Is Intellectual Property ‘Disrupted’ by the Algorithm That Feeds You Information in an Era of Fake News?

The Sciences Po Law Review / La Revue des Juristes de Sciences Po, Issue No. 15, pp. 231-251, 2018

22 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2018  

Celeste Tien-hsin Wang

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

Date Written: June 22, 2018

Abstract

In April, 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by members of Congress in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. in a series of questions about the company’s best effort to protect privacy and act against Russian interference in the 2016 election. For the reason that Facebook merely considers itself as “a technology company—one that has built a ‘platform for all ideas’,” it allows the News Feed Algorithm to respond to what the company deems the most important “kind” of information for the users. However, those contents in the information flow are sometimes cheaply generated by what we called “content farms” and can be intentionally manipulated by data analytics firms, such as Cambridge Analytica. Everyone is asking: everyone thinks Cambridge Analytica is dangerous, but no one can describe in great detail what it has done. Just the same as what we are facing now: everyone thinks Big Data is an ever-changing and far-reaching technology, but no one exactly knows why intellectual property (IP) laws should play an important part in regulating Big Data. Here, in a downright way, the issue is: is the function of IP laws “disrupted” or “undisrupted” by the News Feed Algorithm?

The insight to answer this question may be obtained from the classical debate, “law of the horse,” between Judge Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Professor Lawrence Lessig: do we have a special need to adjust IP laws specially for Big Data, or we should go back to the basics: what is IP law in general and what kind of role does IP play in the society and cyber-society? Significantly, the News Feed Algorithm is targeting the mass who read the information, while IP laws are about the protection of Big Data companies’ valuable IP assets, such as patent protection for the algorithm. All the issues have the same concern: does public law have the supremacy to “disrupt” private property protection?

Keywords: Facebook, Algorithm, Intellectual property, Fake news, Cambridge Analytica, Disruption, News Feed Algorithm, News Feed, Copyright,

Suggested Citation

Wang, Celeste Tien-hsin, Is Intellectual Property ‘Disrupted’ by the Algorithm That Feeds You Information in an Era of Fake News? (June 22, 2018). The Sciences Po Law Review / La Revue des Juristes de Sciences Po, Issue No. 15, pp. 231-251, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3222669

Tien-hsin Wang (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition ( email )

Marstallplatz 1
München, Bayern 80539
Germany

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
33
Abstract Views
336
PlumX