure and principles. In other words, an American faction should enter the online battle of ideas. I offer thoughts on how legal and social norms can support such a substantive American faction which aims to challenge the terrorist faction through online speech.

The current campaign against transnational terrorism is not producing desired results and the goals of the campaign are proving elusive. Minimizing or neutralizing the attraction of terrorist ideology will add an additional tool in the beleaguered war effort, one that will unleash the heretofore ignored “soft power” of the nation.

Keywords: Madison, Federalist 10, Internet, Framers, terrorists, 9/11, al Qaeda, governance, faction

Suggested Citation

Sidhu, Dawinder S., Madison in Post-9/11 Cyberspace: Applying Federalist No. 10 to the Online Battle for ‘Hearts and Minds’ (November 23, 2009). Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 13, No. 9 , p. 3. Available at SSRN:

Dawinder S. Sidhu (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore School of Law ( email )

1401 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

Shook, Hardy & Bacon

1155 F Street NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20004
United States

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